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Town Board focuses on police reforms

The Town Board addressed the state and federal government provisions for reforms of the local Police Department.

“A lot of this doesn’t affect us,” Supervisor Gerry Siller said about a list of requirements issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But a plan for reform must be put in place by April 1 to qualify for state funding, he said.

“I’m always looking for ways for us to improve,” Police Chief Jim Read said.

The governor’s outline calls for:

• Improving deployment strategies

• Addressing community needs and promoting community engagement to foster trust and fairness

• Addressing bias and proportionate policing of neighborhoods

Local departments are being asked to examine use of force and procedural justice, “hot spot” policing, crime prevention and violence prevention and reduction.

At the same time, the statement from Gov. Cuomo acknowledges that small town police departments “see their size as a strength. They see their officers as having better relationships with their residents, providing the basic ingredients for successful community policing.”

Police on Shelter Island interact with students through the DARE drug education program, but also through programs such as organized lunches with students and interactions with them and with adults in the community in sports.

For all the positives, Deputy Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams said it’s important to seek input from various stakeholder groups — schools, the senior community and the immigrant community.

Councilman Jim Colligan suggested involving members of the town’s health and wellness group, such as Senior Services Director Laurie Fanelli and Town Social Worker Lucille Buergers. They can add a lot about prevention and the importance of early intervention for issues of drug abuse, domestic abuse and other situations in which police get involved, the councilman said.

It’s also important to address issues of racial diversity, Councilman Mike Bebon said.

Site plan review

The long study of reviewing the site plan with an eye toward streamlining the process, adding transparency and shortening the time it takes is continuing and is still not quite ready for prime time.

Planning Board Chairman Ian McDonald said he would like to see a pre-submission meeting with applicants and/or their representatives. He believes that could provide early guidance about what boards need to consider each application. In addition, copies of materials should be concurrently sent to all boards and committees deemed likely to have a role in acting on the needed requests so that each could provide input to one another.

That communication could avoid applicants being bounced back and forth, sometimes having to revisit a board that had already acted on the requests because of issues brought up by other boards.

In addition, it could be determined whether outside approvals such as those rendered by the Suffolk County Department of Health Services or the Department of Transportation are necessary.

Chris Tehan and Reed Karen from the Building Department said they generally have an easy time identifying simple projects from those that will need more complex approvals to move forward.

Matt Sherman of Sherman Engineering and Consulting has represented many clients seeking approvals on Shelter Island and he embraced the concept of a pre-submission meeting that would be beneficial for his clients. He said it would save applicants time and money.

While the Town Board agreed with the call from Mr. Siller to get the site plan revisions right, Mr. Colligan said he doesn’t want it to drag on and hopes another version can be ready for action in January.