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Suffolk County Sheriff's Office
Police Reform and Reinvention Process

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The Sheriff's Office  Reform and Reinvention Report  Submitted to the Suffolk County Legislature on March 1, 2021.

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“The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office is, and will continue to be, an agency driven to achieve excellence not by legislative mandate, but instead by its own standards and its obligation to the People of Suffolk County, New York.” - Sheriff Toulon

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On February 23, 2021, the Sheriff’s Office released its Interim Reform and Reinvention Report pursuant to New York State Executive Order 203. On March 1, the report was finalized and sent to the Suffolk County Legislature for the March 2, 2021 General Meeting. Read RESOLUTION NO -2021, ADOPTING THE SUFFOLK COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE REFORM AND REINVENTION REPORT (SHERIFF). 

 

Deputy Presiding Officer Robert Calarco has called for additional public hearings.  See the Press Release for information and dates. 

 

The Reform and Reinvention Report report requires approval from the Suffolk County Legislature and must be sent to the Governor’s Office no later than April 1, 2021.  Even though the process has advanced to the next stage, the public is encouraged and welcome to continue to submit comments, questions, and suggestions to Suffolk_Sheriff@suffolkcountyny.gov.  

The Sheriff’s Office followed State guidance by developing its evaluation and report in phases while collaborating with community stakeholders. In September, the Office began facilitating conversations with members of its newly formed Community Advisory Board (CAB) to gain a better understanding of the public’s understanding of the role of the Sheriff’s Office. The Office held six of these sessions between September and January, which included Sheriff’s Office presentations followed by discussion.  In February, the Office hosted four additional community meetings and asked for feedback on a series of proposed reforms in the seven areas of “Reforming and Reinventing Correctional Services,” “Reforming and Reinventing Police Service,” “Community Engagement,” “Recruitment, Diversification, and Retention,” “Sheriff’s Office Training,” “Officer Wellness,” and “Internal Affairs.”

 

The Sheriff’s Office is a reform-minded agency that has engaged with community partners in the non-profit, government, and educational sectors in substantive and collaborative ways over many years. The Office has five task forces comprised of community members, including the Sheriff’s Reentry Task Force with over 80 members, the Interfaith Council, the Community Advisory Board, the Deconstructing Task Force, and a small Student Advisory Board.  Participants meet regularly with the County Sheriff and his staff and have played an integral role in shaping programs and policies for many years.

 

Sheriff Toulon viewed the Reform and Reinvention process as a valuable opportunity to reflect on the progress the Office has made in recent years, understand public concerns, and plan for the future. It was also an opportunity to educate the public about the role of the Sheriff’s Office. “With so many police agencies operating in Suffolk, the general public doesn’t fully understand how we affect their lives and the services we provide,” said Sheriff Toulon.  The first section of the 78-page report describes the responsibilities of the Sheriff’s Office, its history, and how elected officeholders, Sheriff’s Office appointees, and long-time civil servants help shape policies.  The report then discusses recent improvements in the 7 subject areas, noted deficiencies, goals, and recommendations, and public input.

Highlights of some of the proposed reforms include:

  • START Resource Center staff frequently confront issues with locating safe housing for homeless individuals. It is recommended that community and government stakeholders work together to create workable solutions. The Sheriff’s Office has discussed the possibility of rehabilitating county-owned property for transitional housing and will work towards this goal in 2021.

  • Inmates with severe mental illness have more intensive needs and more frequently recidivate upon release. The Sheriff’s Office plans to focus on this issue by creating a working group in 2021 to address the continuum of support required to protect public safety and connect human services with this high-risk population.

  • During the Public Sessions, it was recommended that the Sheriff’s Office review its policies and procedures regarding the classification of transgender individuals in custody at the Suffolk County Correctional facility. It was further recommended that the Sheriff’s Office adopt policies and procedures that are more responsive to the needs of gender-expansive communities.  In 2021, the Sheriff’s Office will examine relevant policies and practices, New York State Commission of Corrections’ regulations, and national best practices for the purpose of crafting a policy directive on Transgender, Intersex, Gender Non-Binary, and Gender, Nonconforming People in Custody.

