Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini on Friday took questions from about two dozen sixth-graders at Brentwood North Middle School on topics ranging from police brutality to politics and his pick for the next president of the United States — all in an effort to improve law enforcement relations in the community.
Dave Sonkin, an educator for the past 18 years and the class’ teacher, said Sini approached him to set up the meeting, which lasted about 40 minutes, to “try and make a positive connection between the kids and the police department.”
“We talk a lot about current events. They see what happens in the news, they see some of the negativity that gets shined onto the police,” Sonkin said, adding that “this is just another way to keep the positive for them, to let them know that the police are on their side.”
When a student asked about any cases of police brutality in the department, Sini referenced the Scott Greene case, a former sergeant recently convicted of stealing money from Latino motorists, calling his actions “one of the worst things you could do.”
“This stuff does not happen a lot, but it happens,” Sini said of abuses of power. “What’s important is not that something has happened — we have a large police department and bad things are going to happen every once in a while — but to make sure that we do something about it, hold people accountable so that people can have faith in the police department.”
Students’ faces lit up when the commissioner talked about the department’s K-9 unit, which is made up of all male German shepherds, he said, telling them that the dogs — which can sniff out blood, drugs and guns — are a much better investment then their bloodhound counterparts.
Sini laughed when one student asked who he would vote for in November’s presidential election, saying he couldn’t answer because news cameras were in the room.
“The Suffolk County Police Department is your police department,” Sini told the students. “We’re here to protect and to serve you. You should rely on officers to protect you.”
He added, “And do me a favor. When you see a cop on the street, wave to him or her.”