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Suffolk bill moves power over cops to legislators

Police in front of the Islip Arts Building

Police in front of the Islip Arts Building at Suffolk County College. (Dec. 2, 2009) Credit: Newsday File / James Carbone

Suffolk police commissioners would serve five-year terms and be subjected to approval by the Legislature under a bill submitted Monday by Legis. Jon Cooper.

Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor) said commissioners would better serve the county if they were accountable to legislators, who he said have more direct contact with their constituents than does the county executive.

"The police commissioner right now is only answerable to the executive," Cooper said. "The Legislature really has no influence directly or indirectly on decisions the police commissioner makes."

In the last year, lawmakers frequently have criticized Police Commissioner Richard Dormer for cost-cutting moves he made at the behest of County Executive Steve Levy.

Levy, who regularly accuses legislators of doing the bidding of the Suffolk Police Benevolent Association, said legislative control over the commissioner would lead to increased police costs.

"This would be the Legislature's ultimate salvo in ceding our government to the PBA," Levy said in a prepared statement. "This is a full-frontal assault on the taxpayers of Suffolk County. Nothing bloats a budget more than a lack of accountability, and that's what this bill promotes."

PBA president Jeff Frayler said police commissioners need some level of independence from the county executive.

"He needs some autonomy," Frayler said. "He can't be worried about his job if he doesn't do exactly what he's told."

Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) supports the bill, said his spokeswoman, Kara Hahn.

Cooper's bill came the same day as a Newsday story in which Legis.-elect Thomas Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) pledged to push for similar legislation once in office. Muratore said he is glad to see his idea attracting Democratic support.

"They're copying off me already," he quipped.

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