Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison, the county’s new top cop and a seasoned veteran officer, addressed one of the most important topics recruits covered in their training on Friday: officer wellness.
Speaking at the department’s 185th graduation in Brentwood, Harrison — who previously worked at the New York Police Department and joined Suffolk County’s department in December — said in addition to the topics the 74 recruits covered related to terrorism, law and cultural diversity, wellness training “may be the most important training that you have received.” He stressed the value of cops caring for themselves and fellow officers in times of need.
The majority of graduates will join the SCPD ranks, while eight will join the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department and two will join the Stony Brook Police Department. Of the 64 SCPD graduates, 23 have prior law enforcement experience, eight are fluent Spanish speakers and seven are military veterans, the department said.
The recruits graduated amid plans to bring more officers of color to the department. A Newsday investigation published last year showed that hiring practices in Nassau and Suffolk police departments had rejected Black and Hispanic candidates to the police academy at higher rates than white candidates.
Harrison highlighted the importance of department leadership, sharing a story of his time in the NYPD. While working as an undercover agent in 1995, Harrison said, he and his partner were sent to buy drugs in Brooklyn despite raising safety concerns to leadership. His partner was shot while on duty, making it “the darkest day in my career and in policing,” he told graduates.
“I share that story with you because leadership is so important in law enforcement,” he said. “Having the best commanding officers and executives at a precinct level will have our new police officers not only prepared to be the best cops, but to also make sure they have the proper resources to be safe.”
Recruit Kevin Zorn, president of his graduating class, recalled the “faint feeling of belonging” the 74 strangers experienced on their first day of the academy. In between slogging through academic studies and intense physical activities, the men and women grew to rely on one another.
“It’s been an incredible seven months throughout which a group of 74 strangers were pressure tested, pushed to the limit and became a family,” he said. “The vague notion of belonging that we once felt has come to fruition.”