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Apr 18, 2017 3:34 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

In Southampton, Proposed Code Change Over Police Commissioner Post Sparks Disagreement

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. JEN NEWMAN
Apr 19, 2017 10:28 AM

A move to change the designation of the police commissioner position in Southampton Town—a post that appears in the town code but has never been officially filled—has sparked an argument among Town Board members over who should have the role.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman is expected to present a proposed code change at the next Town Board meeting that essentially would direct the supervisor to serve as police commissioner, unless the Town Board appointed someone else to the role.

However, Councilwoman Christine Scalera has maintained that all four Town Board members, in addition to the supervisor, currently serve as police commissioners, and that the move proposed by the supervisor would limit the powers of the rest of the board.

“He’s giving himself the appearance of authority by making himself the sole commissioner, but he’s not taking away responsibility vested in the Town Board, in respect to hiring and firing,” Councilwoman Scalera said. “He’s trying to get what he wants without the people having to weigh in on it.”

In 2006, a previous Town Board created the position of police commissioner to act as a chief administrative officer of the police department. However, after a 2007 referendum failed that would have given the position a full salary and powers to hire and fire employees, a commissioner was never officially appointed by the town.

In his arguments for the proposed code change, Mr. Schneiderman said he believed it was important to reinforce the existing chain of command, particularly in emergency situations, and that most of the changes proposed would actually move more day-to-day powers to incoming Police Chief Steven Skrynecki, who is expected to start by the end of April.

“I’m just trying to do some housekeeping here—I’m not looking for any additional power,” the supervisor said on Monday. “I’m not looking to take anything away from the Town Board.”

Ms. Scalera argued that the code already gives the supervisor the powers of the police commissioner in the event of a declared emergency, and that there was no reason for a code change that would make him the sole commissioner on a regular basis.

“It’s a very, very big deal,” she said. “This shouldn’t be vested in me—or him—or any singular person. There is no problem with the current structure. It is completely unnecessary.”

Mr. Schneiderman said with the incoming police chief, he thought now was a good time to clean up the code. He noted that he is considering changing his proposed amendment to entirely eliminate the police commissioner position from the code—which would mean the police chief would report directly to the supervisor.

He maintained that the proposed code change, as it stands, does not give the supervisor any additional power—a statement that Ms. Scalera has disputed.

“If the board doesn’t put anybody in the position, this is more about chain of command,” the supervisor said. “Who does the police chief report to if no one is serving as the role of commissioner?”

Deputy Town Attorney Kathleen Murray said state law authorizes a town to manage a police department once it’s established, and the Town Board is charged with hiring, firing, promoting and disciplining members of the department. But, she noted, the board has the option of establishing a police commission for those functions. Among its options, it could create a board of commissioners, or simply designate the supervisor to serve as the sole police commissioner.

Ms. Murray noted that the position of police commissioner was created in 2006, providing the position mostly administrative duties—but not including the hiring, firing, promoting and disciplining of officers, which remained the duties of the Town Board. A move a year later to expand the police commissioner’s duties was rejected by voters in a referendum. So the position remains in town code but has never been filled.

Mr. Schneiderman’s proposal, according to Ms. Murray, would reconsider the duties of a police commissioner, and note that in the absence of a formal appointment, the supervisor would serve in the role—though the Town Board retains all of the key powers.

She also noted that she is working on a separate proposal, to be considered by the board, which would eliminate the title of police commissioner entirely and simply say that the police chief shall report to the Town Board “through the town supervisor.”

The Town Board is expected to discuss the proposed code changes at a public hearing on April 25 at 6 p.m., in Southampton Town Hall.

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There is only one true Police Commissioner. Tom Selleck.
By Mouthampton (390), Southampton on Apr 19, 17 12:35 PM
I was thinking the same thing. :-)
By Rich Morey (322), East Hampton on Apr 19, 17 9:35 PM
Sounds like POWER... Jay wants it all. Don't let it happen...
By knitter (1247), Southampton on Apr 19, 17 1:01 PM
Is anybody bothered that the Deputy Town Attorney is politicking for Jay Schneiderman in this article? I get why Jay is doing it, its an election year, but the Town attorney is supposed to be non political or so I thought.
By Gillnetter (95), Hampton Bays on Apr 19, 17 2:54 PM
Appears to me that she is just stating facts of the law. Where do you see any politicking going on?
By But I'm a blank! (1278), Hampton Bays on Apr 19, 17 4:18 PM
Sounds like he's fishing for more photo ops to me...
By V.Tomanoku (622), southampton on Apr 19, 17 5:55 PM
2 members liked this comment
Most transparent politician in east end history. Is anyone really surprised by this move?
By dnice (2336), Hampton Bays on Apr 19, 17 6:32 PM
How do you know? How far back in history do you go? Do you know the Supervisors, Cameron, Halsey? The men who were born in Southampton studied and knew how the East End worked... like when to dredge Mecox Bay so it wouldn't pollute the area? And the summer people talked to the locals and followed their advice.
By summertimegal (83), southampton on Apr 24, 17 12:03 PM
If Jay isn't looking for more power, etc. then why not let the rest of the board write the code change the way they see fit? Or just let it go and leave things as they are?
By Rich Morey (322), East Hampton on Apr 19, 17 9:36 PM
Councilwoman Scalera is right, they all serve in the role of Police Commissioners. How is it the others on the Town Board didn't know that?

Good for Scalera! Schneiderman is just looking for another way to build his power base -- and get more photos taken.

By Frank Wheeler (1790), Northampton on Apr 19, 17 9:41 PM
In most Villages only the mayor is police commissioner, not the entire board. Seems it would make sense to have the head of the police dept. (chief) reporting to one person rather than five, especially on public safety issues. It would probably be more likely to remove politics from decision making and streamline operations. The Board still hires, fires, promotes, disciplines.
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Apr 20, 17 7:34 AM
Why would any Board member want their information filtered through the Supervisor? WAKE UP Town Board! Is Scalera the only one with any knowledge up there? Yet again, poor poor judgment exercised by the Supervisor in putting this forward. Rumor around town hall is that this desire to exert control over the STPD started because the Supervisor wanted lights in his car and was denied by the Board. Give him his lights if this keeps him from fixing what isn't broken. He is certainly dim witted enough ...more
By Roughrider28 (70), southampton on Apr 20, 17 8:42 AM
Scalera is the only one with proven education and experience. John and Julie will be one-term nobodies that spoke for change, got lucky because there was no alternative, but haven't accomplished a thing. Think recent non-factor board members like Sally Pope, Jim Malone, Dan A?, Came, accomplished nothing, collected a paycheck and forgotten.
By lirider (211), Hampton Bays on Apr 20, 17 10:37 AM
1 member liked this comment
Scalera for Supervisor...
By bird (689), Sag Harbor on Apr 25, 17 4:16 AM
1 member liked this comment
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