  • The Sheriff’s Office will create an internal Review Board tasked with evaluating each use of force report generated. The goal of the board will be to ensure that proper procedures and guidelines are followed and to learn from each incident. If needed, the Board could establish recommendations for new methods for handling similar incidents. This platform to potentially prevent future injury to our officers and defendants/inmates could be expanded to include other high liability incidents such as motor vehicle crashes.

  • The Sheriff’s Office will implement a training program for Deputy Sheriffs to increase their understanding and awareness of the impact of trauma. The training will help them utilize trauma-informed practices in their interactions with children and adults.

  • Deputy Sheriffs are charged with executing Family Court orders to remove children from their homes for reasons such as abuse and neglect. In addition to implementing trauma-informed training for Deputy Sheriffs, the Sheriff’s Office will work with community partners to develop a care package of items the officers could give to the children to ease the transition.

  • The Sheriff’s Office will facilitate coordination between the START Resource Center and Deputy Sheriffs assigned to the courts. Deputy Sheriffs frequently encounter at-risk and vulnerable individuals. The START Resource Center could be an avenue to connect these individuals with human services.

  • The Sheriff’s Office plans to create a section of the website in 2021 devoted to Police Division statistics on arrests and traffic stops. During the Public Sessions, a question was raised about the Sheriff’s Office’s ability to track racial and ethnic data during traffic stops. The Office is currently updating technology to ensure that race and ethnicity data will be captured. Furthermore, the Sheriff’s Office intends to conduct ongoing analysis of data captured regarding traffic stops and arrests to ensure all sworn members of the Sheriff’s Office are utilizing best practices to eliminate any potential bias and to protect public safety.

  • During the Public Sessions, it was recommended that the Sheriff’s Office improve its data tracking relative to Deputy Sheriff’s use of language access services. In 2021, the Office will begin to post quarterly language access assistance utilization data on its website.

  • During the Public Sessions, it was recommended that the Sheriff’s Office develop protocols and appropriate training to best handle traffic stops and other encounters with people who may have developmental disabilities, autism, or other conditions that may affect an individual’s ability to communicate effectively during police interaction. The Sheriff’s Office intends to create a program for its staff in 2021.

  • During the Public Sessions, the ability of Deputies to use discretion when deciding to make an arrest or give a warning was discussed. Deputies also have the discretion to direct a person to mental health services rather than arrest the person. It was recommended that the Sheriff’s Office track how often Deputies use this discretion and publish the data.

  • The Sheriff’s Office intends to continue to build its mentoring program with local school districts. It will expand its involvement with My Brother’s Keeper and seek out other mentoring opportunities in schools and community groups.

  • The Sheriff’s Office will work with community partners, including the Community Advisory Board, to form a working group focused on developing a more diverse workforce.

  • The Sheriff’s Office will revise its mission statement in 2021 to include the goal of developing a diverse workforce that is representative of the communities it serves.

  • In 2021, the Sheriff’s Office will seek out and implement trauma-informed training for its sworn members and customer service training for all civilians who engage frequently with the public. The Sheriff’s Office will implement a specialized training program for Deputy Sheriffs to increase their understanding and awareness of the impact of trauma. The training will help them utilize trauma-informed practices in their interactions with children and adults.

  • In corrections, special needs inmates include any individuals in custody with mental, emotional, or developmental disabilities, disorders, or impairments. Presently, training regarding special needs inmates is presented once in the academy. The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office will be expanding upon this curriculum in 2021 so that all sworn staff will receive on-going special needs inmate training. 

  • The Sheriff’s Office will implement Realistic De-Escalation training in 2021 for all sworn staff. This form of training exposes staff to real-life situations they may encounter on the job and gives them first-hand experience on how to handle these scenarios. This useful and informative training will assist sworn officers in managing conflicts and help them develop problem solving tools to de-escalate situations they encounter.

