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OpinionColumnistsMark Chiusano

Long Islanders to rally for police union reform

Local groups are planning an in-person and digital

Local groups are planning an in-person and digital news conference in front of State Sen. Todd Kaminsky's Rockville Centre office on Thursday to demand the Long Island Six "reinvest their campaign contributions from police unions into local bail funds and organizations fighting police brutality." Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Long Island activists are moving to a new phase in their police reform efforts: focusing attention on the power of law enforcement unions. 

Dozens of local groups plan an in-person and digital news conference in front of State Sen. Todd Kaminsky’s Rockville Centre office on Thursday “demanding that the Six Democratic Long Island Senators reinvest their campaign contributions from police unions into local bail funds and organizations fighting police brutality,” according to a news release. It goes on to say that “police unions and associations have historically wielded enormous power and blocked systemic changes to policing in the New York State Legislature.”

Co-sponsors of this initiative include Young Long Island for Justice, the Long Island Black Alliance, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Indivisible groups, and both county chapters of Democratic Socialists of America. The groups also ask the LI Six to pledge “not to take any more money from law enforcement unions and/or associations.”

Kaminsky’s communications director, Steve Smirti, noted in a statement that the senator voted last week for reforms such as the repeal of 50--a and a ban on chokeholds. The statement also cited Kaminsky’s work as a former federal prosecutor in cases involving corrupt law enforcement. 

“As his votes last week showed, Senator Kaminsky is beholden to no one and will always act with the best interest of his constituents in mind,” the statement read in part, without directly responding to the groups’ demands. 

This effort from activists follows the successful push for reform measures in Albany in the wake of George Floyd’s death last month at the hands of Minneapolis police. Some state legislators (including ones with primary challenges) from New York City were pressured on the union front in recent weeks and have agreed to pledges against taking police union money. But law enforcement unions hold more sway on Long Island, from county races to state ones. There has been renewed attention, for example, on union contributions to Nassau County legislators, and the Democratic State Senate delegation has received tens of thousands from law enforcement unions in recent years. 

That isn’t even the extent of union influence. Law enforcement-affiliated Super PACs spend big from the outside to boost or bury candidates — such as the close to a million dollars spent by the Long Island Law Enforcement Foundation in support of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s reelection last year.

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