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Attorney Frederick Brewington, others, quit panel on Nassau police reform

Attorney Frederick K. Brewington at Islip Town Hall

Attorney Frederick K. Brewington at Islip Town Hall on Aug. 3, 2020. Credit: John Roca

Co-chairman Frederick Brewington and more than a dozen members of a Nassau County community advisory panel resigned abruptly Friday night after release of a 310-page police reform plan that they said they neither helped create nor had a chance to review.

The draft of the "police reform and reinvention plan" was posted to the county's website earlier in the day. Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder revealed its existence and presented parts of the plan to county legislators on Thursday.

Brewington, a longtime civil rights attorney, and other members of the panel, including NAACP Long Island regional director Tracey Edwards, said they were shocked when they found out the draft plan was made public.

They quit their posts on the Community Collaborative Task Force because the county and its police department did not collaborate in earnest to create the police reform document, they said.

"What they engaged in was the worst kind of betrayal. The county misled its citizen volunteers into believing that their voice would be heard and then they issued a report that was devoid of any part of the group’s participation," Brewington said.

Justine DiGiglio, a county spokeswoman, called the "resignations of some members" of the panel "unfortunate."

DiGiglio said the county has had more than 60 meetings of community panels since June," and the draft document is "just the beginning of an important process."

Ryder said in a statement that he was "sorry to hear" about the resignations and said there are more meetings to come. "This is not a completed plan and continues to be a working document," he said.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's administration created the 24-member task force, known as CCT, in October 2020 after community advocates complained to state officials that they weren't part of the process.

Edwards, a CCT member, said in her resignation email that not allowing the community panel to review the draft "is totally disrespectful. The county is not looking for partnership. The county is looking for cover."

"We are on a task force created to develop a police reform plan and they created it without us and never told us about it or showed it to us," she added.

Prompted by national outrage and protests over police brutality, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in June issued an executive order requesting each police agency in the state to submit proof they have modernized their policing strategies.

Nassau and other police departments are required to evaluate their use of force, crowd management techniques, anti-bias training and response to citizen complaints, or risk the loss of state funds. County and town lawmakers must approve the plans before they go to the state.

The county’s plan is broken down into 23 categories ranging from proposed changes including body cameras on officers, to a new annual implicit bias awareness training program and use of force restrictions.

Increased transparency efforts focus on the department’s new internal complaint tracking methods. The department would issue a biannual report on civilian complaints about officers, including "details of founded findings."

"In recognition of fostering trust and fairness through police reform," the department says it also will now regularly post updated data online pertaining to use of force, crime and arrest statistics and hate crime data.

The police department also said it had changed its website to allow citizens "to attach a video or other documentary evidence along with the submission of a complaint."

The reform document, wide-ranging by design, touches on many new programs but features scant details about some, such as the much-discussed new body-camera program.

While the county’s reform plan says "officer training and implementation … are scheduled to begin in late 2021," significant work remains to make body cameras a reality in Nassau.

The draft plan acknowledges the county has not yet chosen a bodycam vendor and says officials plan to contact other major city police chiefs to discuss best practices.

To combat implicit bias, the department is instituting a new 10-hour annual anti-bias course that all sworn officers are mandated to take. Topics covered by the program include implicit bias, de-escalation, maintaining control over oneself and crisis intervention.

"Immediately following the training, members must pass an exam exhibiting their understanding," the reform plan says.

Changes also would be made in how Nassau collects demographic data of drivers in all traffic stops. The draft document said the issue was "the topic of much discussion during meetings with community stakeholders."

The plan says officers since September have been required to record the race and gender of all traffic and field stops, a shift from past practices.

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