Suffolk County Executive Bellone Announces Implementation of Key Elements of Police Reform and Reinvention Plan

Body cameras to be deployed for 1,600 SCPD officers.

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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

Photo by: Suffolk County

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has announced key elements of the Suffolk County implementation plan for the County’s comprehensive Police Reform and Reinvention Plan, which was overwhelmingly approved by the Suffolk County Legislature in March. The reform plan seeks cultural change in the Suffolk County Police Department, with enhanced civilian oversight, increased accountability and transparency through the use of body cameras, and an expanded mental health crisis response among a plethora of other initiatives and policy changes
"This historic police reform plan serves as a model for creating real reform, transparency and accountability, and enhancing community trust,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “The plan makes progress implementing some of our largest reform initiatives, including a body worn camera program for our 1,600 officers, a mental health 9-1-1 call program, and providing civilian oversight of police misconduct complaints through the Human Rights Commission.”
The reinvention plan, developed in collaboration with the County’s Police Reform task force and Co-Chairs Deputy County Executive Vanessa Baird-Streeter and Deputy County Executive Jon Kaiman, focuses on seven major points for reform; Training and Continuing Education, Recruitment and Staffing, Community Policing, Traffic Stops, Arrests and Warrants, Mental Health Response and Police Systems, Accountability and Body Cameras.
Implementation of Body Camera Program
Currently, as part of a pilot program, a limited number of SCPD Officers wear body cameras. In an effort to increase transparency and accountability, the reinvention and reform plan proposed that body worn cameras be deployed as standard police worn equipment for all Suffolk County police officers who engage with the public in the course of their professional duties. 
Starting in 2022, body worn cameras will be deployed for approximately 1,600 SCPD officers. Each officer wearing a body camera will receive additional pay amounting to $3,000 to be disbursed over a two year period. Suffolk County has included, in its capital budget, $24 million over a five year period for the purchase of the cameras, implementation of the program and maintenance of the body worn cameras and data systems. 
Civilian Oversight: Suffolk County Human Rights Commission
As outlined in the reinvention and reform plan, the County is enhancing civilian oversight of the Internal Affairs Bureau through the County’s Human Rights Commission. Starting in 2022, the Human Rights Commission, an independent agency, will be equipped to receive all complaints regarding potential police misconduct as pursuant to Policy 1010 Personnel Investigations and Complaints. This enhanced complaint intake process will be in addition to filing a complaint at a police precinct, community kiosk, or online.
The Human Rights Commission will have the ability to review police misconduct complaints in tandem with the Internal Affairs Bureau through a shared data portal. Residents can call Suffolk 311 to be connected directly to the Human Rights Commission. 
The Human Rights Commission (HRC) has begun trainings with Internal Affairs to provide an in-depth understanding of IAB policies and procedures. To date, IAB training has taken place with the HRC Director and 3 Human Rights Investigators, along with members of the HRC subcommittee, Administration of Justice.
Mental Health Response
The reform plan calls for an overhaul of the SCPD’s mental health crisis response. The plan calls for the implementation of a three tier approach including 911 Call Diversion, ongoing collaboration with mental health partners, and expansion of Crisis Intervention Training. The Department currently has 20 percent of patrol officers trained in enhanced mental health response and by the end of 2021, the Department will exceed the goal of 20% of patrol officers having received enhanced mental health response training.
The SCPD Communication Section has developed a call diversion procedure to triage mental health 911 calls to include mental health professionals in addition to police response to better serve Suffolk residents in need. In June, the Suffolk County Police Department completed an evaluation of the department’s mental health crisis response and kicked off a 9-1-1 Call Diversion pilot program in the Third Precinct. The department has now begun to triage all mental health-related calls through the 911 call center for evaluation and potential diversion to the Mobile Crisis Hotline managed by Family Service League (FSL).
Additionally, the County Executive’s 2022 Operating Budget includes more than $1 million in funding for:
  • Social workers to establish overnight FSL mobile crisis team and augment daytime crisis team resources
  • Dedicated FSL supervisor and case manager to address high-utilizer case management and referrals in collaboration with SCPD
  • Created the SCPD Behavioral Health/Crisis Intervention Unit inclusive of police officers who have received enhanced mental health training, research analyst, and modern technology to enhance operations and service
Additional Reform Measures
In addition to increasing transparency and accountability through the use of body cameras, enhancing civilian oversight, and expanding the department’s mental health crisis response, the reform plan focused on reforms to Training and Continuing Education, Recruitment and Staffing, Community Policing, and Traffic Stops, Arrests and Warrants.
To date, a number of initiatives focused on these priorities have been enacted, including, but not limited to:
  • De-emphasizing minor equipment violations and amending the Police Officer Monthly Activity Report to no longer include minor equipment violations and parking summonses
  • Park Walk and Talk community engagement requirement of patrol officers
  • Launch of public facing Traffic Stop Data dashboard
All officers have business cards with contact information to be provided to all residents who request it
  • Enhancing Language Access by translating the upper portions of the Domestic Incident Report to ensure victims full comprehension and understanding
  • Collaborating with GENY NY and LGBTQ+ advocates to assist in reviewing and enhancing training curriculum and SCPD policies to address the gender expansive communities
  • Enhancing command oversight of no-knock warrants
  • Community engagement and participation SCPD in training academy instruction