Sheriff’s office forms Suffolk’s first citizens advisory board

01/17/2014 12:00 PM |
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BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverside.

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office has formed the county’s first citizens advisory board for law enforcement, and has named a Riverhead pastor as a member of the board’s initial six-member team.

The Sheriff’s Office Citizens Advisory Board will create and run programs designed to “resolve conflict, concerns and issues regarding the sheriff’s office and the community it serves,” according to a Thursday press release.

Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco said the initiative — which comes amid increased media scrutiny over law enforcement agencies in Nassau and Suffolk counties — is an important first step in “preserving public trust in county law enforcement.”

Calls for a police department advisory board in Nassau and Suffolk have grown in recent years, with a recent Newsday investigation pointing to the fact that no civilian review organizations — such as NYC’s Civilian Complaint Review Board — exist in the two counties to field complaints against police.

An accompanying Newsday editorial called for the establishment of such boards.

“Residents need a forum to air grievances about police treatment,” the editorial reads. “These are not cure-alls, but they often have helped to create a culture of accountability to the public.”

A member of the new board will be the Rev. Charles Coverdale, senior pastor at the First Baptist Church of Riverhead.

Rev. Coverdale has “made major contributions to his local community,” the sheriff’s press release reads, noting his ministry to inmates inside the county’s correctional facilities.

Rev. Coverdale also serves on Harvard Divinity School Center’s Leadership Council in Boston, Mass., according to the release. He will be joining a diverse board that features a psychotherapist, a priest, a retired police officer, an attorney, and a Long Island civic leader.

The board will write up annual reviews of complaints and concerns from civilians, promote community input through programs, review and comment on the office’s law enforcement activities, and set up meetings in various towns throughout the year to encourage residents to get involved, according to the sheriff’s statement.

The Sheriff’s Office Citizens Advisory Board will hold its first meeting in early February.

psquire@timesreview.com