A search early last year found that the Southampton Town Police Street Crime Unit office at police headquarters in Hampton Bays was littered with drugs—cocaine, marijuana and prescription pills—plus paraphernalia and money, all unsecured and unregistered as evidence in ongoing undercover drug investigations and prosecutions.
Former Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson Jr., speaking for the first time since his retirement late last year, in an interview last week discussed his discovery in early 2012 of the overall condition of the unit’s office—including unsecured narcotics in desks and cabinets and cash strewn about—that sparked an internal investigation. A subsequent search uncovered 37 items that were then turned over to the Suffolk County Crime Lab, and many of them were later confirmed by testing to be controlled substances. The unit’s office was regularly accessed by civilian and custodial staff, Mr. Wilson said.
Newly obtained documents—including forensic reports by the Suffolk County Crime Lab and investigative photographs—detail the state of the office used by the now-defunct undercover anti-drug squad, which is at the crux of an investigation by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota’s office into more than 100 drug-related arrests prosecuted by the unit. That probe, which continues, led to last spring’s release of two convicted drug dealers from prison and the overturning of their felony convictions.
The D.A.’s office rarely comments on or confirms investigations, and this week it declined to comment on findings in the unit’s office. Last week, however, it was revealed in a lawsuit against the department that a third convicted felon prosecuted by the Street Crime Unit had his charges quietly dropped last summer as part of the same investigation.
“This goes down to the very ideal of having faith in your law enforcement mechanism,” Mr. Wilson said. “Unfortunately, that public trust was violated.”
The Street Crime Unit was headed by the current police chief, Robert Pearce, when he was a lieutenant, and Lieutenant James Kiernan had served as the unit’s supervising sergeant when he held that rank. This week they both challenged Mr. Wilson’s claims.
Chief Pearce said that, to the best of his knowledge, there were no loose drugs. “I believe that the only thing that was found was some cocaine residue,” he said this week, adding that over-the-counter painkillers like Advil were found, too. The office, he said, was filled with prop drugs—used for teaching demonstrations.
The lab results show that items submitted by Mr. Wilson included small quantities of marijuana, as well as items that tested positive as pure cocaine, plus items with trace amounts of marijuana residue, as well as several tablets of prescription drugs, including the painkiller Tramadol and quetiapine fumarate, which is prescribed to treat schizophrenia and symptoms of bipolar disorder.
Lt. Kiernan, meanwhile, and his attorney, Ray Perini, attacked Mr. Wilson for conducting a “smear campaign” against the lieutenant.
Lt. Kiernan on Monday said all the drugs and evidence were handled properly and did not present a public safety concern. “The Street Crime Unit has the best officers that the department has to offer, and they do tremendous work in service to the town, and for [Mr. Wilson] to say anything otherwise is outrageous. I don’t know what his motives are,” he said.
Oversight Of The Unit
A document obtained from a source this week revealed that Lt. Kiernan, following a nearly six-month suspension, had pleaded guilty in October 2012 to four disciplinary charges that then-Chief Wilson had filed against him—the most egregious of which involved lying to Suffolk County Police Internal Affairs investigators regarding his supervision of the unit. He also admitted to failing to act immediately upon receiving a complaint that an officer in his unit was addicted to painkillers and, in fact, allowed the officer to continue on active duty.
Pleading guilty to the four disciplinary charges satisfied 28 remaining counts, many of which dealt with Lt. Kiernan’s oversight of the Street Crime Unit. He was forced to give up 73 days of sick, personal and vacation time as a penalty. He has since returned to active duty.
Lt. Kiernan’s attorney, Mr. Perini, said the agreement stipulated that while a guilty plea was entered to the four disciplinary charges, the lieutenant was only admitting to failing to adequately document his assigning another officer to serve as driver for the officer in question while he was on duty.