File photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead’s Law Enforcement Advisory Panel is hosting two public listening sessions on police reform this week.

“These listening sessions will give our community members the opportunity to share any concerns or suggestions they may have,” the panel said in a press release.

The sessions will be held via Zoom on Tuesday morning at 11 and Thursday at 5 p.m. Spanish language interpretation will be available.

Interested persons must register to receive the Zoom link to attend the session:

  • To attend the session on Tuesday, Jan. 12 at 11 a.m. register at this link.
  • To attend the session on Thursday, Jan. 14 at 5 p.m. register at this link.

The Law Enforcement Advisory Panel, dubbed LEAP, was established by Supervisor Yvette Aguiar in October in response to an executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo requiring every municipality with a law enforcement agency to develop a policing reform plan and file it with the State Budget Office by April 1.

The Riverhead panel, formally appointed by town board resolution in October, comprises 20 people — a “core” group of 13 members and an “advisory” group of seven others. The members represent town government, the town police department, the district attorney’s office, the criminal defense bar, community members, the healthcare system and schools.

The core panel has been meeting twice a month, Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller told the town board at its work session Thursday. The panel developed a community survey, which was made available both online and on paper, to explore community-police relations and the community’s perceptions of the Riverhead Police Department. The survey garnered about 1,200 replies, Hegermiller said.

The panel is holding the listening sessions to augment the survey and hear from residents directly.

Executive Order 203, signed by Cuomo on June 12 requires every local government that has a police agency to perform a comprehensive review of current police force deployments, strategies, policies, procedures, and practices and, with community stakeholder participation and input, develop a plan to improve them. A public hearing on the plan is also required.

The order requires local governments to file their policing plan with the state before April 1 or risk losing appropriations of state or federal funding.

Riverhead’s panel will draft the plan and present it to the town board, which will hold a public hearing on the plan, and make any revisions it deems necessary, before filing it with the state by April 1.

The governor’s executive order accompanied a package of legislation mandating significant changes in policing policies and practices in the state and imposing new requirements on local police agencies to work with their communities on policies and practices.

The new bills, collectively known as the “Say Their Name” reform package, were enacted in response to the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the widespread protests against police brutality that erupted in response to his death.

The new laws ban the use of chokeholds, ban racial and ethnic profiling, mandate greater transparency for police personnel records, including civilian complaints, mandate officers to immediately report to a supervisor when they discharge weapons and criminalize false race-based 911 calls.

Correction: This article originally misstated the date of the second listening session. It is on Thursday, Jan. 14 at 5 p.m., not Wednesday.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.