Nassau police commissioner criticized for statements on minority candidates

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder

Efforts to diversify the police forces of Long Island have a long way to go. A Newsday investigation found that of more than 6500 black people who applied to be officers in the Nassau County and Suffolk County departments since 2012 only 67 were hired. That is a success ratio far lower than that of white applicants. 

Now, remarks by Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder trying to explain the lack of diversity in his department are now adding insult to injury. 

"A lot of these kids come from broken homes, these kids struggle because they don't have both parents around, they don't have a family history of law enforcement, they are at a disadvantage starting off, we have to recognize it," he said in a video interview with Newsday, posted to the site. 

The reaction has been swift

"It's very clear that he doesn't understand systemic racism and bias, and if you don't understand systemic racism and bias how can you be a leader of a county?" said Shanequa Levin, the convenor of Long Island United to Transform Policing and Community Safety, a coalition formed in the wake of the George Floyd killing. 

Ryder's remarks have prompted calls for his resignation. 

"I think he needs to step down, he wouldn't even address the fact that there's racism and bias in policing," Levin said. 

The regional director of the Long Island NAACP told Newsday she also thinks he should step down. 

Ryder says his words were taken out of context.

"My comments were not to paint any community with a broad brush, and if I offended anybody I apologize, that was not my intention," he said at a news conference Thursday, when asked to respond to calls for his resignation. 

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who hired Ryder as Commissioner in 2018 disagreed with those calls. 

"I don't think that's fair, the police commissioner, part of the reason I selected him to be police commissioner is he has a commitment to community policing and he has a commitment to diversity in hiring," she said. 

Curran and Ryder spoke at a news conference unveiling new police body cameras a key part of the executive's police reform plan. 

Curran also announced she will launch a Nassau County police diversity committee to review police hiring in response to Newsday's findings.