A Suffolk legislative committee voted Thursday to send Tim Sini’s nomination for Suffolk County police commissioner to the full legislature for a final vote next week.
During a nearly four-hour confirmation hearing, Sini, who has served as a deputy commissioner since November, vowed to move beyond a scandal involving the department’s former top uniformed officer, James Burke who faces federal charges of beating a suspect and orchestrating a cover-up. Burke has pleaded not guilty.
“We need to increase transparency and public accountability so people know how great the department is,” Sini told members of the public safety committee. “It’s very important to move the department forward now, and not six months from now.”
The committee voted 6-1 for Sini, a former assistant United States attorney in Manhattan. Public safety chairwoman Kate Browning (WFP-Shirley) and Legis. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) abstained, and Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) voted no. They said they wanted a national search for a new commissioner.
Sini’s nomination will go to full legislature for a vote Tuesday.
Some lawmakers criticized Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat who hired Burke originally, for not conducting a nationwide search to replace former police Commissioner Edward Webber, even as they praised Sini.
“I have serious lack of confidence in this county executive. This is why I don’t want to give him the free rein to screw up again,” said Browning, adding that she was “impressed” with Sini, 35.
Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), long a critic of Bellone’s management of the police department, also praised Sini.
“You’ve righted a lot of wrongs that were done and are on the right track,” said Trotta, a former Suffolk police detective. “But we owe it to residents of Suffolk County to look further” than Bellone’s and county Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer’s “backyard.”
Jason Starr, Long Island director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said that given the Burke case and another involving a sergeant who was convicted of stealing from Hispanic motorists, a national search “is absolutely critical.”
Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said there isn’t time for a search committee to work. “The department is in turmoil. We need someone at the helm to right the ship,” Gregory said.
Sini said that since becoming a deputy police commissioner, “I’ve earned the respect of those in the department by being very honest. I don’t pretend to be a cop; I don’t pretend to have 50 years experience.” Rather, he said he has promoted people with “clean internal affairs records” based on merit.
Sini said he has invited officers in to talk to him and met with community leaders.
“We’ve created a culture from day-one that’s honest,” he said. “It’s a 180 from the culture in place in October 2015.”
Sini said that if confirmed, he would focus on gun crimes, abuse of illegal drugs and reducing traffic accidents.
Some legislators expressed concern about diversity in the department. They noted that of more than 100 officers promoted in a ceremony Wednesday night, one was African American, three were Hispanic and four were women.
Sini said he would strive to increase diversity.
Community members who testified in favor of Sini included members of predominantly Hispanic churches and Huntington Station residents who said they had met with him for more than two hours.
Sini, of Babylon, recalled that he got involved in Suffolk County politics after a neighbor introduced him to Schaffer, who also is Babylon supervisor, who in turn introduced him to Bellone. Bellone hired Sini as an aide. Sini ran unsuccessfully last year against Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), the legislative minority leader.