Suffolk County's first police recruit class to be trained on how to use body-worn cameras graduated Friday in Brentwood from the academy — a practice put into place locally following a Minneapolis cop’s killing of George Floyd almost exactly two years ago.
Even as nearly every other major police force in the United States has required cops to wear cameras to record relevant interactions with the public, Long Island’s county police forces were among the last to adopt such a program, buffeted by resistance from police labor unions.
The Suffolk County Police Academy's 182nd recruit class that graduated Friday included 84 men and women who had finished 31 weeks and 1,000 hours of training on law, terrorism and other topics, in addition to coursework about the body-worn cameras, according to a news release from the Suffolk County Police Department.
Of the 84 recruits, 69 will join the county police force. The rest are headed out to work for the county sheriff’s office, or the town police forces of Southold, East Hampton or Riverhead, the release said.
There are about 2,400 cops on the county police force — about 1,600 at the rank of police officer — a job with pay starting at $42,000, increasing incrementally to $155,693 after 11½ years. There also are overtime opportunities, plus a pension after 20 years of work, paid at 50% of the five-year final average salary.
Under agreements struck by the labor unions in Suffolk and Nassau, police officers are to get four-figure stipends for, among other things, wearing body cameras. Over the last year, cops on the Island began wearing body cameras.
Friday's graduation ceremony was held in Suffolk County Community College's Van Nostrand Theater.
“You will be joining your fellow police officers and law enforcement officers out on the streets,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said in a speech. “We need you out there.”
The killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 — by a Minneapolis cop who knelt on Floyd's neck for more than 9 minutes during an arrest for suspected counterfeiting — catalyzed nationwide protests, including on Long Island, that were critical of policing. It was during the unrest that then-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered police forces in New York State to report plans to address long-standing criticisms of policing.
It was then this process that helped spawn the body-worn camera programs on the Island.
On Friday, in an address to the graduates, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison flicked to the legacy of the Floyd killing.
“Being a police officer is a difficult job. Right now it’s tougher than I’ve ever seen. And today’s climate has caused many challenges,” he said, “but I’m sure you’re up for it.”
With Candice Ferrette