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Apr 27, 2011 10:07 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Lieutenants Throw Their Hats Into the Ring For Chief Position

Apr 27, 2011 11:44 AM

Southampton Town Board members aren’t saying when they’ll appoint someone to lead the Town Police Department, having interviewed three more candidates for the police chief position this week.

Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Town Councilwoman Nancy Graboski said on Tuesday that while the board has concluded interviewing the entire pool of candidates—five in total—its members haven’t reached a consensus yet. There will be at least one more closed-door executive session meeting on the subject, scheduled to take place on Friday morning.

“We’ve committed to discussing it again on Friday,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “That’s as far as we’ve gotten. My hope would be, certainly, that we move forward in a timely manner. I think that’s important for the town and the police department.”

In total, five high-ranking police officials have emerged as candidates for the position of police chief. Most recently, the board chose to open the search up to the town’s three police lieutenants, Robert Iberger, Robert Pearce and Lawrence Schurek, who were interviewed on Tuesday during an executive session. The trio of lieutenants join Town Police Captain Anthony Tenaglia and Southampton Village Police Chief William Wilson Jr., who have also interviewed for the post.

All are hoping to replace former Chief James P. Overton, who reigned over the police department for 21 years before retiring on April 15. Until the appointment is made, Capt. Tenaglia is temporarily in charge of the department.

Ms. Throne-Holst said this week that she initially received inaccurate information from Suffolk County Civil Service officials on whether the position could be opened up to candidates from outside the town department. She said she was originally told that only officers from within the department were eligible for the position. But when she questioned that information, she said sometime later she was informed by Civil Service Commissioner Alan Schneider that the town, in fact, could open up the position to a wider pool of candidates. That was something Ms. Throne-Holst had wanted to do all along, she said.

Officials from the Southampton Town Police Superior Officers Association, the union representing lieutenants, sergeants and the captain of the town department, lobbied the board to hire a police chief from within the department at a Town Board meeting on Tuesday evening. Sergeant Michael J. Zarro, the vice president of the union, stressed that the union “strongly believes” that it’s best to fill the position from within the department.

This week, Lts. Schurek and Pearce, as well as Captain Tenaglia, all talked about their plans for the department if appointed chief. Lt. Iberger did not return calls seeking comment. Chief Wilson did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Tuesday.

A member of the police force since 1985, Lt. Schurek, 50, of Hampton Bays, was appointed to his current post about a year ago. He is in charge of the department’s emergency services team, and serves as the commanding officer of the dive team, as well as the firearms range manager.

If appointed chief, he said he would try to make the department more progressive and suggested that some things could be more streamlined, although he declined to offer specifics. He’s interested in the position, he said, because he wants to progress through the ranks.

“It’s kind of a natural progression within a department,” he said. “You work hard, and you put a lot of time and effort in, and you hope to go through the ranks.”

Remsenburg resident Lt. Pearce, 54, who has worked for the department for three decades, said if he were appointed chief, he would try to open up the lines of communication, both between outside agencies like the Suffolk County Police Department and the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, and within the police department. He said he’s been involved in basically every special unit, including serving as the commanding officer of the Juvenile Aid Bureau and the Street Crimes Unit. He also was a liaison to the Suffolk County Traffic Safety Board.

Capt. Tenaglia, 58, began his career at the department in 1975, starting out as a radio operator. If promoted to chief, Capt. Tenaglia said he hopes to reach out to the community for suggestions on how to improve the department. He said he has modeled himself after both Chief Overton and current Westhampton Beach Village Mayor Conrad Teller, who served as Town Police chief. His management style, he said, would incorporate elements of both chiefs—both businesslike and outgoing.

He also said he would like to improve communication with the Town Board. “I would like to have better communications with the Town Board, which I think is something we’ve lacked in the past,” he said.

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As good a case as any one person may have to be named police chief, the Town Board is doing the only right thing by looking at a range of possibilities. Those who attribute political motives to this wider survey put themselves in the awkward position of saying that only one person should be considered, and that doesn't fly.
By fidelis (199), westhampton beach on Apr 27, 11 12:08 PM
Then, of course, we can see how the Supervisor, Town Board and Town Attorney's office explain whatever happened to the requirements for a Police Commissioner pursuant to Town Code Section 19-4. Since the legality of the implementation of Chapter 19 of the Town Code (creating the position of the Police Commissioner rather than a Board of Commissioners) was upheld by the Appellate Division, Second Department back in 2008, the position has evidently been unfunded and has remained vacant. There must ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Apr 28, 11 11:04 AM