  • The Academy Bureau is scheduled to have four qualified de-escalation instructors by January of 2021. De-escalation training will then be used within the Professional Communication block of annual training.

  • The Academy Bureau is working to facilitate the creation of peer support groups within the Sheriff’s Office. These groups will work closely with Chaplains and mental health professionals to provide support to Sheriff’s Office personnel in need.

  • The Academy Bureau is in the process of developing/ implementing a PEER team which will be a first for the Sheriff’s Office. The team’s primary focus will be supporting fellow officers in times of crisis, promoting mental health, and helping to prevent behaviors that may lead to illness, injury, or death of members.

  • During the Public Sessions it was recommended that Academy recruits and sworn personnel receive annual training in LGBTQ cultural diversity. The Sheriff’s Office intends to adopt a relevant training program. The Sheriff’s Office also plans to review cultural competency training curricula and provide this training to all staff.   

  • In 2021, the Sheriff’s Office will implement officer wellness "check-ins" with supervisory staff. These check-ins will be conducted regularly to ensure that Deputy Sheriffs and Correction Officers under their commands are taking care of their overall well-being, and effectively managing and coping with stress.

  • All staff at the Sheriff’s Office will be encouraged to be alert to "red flags" with a coworker, or immediately following a Use of Force incident, sick time abuse, or other issues. Staff will then be offered assistance and referred for counseling or treatment.

  • The Sheriff’s Office will launch an internal education campaign to alert staff about the higher rates of depression among law enforcement and the signs and symptoms of depression. Resources will be made available on the Office intranet and on signage in employee areas.

  • The Sheriff’s Office is already using a variety of methods associated with Early Intervention Systems (EIS) that engage supervisors in detecting and remedying problematic behavior that occurs under their command before there are issues that can lead to more serious consequences.

  • The Sheriff’s Office will be exploring database programs used to assist in tracking performance and complaints that occur over the course of an officer’s career. Often, incidents do not occur in quick succession, and personnel and management change over the years. EIS database systems lessen the reliance on institutional knowledge about incidents and provide a means to analyze individual trends over the course of time.

  • In 2021, the Sheriff’s Office plans to utilize the Employee Mentorship Program in another arena – as a non-punitive measure for officers with minor disciplinary sanctions and/or issues. By addressing these behaviors early on, the need for more formal disciplinary measures, as well as the consequences to which these behaviors may lead, will be mitigated before they ever become a major problem for the individual and for the agency. 

  • The process to file a complaint with Internal Affairs is on the Sheriff’s Office website but during a Public Session it was recommended that the Office review the website to ensure the public understands the process to file a complaint with Internal Affairs and post a flow chart that provides information on how complaints are handled. The Sheriff’s Office intends to follow through on these suggestions.

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Este documento en español. 

Preguntas? Email:
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Recommended Reading Materials on Police Reform

Briefing on the Sheriff’s Office and the Reform and Reinvention Process

Pursuant to the directives of NYS Executive Order 203 and following the subsequent guidance provided by the New York State Governor’s Office, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office is conducting a comprehensive review of its corrections and police divisions’ policies and procedures, community engagement, recruitment and diversity, employee training and well-being, and Internal Affairs operations.

Preparation Materials for Public Sessions

The Sheriff’s Office is comprised of a Corrections Division, a Police Division, and an Operations Division. The Corrections Division has 813 Correction Officers who staff two county correctional facilities housing minimum, medium, and maximum-security inmates.

The Police Division includes the Enforcement Bureau, Headquarters Bureau, District Court Bureau, Family Court Bureau, Criminal Investigations Bureau, a Special Operations Bureau, and the Pistol License Bureau. These bureaus provide transportation and security of inmates outside the county jails, general law enforcement services to the public, civil actions, and support to other law enforcement agencies.

