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Sag Harbor, Village Police Continue To Battle Over Department's Fate

Publication: The Southampton Press
By Colleen Reynolds   Nov 14, 2012 10:44 AM
Nov 14, 2012 11:35 AM

The Sag Harbor Village Board and its police force continued to duke it out on Tuesday night in the latest round of discussions over the rising costs of policing and Mayor Brian Gilbride’s divisive plan to possibly slash the force and contract with an outside police agency for protection.

Mr. Gilbride stuck to his guns, claiming that he is not in favor of abolishing the department and just wants to get a handle on costs, particularly medical and retirement costs, while Police Chief Thomas Fabiano and Patrolman’s Benevolent Association President Pat Milazzo each took to the podium to argue against getting rid of village officers, to the applause of numerous cops who turned out in support of the department.

Chief Fabiano argued that cutting the force size would not work, noting that officers can’t make arrests and then return to a virtually vacant police station.

At the end of the night, no decisions were made, and Mr. Gilbride said the next morning that he could not even say what the next step would be.

The village has not yet heard back one way or the other from eligible officers who were offered a retirement incentive in light of the uncertain fate of the department.

The village distributed to the public during its meeting Tuesday a packet containing the proposals it has received from East Hampton and Southampton towns, as well as the Suffolk County sheriff’s office, for providing protection in Sag Harbor. Also in the packet were copies of the PBA’s contract proposals (the union and village are in arbitration), a chart detailing the costs in salary and benefits to the village for each officer, among other documents.

Officers in attendance took issue with the release of a document detailing their schedules and identifying each officer by name, arguing that it was a security violation to include officers’ names in the list. They requested the public return the document and many did, even though Mr. Gilbride pointed out they were public documents approved for release by the village labor attorney.

Not only was little headway made, but recent new developments, such as the resignation of Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson Jr., who had submitted the lowest of the bids, leave a question mark.

Some residents spoke in favor of keeping the force and spoke of how, during the recent Hurricane Sandy, having their own village department made them feel especially safe.
“Not everything in this world is about dollars and cents,” said resident Nada Barry.

Mr. Gilbride acknowledged, in response to another resident’s inquiry, that the village was 
still paying off its approximately $2.7 million police headquarters, on which it broke ground in 2004.

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