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Southold Town Board passes police reform plan despite dissenting votes

Southold Town Hall on March 12, 2018.

Southold Town Hall on March 12, 2018. Credit: Randee Daddona

Southold Town officials will adopt the town’s Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative Plan despite concerns from some officials about its costs and adding another layer of bureaucracy.

The town board voted 4-2 at its March 31 meeting in favor of the plan, which will create a working group of town officials, Southold Police Department leadership and members of the town’s Anti-Bias Task Force, its Police Advisory Committee and Southold’s Police Benevolent Association.

Departments across New York State were required to submit their police reform plans to the state by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's mandated April 1 deadline.

The group will collaborate with the public, community groups, leaders and organizations to "create outreach programs to foster open dialogue between the community and our law enforcement and justice agencies," according to the plan. Regular public forums will also be held to hear concerns, recommendations and comments from the public.

A previous plan called for establishing a Community Police Partnership Board to carry out some of the working group’s functions, but Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said that was nixed because others felt it would have "a considerable amount of oversight over the police department."

"We established a small working group of people that already serve on existing committees on town government, and the police department [will] be a big partner in that effort. But there’s no committee with any type of oversight," Russell said.

The plan also recommends the town board work with Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley to evaluate training needs for officers and costs for such training annually, and improving the schedule for police officers to ensure their physical and mental health, among other suggestions. The board will also work with the police department to establish Four Pillars of Procedural Justice: 1) Being fair in processes; 2) Being transparent in actions; 3) Providing opportunity for people to add their voices and be represented in the process; and 4) Being impartial in decision-making.

Councilman Jim Dinizio voted against the reform plan, explaining he was concerned about adding another committee to oversee police.

"We have two committees already, they’re already tasked with doing what this third committee is going to do, and I don’t see duplication as being a productive way of doing business in this town," Dinizio said at the meeting.

Councilwoman Jill Doherty also voted no, saying she was concerned about the plan’s potential costs, and would rather wait until Southold finishes getting its police department accredited by New York State so she could see "where our weaknesses are and where we have to go."

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