Suffolk Police Commissioner Harrison suspends shop steward, police sources say

This story was reported by Michael O’Keeffe, Sandra Peddie and David M. Schwartz. It was written by O’Keeffe and Peddie.

Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison suspended a police union delegate for intervening in the disciplinary case of another cop, law enforcement sources told Newsday, a decision described as unusually difficult by law enforcement and labor experts.

The move prompted an unidentified member of Suffolk’s powerful Police Benevolent Association to post a widely shared message, obtained by Newsday, which criticized Harrison and pledged to fight “arbitrary discipline”.

Three law enforcement sources told Newsday that the suspended delegate was Officer Edward Rose, a 26-year veteran of the department who works in the Third Precinct.

Retired Suffolk Police Inspector Michael Caldarelli, commander of the Office of Internal Affairs from 2012 to 2014 who retired in 2017 after 31 years in the department, said the suspension “would suggest to me that Commissioner Harrison had a disciplinary policy that is perhaps stricter than us”. have seen in the past.

Brian Davis, a Garden City attorney who has represented the Nassau Senior Police Officers Association for the past 20 years, said, “In my experience, it’s been extraordinary. It’s very, very rare. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him.”

“Shop stewards have had a lot of leeway over the years,” he said. “If there is a problem with a member, it is assumed that the delegate can go and represent that member.”

Under Suffolk Police policy, the Commissioner of Police can suspend a police officer for up to 30 days before the case goes to arbitration, and a person can be suspended or reinstated at any time during of the process.

Noel DiGerolamo, president of the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association.
Credit: James Carbone

As a shop steward, Rose is responsible for ensuring contract rules are enforced and is responsible for representing other officers who have been accused of misconduct. Delegates are also responsible for disseminating PBA communications to members.

Rose did not return phone calls.

In the message to PBA members, the unidentified union member wrote: “The new administration has set a clear tone. The PBA will be prepared to make it clear that arbitrary discipline will not be accepted. We’ve fought far worse battles, and we know the playbook far better than this administration. We may face a difficult and punishing road, but we will protect the members and prevail in time.

The message concluded: “Finally they have waited 4 months to suspend this delegate, and he clearly came from Rodney. brace yourself for the worst as suspension seems to be the current preferred reaction to any accusations of misconduct so think twice before doing anything that could lead to a bad situation that could easily have been avoided. ”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone declined to answer questions about the suspension except to say, “This commissioner is committed to transparency and accountability.”

Harrison, who spent 30 years with the New York Police Department, was department chief before Bellone appointed him to the top job in Suffolk in December. He declined to comment.

PBA President Noel DiGerolamo said the message was not authorized by the union’s executive board. The union represents 1,700 patrol officers in Suffolk. Newsday reported last year that he had contributed millions of dollars to campaigns, according to records and political finance experts.

“This is not a message or a statement from the organization,” DiGerolamo told Newsday.

He said the union had a good working relationship with Harrison.

“A new administration coming in with its own ideas and its own management style is not new to the SCPD or the SCPBA,” DiGerolamo said. “We have an excellent relationship with the new commissioner and I communicate with him frequently. As with all union/management dynamics, we do not agree on all points, however, I am convinced that if disagreements arise, they will will be negotiated and settled fairly amicably.”

Tracey Edwards, Long Island regional director of the NAACP, who has served on police reform advisory groups in Nassau and Suffolk, said: “Each administration should be setting a new tone, and Commissioner Harrison is setting some. one of professionalism, accountability and public safety for the community and law enforcement.

State payroll records show Rose earned $187,455 in 2020.

Asked about the suspension, the Suffolk Police spokesman said: ‘When an incident of potential misconduct occurs an internal affairs investigation is initiated immediately. However, we do not comment on AI investigations that have not yet been completed.

Eugene O’Donnell, a former New York Police Department officer who is a professor of police studies at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, said: “For management, this is a pretty severe step.”

He added, “You don’t have immunity because you’re a PBA delegate, but you do have more protections.”

Wayne Schaefer, a Smithtown labor and employment attorney who has handled police disciplinary cases in New York and Long Island, said Harrison’s approach to discipline was likely shaped by his years with the NYPD, where discipline is generally handled through formal procedures, rather than through negotiations with police unions.

“It’s a much more impersonal process, for better or for worse, in the city,” Schaefer said.

Schaefer said Harrison appeared to be trying to send a message to officers. “Whether it’s a real or imagined issue, it seems like they’re determined to telegraph members that they’re going to take a hard line in these cases,” he said.