Elected leaders and law enforcement officials joined family and friends of Sgt. Keith Allison on Monday to rename a county building after the Suffolk sheriff’s veteran, who died in December due to complications of COVID-19.
Allison, 52, spent much of his career of more than 25 years in the Yaphank building, now the "Inv. Sgt. Keith Allison Personnel Investigations Bureau," where he did background checks on applicants for jobs as correction officers, sheriff’s deputies and civilian employees, said Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr.
Allison was the first person many of the office’s hundreds of employees met when they were hired, and universally beloved by staff, the sheriff said. Toulon, as well as Allison's colleagues and loved ones described him as a man deeply committed to his family, church and community whose death was a blow not only to the sheriff’s staff, but to his hometown of Brentwood.
"He was a community servant in every sense of the word," Toulon said.
Nearly 100 people attended Monday’s ceremony, including Allison’s family, Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini, sheriff’s union officials, state lawmakers and county legislators. Suffolk Legis. Samuel Gonzalez (D-Brentwood), who sponsored the resolution to name the building after Allison, choked up as he described his longtime friend as a "tough cookie" who would nevertheless "give you the shirt off your back."
"For all of us who knew Keith, it is still hard, it is still difficult," Gonzalez said. "Keith will always be in my heart forever."
Brenda Allison, the late officer’s wife, said her husband was active at Faith Alive Ministries in Central Islip and in Brentwood.
She noted that the Personnel Investigation Bureau is the first county building named after an officer, and the fact that that officer is African-American "is incredible." She said her husband treated everybody — inmates and correction officers, Blacks and whites, Democrats and Republicans, rich and poor — with the same decency and kindness.
"When you crossed paths with Keith Allison, he treated you as a human being," she said. "He treated you with respect."
Allison would have urged those who attended the ceremony to harbor love, peace and kindness, his widow said.
"What I need everyone to remember from this day is not just my husband’s name written on a building, but when you see that name, I hope it inspires you to be the best human being you can be in this world," Brenda Allison told the crowd. "That is all that is going to matter in the everafter."