Timothy Sini was sworn in Thursday as Suffolk County police commissioner and pledged to restore the public’s trust in the department after a former chief was convicted of violating a suspect’s civil rights and orchestrating a cover-up.
Sini, a former federal prosecutor who until recently served as deputy county executive, replaces former Police Commissioner Edward Webber at the helm of the police department.
Sini, 35, was County Executive Steve Bellone’s hand-picked choice to replace Webber, who announced his retirement late last year, when the department was undergoing a tumultuous period following the departure of several top commanders.
After he was sworn in Thursday at the Suffolk County Police Academy in Brentwood, Sini alluded to the damage done to the department following former Chief of Department James Burke’s guilty plea last week without mentioning Burke’s name.
“Recent events have questioned people’s trust in this department. We must restore it,” he said. “The only way to do that is to work hard and do the right thing. Every day. It’s that simple.”
Sini lauded the police agency as a great department, crediting sworn and unsworn members for making Suffolk one of the safest counties of its size in the country.
“But make no mistake. This department does not belong to you or me,” Sini said. “This department belongs to the people of Suffolk County.”
He also reiterated the department’s goals moving forward — reducing crime with an emphasis on stemming firearms violence and targeting drug dealing from homes; reducing traffic fatalities by increasing patrols in problem areas; and targeting distracted drivers and speeders.
Sini promised to increase transparency by improving relationships with all constituents, particularly in African-American and Hispanic communities. That transparency, Sini said, includes reforms to the department’s internal affairs bureau so complaints are handled appropriately while at the same time increasing efficiency and reducing costs.
Sworn in also at the ceremony were first deputy commissioner John Barry, a former federal investigator for the Southern District U.S. Attorney’s Office and second deputy commissioner Risco Mention Lewis, a former Nassau County prosecutor appointed by Bellone during his first term.
During the ceremony before swearing in the top three administrators, Bellone said, “These individuals are all people of strong character and I have no doubt that each one will fulfill their responsibilities and their pledge to the residents of Suffolk County.”
Bellone said Sini had “an extraordinary work ethic, unquestioned integrity” and called him “a real leader with a demonstrated ability to get things done.”
In an interview with Newsday in Melville late last year, Sini, who grew up in West Islip, said he thinks being a newcomer is a strength.
“I have a fresh perspective that I can bring,” he said. “I know how to determine who I can rely on for advice, and I will display good judgment in surrounding myself with those who are competent, those who are trustworthy and those who are acting in the best interest of Suffolk.”
Sini’s predecessor, Webber, announced his plans to retire after more than three years as commissioner — and as federal prosecutors mounted a case against Burke. Webber, a 43-year department veteran who rarely spoke publicly, said he couldn’t commit to serving another four years and wanted to spend more time with his family.
Burke resigned as chief of department in October amid an ongoing federal investigation into police conduct following the theft of Burke’s duffel bag.
Burke was arrested in December on charges of assaulting the handcuffed suspect and conspiring to cover it up amid a federal investigation.
Last Friday, Burke pleaded guilty and admitted to violating the civil rights of Smithtown resident Christopher Loeb and then orchestrating the department cover-up of the crime.