The Operations Division of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office includes Employee Benefits, the Communications Bureau, Quartermaster Bureau, Grants Bureau, Accounting Bureau, Personnel Investigations Bureau, Personnel/Payroll, Fleet Management, and Research and Development. These Bureaus work together to ensure the Sheriff’s Office continues to run efficiently.

The Sheriff’s Office Corrections and Police divisions are both recognized as Accredited Agencies in New York State. This designation involves a lengthy, rigorous process to meet and exceed high standards. The Office must continually sustain this level of professionalism to maintain its accreditation status.

The Sheriff’s Office is at the forefront of best practices in many areas of operations and has earned national attention for its innovative work in correctional rehabilitation, school-based programming, and intervention services for victims of human trafficking. In 2018, Sheriff Errol D. Toulon, Jr. partnered with the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation to educate young people about the warning signs of a peer in distress, how to intervene, and the concepts of inclusivity. He also launched a task force called Deconstructing the Prison Pipeline to drive policy discussions and implement solutions to prevent youth from entering the justice system. The County Sheriff simultaneously expanded correctional rehabilitation programing and launched the START Resource Center on the grounds of the Yaphank Jail to provide case-management services and reduce recidivism. Working with Stony Brook University’s School of Social Welfare, the Sheriff recruited master’s level Social Work students to participate in an innovative Family Reunification Program which focuses on supportive services for the children of county inmates. He has also advocated for improvements in human services, access to safe housing, and mental health treatment – as well as trauma-informed practices throughout the justice system.

In June 2020, in response to growing social unrest and calls for police reform, the County Sheriff announced the formation of a Community Advisory Board and recruited participants via social media and in the local press. All ninety-four people that applied were accepted on the Board, which comprises a diverse group of residents from across Suffolk County. The Board meets monthly to view presentations, discuss topics of interest and concerns, and make recommendations.

The Sheriff’s Reform and Reinvention process is focused on the following areas:

  • Reforming and Reinventing Correctional Services

  • Reforming and Reinventing Police Services 

  • Community Engagement

  • Recruitment, Diversification, and Retention 

  • Sheriff’s Office Training

  • Officer Wellness

  • Internal Affairs

 

The Office is seeking comments, ideas, and suggestions on some of its proposed reforms and will be meeting with community groups and the general public during four sessions in the month of February. The following information is designed to help prompt discussion about reforming policies and practices at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office. While the Office is focused on specific areas, and suggested reforms are welcome.

Part 1. Reforming and Reinventing Correctional Services

The Sheriff’s Office places emphasis on correctional rehabilitative programming. Various in-custody programs provide gender-responsive group and individual counseling, parenting classes, and educational and vocational training for both male and female inmates. Other programs provide essential services to elderly inmates, veteran inmates, human trafficking victims, and those with substance abuse issues.

The reduction in county inmates due to New York’s Bail Elimination Act led to a simultaneous decline in the number of individuals participating in the jail’s rehabilitation and reentry programs. This, in conjunction with the COVID-19 pandemic, prompted the administration to find creative methods of providing services to county inmates, as well as justice-involved individuals living in our communities. This work is now coordinated through the START Resource Center by a new team of Correctional Counselors and Community Correction Officers who conduct intake assessments on all county inmates and provide ongoing case-management during incarceration and after release. The Sheriff’s Office also recently began a pilot project with SUNY Stony Brook’s School of Social Welfare to provide services to family units and the children of those in custody.

In 2021, the Sheriff’s Office will seek to expand the reach of the START Resource Center by developing satellite offices in other parts of Suffolk County. Planning has commenced to offer more services to individuals released from court, and to reduce barriers to employment, safe housing, mental health treatment, and other common issues. Correction Officers will also receive additional training in working with people with mental illness, de-escalation techniques, crisis intervention, and trauma-informed practices. The Sheriff’s Office will also expand services for children of those in custody.

