The NYCLU conducted an exhaustive inquiry into the policies of each police department. Through our interaction, we have found that the Suffolk County Police Department:
- Put up substantial resistance to transparency, often providing us with documents out of any discernible order, with parts of important policies scattered across hundreds of pages, mixed in with many irrelevant records. Ultimately, the NYCLU was unable to get a full response to all of our requests.
- Made it exceedingly difficult to piece together policies and scattered amendments. Repeatedly, the Department sent us what appeared to be a complete and current policy, only for us to have to dig through hundreds of pages to find a separate document containing amendments to a single paragraph and referring back to the original policy for the remaining text. For example, to find out what the most recent policy on recording information in an officer’s memorandum book looked like, it required piecing together an older policy with eight separate documents containing various amendments, and reading all nine documents together to fill in all the missing pieces.
- Was notably one of the only departments that provided us with policies on its use of an “early warning intervention system,” which is a tool used to identify officers who may be in need of enhanced supervision, training, or other interventions, with the goal of preventing more serious misconduct from occurring. It wasn’t clear though what exactly the Department was analyzing or what the criteria was for flagging officers in need of intervention.
Policy Spotlight: Police Misconduct
When police officers violate the public trust by engaging in misconduct, police departments need to have effective policies and systems in place for holding officers accountable. Suffolk County was one of the few departments that provided us with information on a system meant to proactively detect and identify officers who may be more likely to engage in misconduct or who may need closer supervision in general, but it’s not clear what criteria they’re using in analyzing officer activities or what standards they’re using to raise red flags. Without that information, it’s difficult to judge whether such systems are likely to have any real effect. Like other departments, Suffolk County also did not provide us with any standards that govern the types or ranges of disciplinary outcomes generally associated with particular categories of misconduct, leaving us to guess as to how seriously – or not seriously – the Department typically punishes violations. So much about police disciplinary proceedings across New York State remains shrouded in secrecy. Departments need to be more forthcoming about their approaches to official misconduct and prove that they take violations of the public trust seriously.
You can learn more about the policies by clicking the cards below.
Documents received by October 2016.