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State accepts Suffolk, Nassau police reform plans

Suffolk and Nassau counties are among the few

Suffolk and Nassau counties are among the few large police departments nationwide that don't already require officers to wear body cameras. But under the plans, efforts are now beginning.

ALBANY — Nassau and Suffolk counties have complied with a state order to review their police department policies on use of force and to improve community interactions following a national reform movement fueled by the Black Lives Matter movement, said a spokesman for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Cuomo had required local police agencies around the state to meet with community members and leaders to reform how police respond to calls in the community, although community leaders in Suffolk and Nassau counties found fault with their county’s plans.

Each county’s plan will implement more training and use of social workers to de-escalate situations when suspects, whether armed or not, behave erratically. The counties are among the few large police departments nationwide that don’t already require officers to wear body cameras. But under the plans, efforts are now beginning.

Cuomo senior adviser Rich Azzopardi said the Nassau and Suffolk counties’ plans have been accepted and no approval is required by the state. Under Cuomo’s executive order approved by the State Legislature last year, the state would withhold funding to municipalities if they failed to undertake the community discussions and submit a plan by April 1. More than 90% of police agencies including all the biggest forces have complied, Cuomo said.

In Nassau County, police will be allowed to use force to protect themselves or another person from what the "officer reasonably believes is an imminent threat of serious physical injury or death." Force is also allowed to stop fleeing suspects when police have probable cause to believe they committed a felony.

Suffolk County police will also get more training in de-escalating incidents. The plan also proposes a civilian bureau to investigate incidents in which officers use force. The county’s Human Rights Commission would create the new bureau and review complaints of police misconduct using force. Data on the use of force would be made public.

"Suffolk County has developed a transformative policing plan that serves as a model for how to bring people together to achieve unprecedented reforms," said County Executive Steve Bellone. "Now that the state has formally accepted our plan, we will begin the process of implementing this blueprint for change to help advance the progress we have already made."

Nassau County spokeswoman Christine Geed said more than 150 community meetings led to "a comprehensive plan promoting community-oriented policing, transparency and accountability. Body cameras are a meaningful step forward for our county, and we will continue to work collaboratively with all stakeholders to enhance the safety of our communities and promote deeper trust between police and the public."

Community leaders in each county criticized the plans.

"The proposal from Nassau County is not a reform plan," said civil rights lawyer Frederick Brewington. "It is a suggestion of enacting existing programs without building in any real accountability, transparency, or community engagement. It does not meet the requirements of Executive Order 203."

In Suffolk County, members of LI United to Transform Policing and Community Safety have said the plan doesn’t go far enough to combat bias in law enforcement.

With Yancey Roy

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