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First hearing on police reform report scheduled for Wednesday

Officials in Southold have set two dates for listening sessions meant to collect public input on the recently completed police reform and reinvention plan.

The meetings, which will be held virtually via Zoom, will be held Wednesday, March 17 and Wednesday, March 24 at 7 p.m.

The report is a culmination of over six months of collaboration among Southold residents, attorneys, law enforcement and other stakeholders that began in a year that shined a light on injustices embedded throughout society.

“The report represents an enormous amount of hours and incredible commitment” by task force members, said Carolyn Peabody of Orient, who chaired the Justice Review & Reform Task Force. “Everyone has come to this because they really want to make sure that our police department and the town’s dedication to ensuring public safety applies to everyone in the town in a way that’s equitable.”

Last year, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis set off widespread national unrest and calls for changes in policing and the criminal justice system.

In New York, local municipalities were directed under an executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to study their own law enforcement agencies and work with communities to come up with plans for reform.

Southold’s report presents five foundational recommendations that aim to build community trust and ensure equitable treatment by the police; support the police department through adequate funding and staffing; and ensure the optimal physical and mental health and morale of its officers, as well as dozens of more specific recommendations, such as implementing body cameras.

The full document is available here and more information on the Zoom meetings can be found on the town’s website.

Residents can also weigh in this week on the Suffolk County Police Reform and Reinvention Task Force draft report and Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office Reform and Reinvention Report.

The first virtual hearing will be held before the county legislature during Tuesday’s general meeting at 2 p.m. and the next is scheduled for a special meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Those interested in addressing the legislature may sign up at scnylegislature.us/publicsafetyph.

Testimony may also be submitted by email to [email protected]; by regular mail to the attention of the Clerk’s Office at the Suffolk County Legislature, P.O. Box 6100, Hauppauge, NY 11788; or over the phone by calling (631) 853-3685 and leaving a three-minute message.

In a statement, Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Rob Calarco said the draft plan will lead to “meaningful change” in policing. “Reinventing policing is one of the most important things we as Suffolk County officials, residents and stakeholders will ever do, and we should do it together,” Mr. Calarco said.

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