Lou Civello, the new president of the Suffolk Police Benevolent...

Lou Civello, the new president of the Suffolk Police Benevolent Association. Credit: Suffolk PBA

Daily Point

Civello targets bill that would seal criminal records of millions

Lou Civello took over this week as the new president of the Suffolk Police Benevolent Association, the county’s politically powerful union, and he’s already revving up the PBA’s political action committee on matters of importance to his 1,800 members, especially the criminal justice system.

The first item on Civello’s agenda is criticizing the so-called “Clean Slate” bill already passed by the New York State Legislature and expected to be signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul next week. If approved, it would seal the criminal records of some 2.3 million New Yorkers with conviction histories if they stay out of trouble for a certain time after serving their sentences. Advocates say many of these people are disproportionately Black and Hispanic and often have difficulty gaining employment with a prior conviction record.

But Civello said the “Clean Slate” bill is another example of Albany Democrats being soft on crime — a theme the Suffolk PBA stressed in recent local elections. Civello said “Clean Slate” sends the wrong message by protecting criminals at the expense of victims and doing nothing to ensure public safety. He said it would “dismantle our criminal justice system and put people in danger,” including cops on the street.

In the recent election campaign, many Suffolk Republicans endorsed by the PBA won their elections, claiming Democrats were “Hochul Liberals” not heeding the public’s concern about crime. “All you have to do is turn on the TV and the first thing is crime,” said Civello, 46, who has been a Suffolk police officer for 22 years in addition to his role as union leader.

Civello said the passage of the “Clean Slate” act would add to the PBA’s litany of complaints against the Democrats’ handling of the criminal justice system. According to Civello, these anti-cop problems in recent years have included changes in criminal justice law involving court proceedings as well as the elimination of bail for many offenses that the PBA head claims put criminals back on the street. Unsurprisingly, he also opposes repeal of the 50-a Civil Rights law, which previously kept police personnel records from being disclosed to the public.

This fall, the PBA’s political action arm — The Long Island Law Enforcement Foundation — provided plenty of financial support and backup campaign resources for candidates it endorsed. While the foundation has existed for years, Civello said it became more politically active after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that freed up the ability of labor unions to use their funds to help promote or defeat candidates.

“Our super PAC acts as a counterbalance” to criminal justice changes brought about by the Democrats, said Civello, who replaced the departing Noel DiGerolamo.

— Thomas Maier thomas.maier@newsday.com

Pencil Point

Race to the summit

Credit: PoliticalCartoons.com/Dick Wright

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Data Point

Long Island mostly lags in vaccinations

Credit: Newsday/Karthika Namboothiri

Vaccinations on Long Island before the holiday season this year have been slow, with fewer people getting the latest 2023-2024 COVID-19 shot, according to data from the New York State Department of Health.

Since the peak of the pandemic, COVID-19 vaccination rates currently are at an all-time low on Long Island. While 78% of Long Islanders received the initial COVID-19 vaccines, only 6% have gotten the latest vaccine since its rollout in September, lower than the state average of 8%.

The urgency to vaccinate against COVID-19 has waned among all age groups, according to Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of epidemiology and public health at Northwell Health: “People are feeling healthier and believe it’s just a cold, but it really is not. Vaccines are good at preventing complications such as long COVID and heart disease from COVID.”

The latest COVID-19 vaccine is intended to protect against the Omicron variant of the virus and was recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to anyone over the age of 6 months. About 93,000 people in Suffolk County, or 6.3% of the population, have received the updated COVID-19 vaccine. Among residents 75 and older and more vulnerable to severe illness, fewer than 26% have received the updated vaccine. Just 0.3% of Suffolk County’s children between 6 months and 4 years have gotten the vaccine.

The rollout among Nassau County residents has been similarly low. About 6.7% of the population, or 91,000 people, are up to date with all required COVID-19 vaccinations. The breakdown includes 23% of the population 75 and older and around 0.4% of children under the age of 5 — lower than the state’s averages of 28% and 1%, respectively.

Misinformation and vaccine hesitancy that gained momentum during the pandemic has certainly contributed to lowering vaccine uptake in the state, Farber added. A study by the University of Pennsylvania earlier this month found that the number of Americans who think vaccines approved for use in the United States are safe dropped by 6%. Another study published in September in the journal Vaccine found that fewer people were vaccinating their dogs for rabies, owing to general skepticism about the safety of routine vaccinations.

— Karthika Namboothiri karthika.namboothiri@newsday.com

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