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Aug 13, 2019 3:14 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Police Chief Tightens Reins On Department's Off-Duty Employment Policy

Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki. PRESS FILE
Aug 13, 2019 3:14 PM

The Southampton Town Police Department until recently has been lax in enforcing its off-duty employment policy. However, that is no longer the case.

Chief Steven Skrynecki began reviewing the department’s policy last year after an internal investigation revealed that an officer on the force also had worked part-time for another law enforcement agency. At the time, the chief said that he was considering revising the policy to restrict police officers from working at another law enforcement agency or private security firm, similarly to Nassau County Police Department restrictions.

However, according to the Southampton Town Patrolman’s Benevolent Association contract, “An employee may accept and be employed in any occupation off-duty, which is not in violation of federal, state or county laws, to a maximum of 20 hours per week.”

Federal and state law only prohibits law enforcement officers from working in any licensed premises where alcoholic beverages are served, such as a bar, liquor store or restaurant, citing a possible conflict of interest.

In order to revise the department’s policy, which largely mirrors that law, Charles McArdle, a retired Southampton Town Police detective and current president of the Eastern Long Island Police Conference, said that the Southampton Town Board would need to negotiate and revise the PBA contract.

He added that he currently owns two private firms in Hampton Bays — CM Security Consulting and PeoplePool Valet Service Inc. — both of which he operated while working as a detective on the force.

“The contract is very clear,” he said. “I know the chief is trying to bring in the reins, and I get it, but that’s all the things that you have to negotiate with the union.”

Eric Breitwieser, the president of the Southampton Town PBA, confirmed last week that, to date, no such negotiations have occurred.

Instead, Chief Skrynecki determined that the existing policy was sufficient but recognized that the department’s off-duty employment record was “inconsistent” and “outdated.”

To update the department’s records, he required that law enforcement officers submit a form listing any changes in their off-duty employment status. To date, he said that the department has received 25 notices — all of which were in compliance with federal and state law.

“At this point, we’re just ensuring that the reported off-duty employment is not in violation with any laws,” he said.

“Public safety is one of the most important things we do,” Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman added. “If they are going to take other jobs, we want to make sure that it doesn’t create any conflicts that would make it more difficult for us to do our job in protecting people.”

In the future, department employees are required notify the department prior to accepting any form of off-duty employment. However, Mr. Breitwieser stressed that employees are not required to obtain department approval.

“I’m not different than anyone else — I can work to support my family,” he said. “As long as we’re not breaking federal and state law, they cannot deny what we’re doing.”

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