Discussion Materials:

About the START Resource Center

Proposed Reform: Expansion of Services for the Children of those Incarcerated

https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/53721/2000256-Children-of-Incarcerated-Parents-Framework-Document.pdf

Proposed Reform: Using Trauma-Informed Practices in a Correctional Setting

https://bja.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh186/files/Publications/NRCJIW-UsingTraumaInformedPractices.pdf

https://traumainformedoregon.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Corrections-Trauma-Informed-Care-infographic.pdf

Additional Information on Trauma in Correctional Settings

Trauma-Informed and Evidence-Based Practices and Programs to Address Trauma in Correctional Settings

 

Part 2. Reforming and Reinventing Police Services

The Police Division is staffed by 240 Deputy Sheriffs that provide critical services for the courts, serve warrants and summonses, make arrests, transport inmates, investigate crimes, and patrol roads and waterways. Recently the Sheriff’s Office began training its deputies in Fair and Impartial Policing, a form of implicit bias training. The Office’s Use of Force policy was revised to ban chokeholds and carotid holds. Body and in-car cameras were distributed to deputies and language assistance services are now available when interacting with people who have limited English proficiency.

Future plans include an internal review board to evaluate each use of force incident. Customer Service training will be rolled out to civilian staff in the Enforcement Bureau who field frequent phone calls from the public who are facing eviction. Trauma informed training will be implemented for deputies who are charged with executing Family Court orders to remove children from their homes. The Sheriff’s Office also intends to improve data collection relative to arrests and traffic stops and make that data available on the Sheriff’s Office website.

Discussion Materials:

Proposed Reform: Using Trauma Informed Care Practices to Safeguard Children following Arrest or Removal from Guardians

https://bja.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh186/files/Publications/IACP-SafeguardingChildren.pdf

Proposed Reform: Training in Trauma Informed Practices

https://bha.health.maryland.gov/Documents/Trauma-Informed%20Policing%20-%20Betsy%20Wexler.pdf

https://www.samhsa.gov/gains-center/trauma-training-criminal-justice-professionals

Proposed Reform: Exploring Co-Responder Models for Individuals in Behavioral Crisis and with Developmental Disabilities

RESPONDING TO INDIVIDUALS IN BEHAVIORAL HEALTH CRISIS VIA CO-RESPONDER MODELS

The Police-Mental Health Collaboration Toolkit

https://bja.ojp.gov/program/pmhc

 

Part 3. Community Engagement

The Sheriff’s Office regularly participates in formal and informal community gatherings and events. The Office hosts an annual Open House and Family Day and participates in National Night Out to create more opportunities for positive public interactions.

In the last few years, the Sheriff’s Office has become actively engaged in mentoring initiatives though My Brother’s Keeper. In 2021, the Office will conduct another mentoring pilot project with the Central Islip School District.

Community engagement is also facilitated through the Office’s many task forces and boards, including the Interfaith Council, the Reentry Task Force, the Deconstructing the Prison Pipeline Task Force, the Student Advisory Board, and the Community Advisory Board. Through these initiatives, the Sheriff’s Office regularly engages with hundreds of individuals, non-profit groups, and educators.

Discussion Materials:

Proposed Reform: The Sheriff’s Office is proposing an expansion of its mentoring initiatives.

http://www.nysed.gov/mbk

https://leb.fbi.gov/articles/featured-articles/cops-mentoring-kids-an-investment-in-crime-reduction

Additional: The Sheriff’s Office intends to expand its Deconstructing the Prison Pipeline Initiative

https://315a35fb-4cd2-4c10-ad2f-caceddce343b.usrfiles.com/ugd/315a35_22d112c0e8944c359455cf2539d4a95f.pdf

Part 4. Recruitment and Diversification

The underrepresentation of Black and Hispanic employees at the Sheriff’s Office is a longstanding issue that is also a challenge throughout Suffolk County government. Suffolk County recently appointed its first ever Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, a new role created by the County Executive to promote diversity and inclusion in the Suffolk County workforce. Nearly all Sheriff’s Office employees are civil servants, and therefore are not exempt from civil service hiring practices, such as testing and established lists based on scoring. The Sheriff’s Office Director of Personnel has been tasked with collaborating with the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer to improve hiring and recruitment practices and increase diversity in its sworn and civilian ranks.

