Suffolk County Executive-elect Steve Bellone announced Tuesday a search committee headed by Long Island Association President Kevin Law to find the next Suffolk County police commissioner.
The committee is made up five people, including Law, whose job is to seek out the best person for the job, and report to Bellone over the next several months with their recommendations. Bellone will make the final decision.
“There is nothing that we will do in this transition that is more important than identifying a new commissioner to lead this police department,” Bellone said with his committee standing behind him at his transition team headquarters in Hauppauge. “We will search inside the department and outside, we will search in in New York State and across the country.”
Current commissioner Richard Dormer has expressed to officials that he will retire at the end of the year, Law said, adding that an interim commissioner will be put in place Jan. 1 until the search is completed.
The search comes as Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano recently picked Thomas Dale, an NYPD chief, to replace Acting Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter, who took over after former commissioner Lawrence Mulvey retired in April.
Whoever Bellone selects to be Suffolk’s top cop will lead a department that already faces a number of high-profile issues: The heroin and prescription drug crisis in the county, a serious gang problem, a federal investigation into the department’s response to hate crimes and the continued search for the Long Island serial killer. That case and the continuing search for missing New Jersey prostitute Shannan Gilbert has garnered global headlines.
“I believe that we need to do a top to bottom reform in the police department,” Bellone said. “That we need to re-examine how we do business.”
Despite pushing for better practices within the department, Bellone said he will not “prejudice” the search by dismissing internal candidates, but said somebody who currently works in the department will have to be open to changes.
“[I’m] not leaning in one direction or the other,” he said.
The last time the county turned to a search committee to find Suffolk a new police commissioner was 24 years ago under then-county executive Patrick Halpin.
“Counties exist primarily for two reasons when it comes to providing governmental services,” said Law, who was on that transition team more than two decades ago. “One is for public heath and the other is for public safety.”
Law said the committee is looking to hold its first meeting within the next two weeks and will also talk to law enforcement officials to get a sense of what credentials a new commissioner should have. He also didn’t leave out the possibility of hiring a recruitment firm to help expand the search outside Suffolk. They didn’t say how much that would cost.
“This is not something that will be done in a couple of weeks or a month,” said Law. “It will take some time and my recommendation to Steve would be it’s more important to get the right person than tell us we have to get this done in three months or two months whatever the time is.”