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County Executive Steve Bellone picks former federal prosecutor Tim Sini for police commissioner

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, he has chosen his top criminal justice aide, Timothy Sini, to replace outgoing Police Commissioner Edward Webber. Sini, 35, the current Suffolk deputy commissioner of public safety, sat down with Newsday to talk about his experience as a federal prosecutor and some of the changes he intends to make in the department. (Credit: Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone's pick for police commissioner is a former federal prosecutor who says the department needs a top-to-bottom assessment to identify where improvements can be made.

"There is so much good work being done," said Timothy Sini, a deputy county executive nominated Tuesday to replace retiring Police Commissioner Edward Webber.

Sini, 35, Bellone's deputy commissioner of public safety, will begin his transition to the job Wednesday, working with Webber for the next two months, county spokesman Justin Meyers said.

But county lawmakers must still approve the appointment.

In a statement Tuesday, Bellone said Sini has the three traits he looks for in a police commissioner -- character, experience and vision.

"Tim is a man of real integrity with a strong sense of justice," Bellone said. "[He] has a unique blend of law enforcement experience as a federal prosecutor combined with a keen understanding of Suffolk County's law enforcement community by serving as my top law enforcement adviser."

Sini's former boss, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, said in an emailed statement: "Tim Sini served with integrity and distinction."

But some county lawmakers had doubts about the choice.

Legis. Kate Browning (WFP-Shirley), chair of the public safety committee, said she sits on the board of the Suffolk County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council with Sini, who is the executive director. She described him as "very professional" and "very effective in his role." But she said he "is not the best choice," adding she mentioned this to Bellone on Monday moments after learning Webber was retiring.

"I felt that Tim was young," Browning said, adding she would back Sini as a deputy commissioner. "Many of our chiefs have been here more years than he's even been alive."

In an interview with Newsday in Melville, Sini, who grew up in West Islip, said he thinks being a newcomer is a strength.

"I have a fresh perspective that I can bring," he said. "I know how to determine who I can rely on for advice, and I will display good judgment in surrounding myself with those who are competent, those who are trustworthy and those who are acting in the best interest of Suffolk."

Browning plans to recommend going back to the 2012 search for commissioner.

"There's a lot of questions I want answered before I can make a decision," said Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), a former police officer. "I'm very concerned about his lack of experience and most importantly Bellone's decision-making process that he picked someone so quickly without interviewing other people."

Sini, a $110,000-a-year assistant deputy county executive whom Bellone appointed deputy county executive in August 2014, ran this year for Suffolk County legislator and lost.

He said he played a "leading role" in getting the state to postpone indefinitely the second phase of new jail construction in Yaphank. "We have worked closely together to help save Suffolk County residents $300 million by avoiding the need for a new jail," said Sheriff Vincent DeMarco in an email.

Noel DiGerolamo, president of the Suffolk Police Benevolent Association, said he supports Bellone's choice. "I am confident that Tim will continue the Suffolk County Police Department's strong tradition of serving the community," he said in an email.

Bellone's announcement comes a day after Webber announced his plans to retire after more than three years at the helm -- and as federal prosecutors mount a case against former Chief of Department James Burke. Webber, a 43-year veteran, said he couldn't commit to serving another four years and wants to spend more time with his family.

Webber's announcement came nearly a month after Burke resigned as chief of department amid a reopened federal investigation into police conduct following the theft of Burke's duffel bag. Webber said his retirement was unrelated to Burke's departure. "If it was, I wouldn't be staying on for two months," he said Monday.

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