The Long Island Advocates for Police Accountability (LIAFPA) held a press conference at the Law Offices of Frederick K. Brewington on June 17, calling upon Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder to resign after the comments he made during a Newsday investigation of racial disparities in hiring by the Nassau County Police Department. LIAFPA was joined by Attorney Frederick Brewington, a LIAFPA board member, as well as the Long Island chapter of the NAACP, Grand Council of Guardians, the National Latino Officers Association, and United for Justice in Policing Long Island.
Commissioner Ryder’s most recent comments were not an isolated incident, but rather an addition to a pattern demonstrated by his lack of understanding and unwillingness to engage, regarding racial disparities in police practices within the department. These comments are the third such incident within the past six months and make it clear that he can no longer effectively serve in his current position.
The first incident occurred in December 2020, when Commissioner Ryder was asked in writing on two separate occasions by the Nassau County PACT (Police Accountability and Trust) and CCT (Collaborative Task Force) to acknowledge racial disparities in arrests made by Nassau County police officers. According to data provided by Nassau County, African-Americans were 5.3 times more likely to be arrested, and Hispanics twice more likely, compared to white people (see chart here). In both instances, Commissioner Ryder did not acknowledge these racial disparities.
The second incident occurred on March 22, 2021 at the meeting of the Nassau County Legislature to adopt the proposed Nassau County Police Reform Plan. Commissioner Ryder again failed to acknowledge racial disparities in policing. Asked by Legislator Carrié Solages whether data showing that Black males are arrested disproportionately compared to Nassau County’s population provided evidence of systemic racism in policing, Commissioner Ryder repeatedly stated, “We base all of our arrests on probable cause.” When asked whether racial biases played a role, Commissioner Ryder responded, “Not at all.” (A copy of the transcript can be found here.)
The third and most recent incident occurred in May when Newsday published the results of its investigation finding that Black applicants are three times more likely to be disqualified from recruitment into the Nassau and Suffolk County police departments compared to white applicants. From 2012 to 2018, of the 6,539 Black applicants in both departments, only 67 were hired. (Click here to read the article.)
When asked about racial disparities in police recruitment, Commissioner Ryder stated, “When we look at diversity in a police department, you’ve got to look at other employments around the country. What’s the percentage of Asians that are in the doctor world? What is the percentage of lawyers that are Jewish?” He also stated, “I think the process we have is good. I think giving kids a little advantage in minority communities is good, too. They just don’t have it. They don’t have mom and dad.” These comments are grounded in racial stereotypes and reflect a misunderstanding of the barriers to recruitment in Black and Brown communities, which, along with the commissioner's subsequent attempt to rationalize his statements, demonstrate that he is unable to address the racial disparities that plague the Nassau County Police Department’s arrest and hiring practices.
“This time for allowing Commissioner Ryder another chance has come and gone. When given the clear opportunity to confront the documented racial disparities in arrests and hiring, he has failed,” Mr. Brewington said. “This happened on his watch and he has failed. Leaders shall be judged by their deeds. His words and actions on this subject speak for themselves.”
“We need a leader to fix the racial disparities in Nassau County, and Police Commissioner Ryder does not believe his own data. The Nassau County executive and Nassau County legislators have made a choice, and it’s to continue to embrace a policing system that discriminates against Black and Latino residents,” said Tracey Edwards, Long Island regional director of the NAACP. “We need leaders that will acknowledge their own data and put a plan in place to finally address the racial disparities in Nassau County.”
“We believe the comments of Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder is one of the reasons why the Nassau County Police Department does not reflect the diversity of Nassau County,” said Charles Billups, chairperson of the Grand Council of Guardians. “It is one of the reasons why the Nassau County Police Department will not evolve into the present and why they still continue practicing draconian policing.”
“Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder has spoken from his heart and mind and this legacy of thinking continues to keep people of color from being a part of the Nassau County Police Department. This way of thinking makes many believe we do not belong,” said Anthony Ramos, president of the National Latino Officers Association. “The community is here to say that they don’t accept these comments. Representatives of law enforcement are also here to say it’s the way of thinking that continues the legacy of inequality and it's unacceptable.”
“At this point, the commissioner of police for the county of Nassau should resign,” said Mr. Brewington. “He should submit his resignation immediately. This is a commissioner who has shown over and over again that he cannot appropriately address the needs of diversity and race in the county of Nassau as the leader of the Nassau County Police Department.”