Silvy Ovalle, a respected community leader from Central Islip, New York, speaks out against qualified immunity (QI) in a recent Newsday op-ed. Ovalle, founder of the Central Islip Community Patrol (CICP), a volunteer organization bringing together law enforcement and the local community, believes S 1991, the bill to eliminate QI in the state, will help build public trust in policing.
In her op-ed, Silvy Ovalle shares what inspired her to become a public safety advocate. Originally from Curaçao, Ovalle wanted to get involved in her community after moving to Central Islip from Manhattan in the early 1970s. One of the first things she noticed was the friction between the police and the community. “I knew it didn’t have to be that way,” she writes in Newsday. She established CICP with the goal of creating “a safe, thriving Town of Islip.”
The results were remarkable. “In this collaborative environment, that initial friction dissipated,” Silvy Ovalle states. Trust between police and the community increased. Crime rates went down. As a result, the Ovalle family grew close to many members of their local law enforcement. “These officers were willing to help us,” Ovalle notes, “so we valued them. We recognized the police’s contribution to the health and safety of our beloved community.”
Building public safety requires trust—that’s why Silvy Ovalle’s community-based model has proven so effective. But qualified immunity gives bad cops the upper hand, creating a power imbalance that erodes trust. Thus, as long as QI exists, “Communities and law enforcement cannot work in solidarity,” Ovalle explains. She labels the doctrine “divisive,” for it impedes accountability for rogue public officials and closes the pathways to justice for the victims of their misconduct.
“I love my community—which includes the many wonderful law enforcement officers I’ve worked with over the years,” Silvy Ovalle concludes. “We improved public safety in Central Islip by creating a system of collaboration, understanding, and trust. I believe with all my heart that we can create this same system all over the state.”
And like an outright majority of New Yorkers, she believes passing S 1991 and ending qualified immunity will create a better system.
Read the entire Silvy Ovalle op-ed here.