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A circumstantial case

Acting Suffolk County Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron says

Acting Suffolk County Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron says his department will have body cameras in place well within a year. Credit: James Carbone

Daily Point

Bodycams still not on the job

A shooting at a Dix Hills graduation party last month has turned into a "she said/they said" over the treatment of a woman who attempted to ride in the ambulance with the victim but was forcibly removed by police officers.

And once again, the officers involved were not wearing the body cameras that might well have settled the dispute.

The gunshot victim was a 20-year-old West Babylon man, who survived. Cindy M. O’Pharrow, a guest at the party, who tried to ride in the ambulance, is married to a police officer and runs a nonprofit called Cops N’ Kids Long Island. She has commenced legal action.

O’Pharrow says she called the victim’s mother on FaceTime at the victim’s request and promised her she would stay with the young man, but claims she was verbally and physically accosted while being removed from the back of the ambulance.

The police version is that the ambulance needed to roll to get the gunshot victim to the hospital, they could not legally pull out with O’Pharrow in the ambulance, they repeatedly asked her to leave before removing her, they acted with restraint and they had no other reasonable choice.

Acting Suffolk County Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron said that while the officers were not wearing body cameras, there is footage from a public safety vehicle dashcam that he hopes will inform the conversation and change the perspective.

So why are there still practically no body cameras on Suffolks’ cops, even after the department has agreed to implement them, and when will that implementation be complete?

Asked whether they would be fully implemented a year from now, Cameron told The Point he believes "a year is way beyond what it will take." He said he wants to do it ASAP but also needs to be diligent about seeing that such a large expansion is done properly and meets the expectations of the public.

County Executive Steve Bellone told The Point: "We are in the process of interviewing the companies that do this work, and we hope to have an announcement very shortly."

But with a lawsuit on the way challenging SCPD’s statement that O’Pharrow was treated fairly, the cost of not having the cameras may once again receive as much attention as the expense of deploying them.

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Counties counted in COVID response

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s controversial pandemic memoir "American Crisis" isn’t the only firsthand account published in New York about governing through the plague year of COVID-19.

"Our Darkest Hours" is assembled and co-authored by Stephen Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties, and it includes essays from 19 county executives across the state — an account from closer to the ground of governmental response to the virus' spread and the crisis that ensued.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone recalled how his senior staff had to be quarantined early on due to a COVID case. "I had never heard of Zoom," he said, before using it daily for briefings. He spoke of using media to make the case to the federal government for more help, including brandishing a Newsday cover page on Brian Kilmeade’s Fox News morning show watched by President Donald Trump.

Bellone briefly discusses communicating and working to arrange help for local businesses and towns and villages. County executives formed a "united front," he said, including a hat tip to Cuomo’s Downstate NY Reopening Task Force and more emphatically, thanking Onondaga's GOP County Executive Ryan McMahon "who graciously dispatched nurses from Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse."

The book, subtitled "New York County Leadership and the Covid Pandemic," also includes a chapter from Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, first published as a piece in The New Yorker back in November. It’s a snapshot of the moment, when the local infection curve had been flattened, for the time being, and constituents were facing "economic distress on an unprecedented scale."

In the course of testifying to the ups and downs of the 62 counties’ crisis responses, the authors give as you’d expect a glancing and detached view of Albany’s role in the emergency, including pluses and minuses. Erie County’s Mark Poloncarz, a Democrat, regretted not having more latitude to make local decisions and while he appreciated what Cuomo did to help, "there is a lot to be said for being able to respond immediately to a problem without having to get approval from the state."

In a more matter-of-fact analysis from the book’s second part, Acquario and co-authors Peter Golden and Mark Lavigne present descriptions of how Cuomo expanded state authority and limited the power of local governments for the emergency. An afterword summarizes such developments as the Cuomo administration withholding nursing home death tolls and complaints in March of this year about Larry Schwartz, as head of the vaccine program, gauging support for the governor. It also notes he quit the volunteer post April 29.

Unlike Cuomo’s book, "Our Darkest Hours" didn’t get anyone a $5 million advance or draw an investigation into the use of state staff to produce it.

The self-published work pledges all profits to Feeding New York State, a nonprofit organization that supports regional food banks.

— Dan Janison @Danjanison

Pencil Point

Rising prices

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons

Final Point

The way Long Island reads

As we enter the height of summer reading season, The Point wondered what the pandemic did to reading habits on Long Island.

One simple stat speaks volumes: Between 2019 and 2020, there were big increases in e-book checkouts in Nassau and Suffolk libraries.

Usage of e-books went up more than 30% in Suffolk County’s public libraries, from 2,114,268 in 2019 to 2,772,656 in 2020. That 2020 e-book number was the highest on record, said Kevin Verbesey, director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System.

In Nassau, e-book checkouts jumped a whopping 54% from 1,118,664 in 2019 to 1,724,405 in 2020, according to numbers from all but one of the facilities in the Nassau Library System, according to the system’s director Caroline Ashby. (The remaining library uses its own e-book platform.)

It was one of many ways Long Islanders’ daily routines changed in response to COVID-19, with many people less likely or able to go to a library to pick up physical books. Libraries responded, providing curbside pickup, outdoor events, access to streaming movies, virtual readings, classes and homework help, and even, in some cases, home delivery.

This summer, though, we can enjoy a simple paperback on a crowded beach.

— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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