Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced the launch of a Police Diversity Committee last week after a Newsday article highlighted a disparity in the hiring of minority applicants for police departments throughout Long Island.
Curran said the 10-member committee, comprised of various community, civic, civil rights and religious leaders would be tasked to aid in the improved diversity of the Nassau County Police Department. The committee, she said, would file recommendations on how diversity can be improved throughout the department ahead of the next police officer civil service exam sometime in 2022.
“My administration is committed to increasing diversity in Nassau’s police force and will advocate for the changes we need to accomplish this goal,” Curran said. “I thank the members of the Nassau County Police Diversity Committee for their commitment to police reform.”
On May 27, Newsday published the findings of its investigation into the hiring process of the Nassau and Suffolk County’s police departments since 2012. The hiring process for the county’s 2,400-member police department includes a mix of written exams, physical fitness assessments, medical evaluations, psychological screenings and background reviews, according to the findings.
The findings indicated that the Black and Hispanic people aspiring to become officers would be disqualified at a higher rate than white applicants throughout the hiring process. Newsday found that it has been three times as hard for Black applicants and twice as hard for Hispanic ones compared to fellow white applicants over the past nine-year study.
Since 2012, the Nassau and Suffolk Police Departments hired just 67 out of the pool of 6,539 Black applicants, according to the findings. The number of Black applicants who choose to sit for Nassau County written exams fell from 2,055 in 2012 to 1,213 in 2018, according to the findings. From 2012 to 2018, according to Newsday, only 36 of the 2,508 total Black applicants were hired by the county’s police department. In the past 20 years, the number of Black officers in the county’s police department fell from 110 to 103, according to the findings.
Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder made comments to Newsday addressing the lack of diversity throughout the department.
“A lot of these kids come from broken homes, these kids struggle in their communities because they don’t have both parents around, they don’t have a family history of law enforcement, they’re at a disadvantage starting off and we have to recognize it,” Ryder told Newsday.
Ryder later apologized if the comments he made were offensive and said one of the goals of the police department is to actively try and improve the diversity throughout the force.
“My intention in my responses was not to be hurtful to anyone but to show how we are continuing to improve recruitment efforts to increase diversity through community outreach and supporting applicants throughout the process,” Ryder said.
Curran said she does not believe that family make-up is tied to a lack of diversity in the police department but touted Ryder’s efforts as police commissioner and said the calls for him to be removed from his post from select voices throughout the county were “unfair”.
“Part of the reason I selected [Ryder] to be the police commissioner is because he has a commitment to community policing,” Curran said in a press conference two weeks ago.
“I think as a result of those words, they did hurt a lot of people,” First Baptist Cathedral of Westbury Bishop Lionel Harvey said about Ryder’s comments. “And I think he knows that and I think he realizes it now and I think that he’ll be better for it.”
The 10 members of the newly established committee include Harvey, who will chair the committee, Urban League of Long Island President Theresa Sanders, Nassau County Community College President Jermaine Williams, Westbury NAACP President Leslie Davis, Hempstead Hispanic Civic Association Executive Director George Siberón, Asian American Affairs and Indian American Association Council member Jay Singh, Toufique Harun of Muslims for Progress, Gabriela Castillo of the county’s Office of Legislative Affairs, Nassau County Civil Service Executive Director Martha Krisel, and Nassau County Police Department Community Affairs member Officer Shajarah Williams.
“This is a great opportunity for the county to take a concentrated look at the hiring practices of the Nassau County Police Department,” Harvey said. “I am committed and proud to take a leadership role in helping shape the diversity of our police in all aspects, including recruitment, training, testing and the all-important mentorship of young recruits of color.”