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Suffolk panel ends police commissioner interviews

Suffolk County Police Chief of Department James Burke,

Suffolk County Police Chief of Department James Burke, front, and acting Police Commissioner Edward Webber, behind, speak with Newsday during an interview at police headquarters. (Jan. 2, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

The search panel for Suffolk's police commissioner has interviewed its last candidate, and expects to recommend three finalists to County Executive Steve Bellone this month.

Kevin Law, the Long Island Association president who heads the panel, said Wednesday that the final interview was held April 30. He and four other panelists have vetted about 75 applicants since January, and interviewed a dozen of them over the past two months.

The three finalists will be recommended to Bellone once background checks are completed, perhaps in two to three weeks, Law said. He declined to identify candidates in any way, including whether any are from the Suffolk Police Department or have county connections.

"I'm not going to say what department, county or even what state they're from," Law said.

Bellone had promised a nationwide search to find his choice to lead a police department with about 3,500 employees, including civilians, and a $400 million budget.

Upon taking office Jan. 1, he replaced the force's entire top brass, naming support services division Chief Edward Webber as acting commissioner, and tapping James Burke, who had been District Attorney Thomas Spota's chief investigator, as permanent chief of department. Bellone had said last month that Webber was not a candidate, but county executive's aides said Wednesday night that the acting commissioner has since put his name in for consideration.

Webber and Burke have instituted several policy changes since taking over, including shifting anti-gang officers back to precincts and emphasizing special intelligence-gathering at the precinct level.

The police commissioner must be approved by the county legislature.

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