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Shelter Island Police working on plan to comply with governor’s reform order

The Shelter Island Police Department hasn’t yet organized a formal task force to reinvent and modernize its strategies and programs as required by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s June executive order. But the local department has taken  “some proactive steps” to support the intent of the order, according to Chief Jim Read.

Governor Cuomo signed an executive order in response to problems in various communities in the United States where there has been violence, riots and other difficulties, some resulting from political conflicts and other situations arising as a result of charges of racism.

The order requires police forces to adopt a plan to improve training and relationships between officers and the residents they serve by April 1, 2021. To be eligible for future state funding, police departments must certify that they have taken the following steps:

• Engaged stakeholders in a public and open process on policing strategies and tools

• Presented a plan, by the chief executive of the municipality and head of the local police force, to the public for comment

“The protests taking place throughout the nation and in communities across New York in response to the murder of George Floyd illustrate the loss of community confidence in our local police agencies — a reality that has been fueled by our country’s history of police-involved deaths of Black and brown people,” Governor Cuomo said in issuing his executive order. “Our law enforcement officers are essential to ensuring public safety — they literally put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect us.

“This emergency regulation will help rebuild that confidence and restore trust between police and the communities they serve by requiring localities to develop a new plan for policing in the community based on fact-finding and meaningful community input,” the governor said.

The Shelter Island Police Department is doing a complete review of its policies, looking to add cameras in vehicles and enhancing training in de-escalation and bias areas, Chief Read said.

Supervisor Gerry Siller plans to look at what is being done sometime this fall or winter, Chief Read said. He also noted that East End police chiefs are looking at ways to collectively meet with representatives of various minority groups and the offices of the District Attorney and Public Defender.

“We work closely with our elected [officials] and citizens every day so some of the disconnect that happens in larger places simply does not occur here,” Chief Read said.

“The SIPD embraces opportunity for growth and we practice a philosophy of continuing improvement every day,” he said, promising more information as efforts to address issues might arise.

The chief and his officers interact with the community in many ways, working with students in the DARE anti-drug program and various athletic and other activities on the Island.