If there was any doubt that local police are embracing changes that will be in the Police Reform and Reinvention Report slated to be submitted to New York State by April 1, Officer Anthony Rando put that to rest at Tuesday’s Town Board work session.
After Town Attorney Bob DeStefano Jr. offered a broad-stroke view of what the report will contain, Officer Rando said department members appreciate the effort the committee has made to come up with some excellent changes. Enhanced training for police is important, the officer said, noting that he has already had some of the training being suggested and found it valuable.
The opportunity for officers to become proficient in Spanish will also better prepare them to handle their jobs, he said.
As for the prospect of hiring a female officer, he said it was essential, echoing Chief Jim Read. Adding a woman to the force would help to improve responses to calls involving charges of domestic abuse, mental health issues and other sensitive situations.
There were a couple of clarifications to wording on some suggestions. The need for a civil complaint review board is unnecessary because the Town Board already serves as a Police Commission doing that job. In addition, anyone who is hesitant filing a complaint about a particular officer or the handling of a specific incident can submit them to either Mr. DeStefano or Supervisor Gerry Siller.
Use of social media in ways that could compromise an officer’s objectivity should be discouraged, but to ban such uses would be unrealistic since the officer has the right of free speech, Mr. DeStefano said.
The call many Islanders have made for body cameras isn’t being tossed out totally, but the expense to purchase and maintain records and develop policies to protect people’s right to privacy need to addressed. While the suggestion was that this happen within one to three years, Mr. DeStefano said it is more likely to take three to five years.
Mr. DeStefano asked the Town Board to review his outline of the major issues the report will include and get back to him this week with comments and suggestions. He can then make revisions for a fuller discussion of the report at next week’s work session. At the regular Town Board meeting scheduled for March 26, the public will get a chance to comment on the findings so a final document can be structured for submission to the state on time.