Some recent initiatives undertaken by the Sheriff’s Office to aid in diversification include targeted recruitment efforts in local communities, coordinated outreach efforts with non-profits and churches, and social media campaigns. These initiatives had positive results and will continue as new civil service tests are scheduled.

Future plans include teaming up with members of the Community Advisory Board to help with recruitment, targeted marketing campaigns, social media outreach, and identifying and reducing barriers to attracting more ethnically and racially diverse candidates. In 2021, the Sheriff’s Office plans to revise its formal Mission Statement to include “developing a more diverse workforce.”

Discussion Materials:

Proposed Reform: The Sheriff’s Office will set goals to diversity its sworn and civilian workforce. https://www.justice.gov/crt/case-document/file/900761/download

https://www.policechiefmagazine.org/creating-a-multicultural-law-enforcement-agency/

 

Part 5. Training

Previous to the current administration, in-service training amounted to less than one day per year. Sheriff Toulon increased in-service training to three days per year for all sworn staff, created the Academy’s first training course catalogue, and implemented mandatory training for all new supervisors. The recent additions to the in-service training program include mental health first aid training, fair and impartial policing, and crisis intervention training. These curricula include realistic and challenging training scenarios to strengthen learning objectives. A new mentoring program supports new employees while learning on-the-job and helps to reinforce the ethical foundation of the professional culture at the Sheriff’s Office.

The Office also plans to implement trauma-informed training for its sworn members and customer service training for all civilians who engage frequently with the public.

(See corrections and police sections for trainings).

Part 6. Officer Wellness

Decision making and judgment can be affected by an officer’s mental state. Proper mental, physical, and emotional well-being are essential for an officer to be effective in the community. Recently, the Sheriff’s Office began an employee wellness program to encourage employees to prioritize mental and physical fitness. The Sheriff’s Office Chaplaincy Program provides chaplains from various religious denominations to officers in need. In addition, employee unions have helped connect law enforcement mental health providers with officers in need of psychological and emotional support.

Starting in 2021, the Sheriff’s Office will begin officer wellness check-ins utilizing supervisory staff. These check-ins will alert supervisors to red flags indicative of a larger problem. New training at the Academy will focus on officer mental wellness education.

Discussion Materials:

Proposed Reform: Improve Overall Wellness for Sheriff’s Office Employees

https://cops.usdoj.gov/RIC/Publications/cops-w0862-pub.pdf

 

Part 7. Transparency and Accountability – Internal Affairs

Sheriff Toulon and the Executive Staff work to hold all staff accountable for their conduct and to properly and investigate each and every allegation of misconduct. A progressive disciplinary system for all founded violations of agency policies and procedures is in place. The Sheriff’s Office investigates all complaints, whether anonymous or otherwise. Recently Sheriff Toulon established the Quality Assurance and Integrity Unit to evaluate complaint cases for the purpose of decreasing opportunities for re-offense.

The Sheriff’s Office already uses various Early Intervention Systems that engage supervisors in detecting and remedying problematic behavior. A database program is being explored to assist in tracking performance and complaints over an officer’s entire career. The Employee Mentorship Program will also be utilized as a non-punitive measure for officers with minor disciplinary issues, avoiding the need for a formal disciplinary process.

Discussion Materials:

Proposed Reform: Review Employee Intervention Systems; both behavioral interventions and software systems

http://www.datasciencepublicpolicy.org/projects/public-safety/eis-overview/

https://www.policefoundation.org/publication/best-practices-in-early-intervention-system-implementation-and-use-in-law-enforcement-agencies/

 

Part 8. Other Recommendations and Open Discussion

Videos of the Information Listening Sessions