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Jun 30, 2016 4:11 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Village's First Female Police Officer Begins Making The Rounds

Westhampton Beach Police Officer Ashley Czelatka. BY ERIN MCKINLEY
Jun 30, 2016 4:11 PM

It is safe to say that Ashley Czelatka is already familiar with the community of Westhampton Beach.Most regulars of the Westhampton Beach Farmers Market, held on Saturdays in the municipal parking lot on Mill Road, will recognize her as the traffic control officer who could often be found directing cars and trucks on one of the busiest streets in the village last summer. Others, including merchants, will recall her as being someone who was easy to approach and talk to, whether they were discussing a serious matter or simply offering their opinion of the weather.

It was that sense of community, Ms. Czelatka explained during a recent interview, that inspired her to jump at the opportunity to become a fully fledged officer of the Westhampton Beach Village Police Department—the first female officer in the outfit’s 88-year history.

Officer Czelatka, who graduated from the Suffolk County Police Academy on May 17 and accepted her new job earlier this month, said she is thrilled to be given the opportunity to become a full-time employee. In spite of her history-making appointment, the 26-year-old said she still views herself as one of the guys in the department, which now boasts 13 full-time officers.

“I am the first one in 88 years—it is pretty crazy,” Officer Czelatka said. “But I kind of don’t see myself as the first female officer. I just feel like I am another officer here to do my job but, at the same time, it is pretty exciting to think about it.”

A native of North Sea, Officer Czelatka graduated from Southampton High School in 2007. Four years later, she earned a degree in business management from Western New England University in Springfield, Massachusetts, before returning to the East End and landing a job in retail. She managed both the Southampton and East Hampton locations of Tennis East.

But Officer Czelatka said she always admired police officers as a child, explaining that, when she grew older, she wanted to serve her community. She was also inspired by her uncle, Alan Czelatka, a retired officer with the Southold Police Department.

“I just always liked their presence,” she said of police officers. “I always had a positive outlook growing up with them. I just liked the idea of protecting and serving, and enforcing different laws. That was always an interest to me.”

Because she always thought about being a cop, Officer Czelatka signed up to take the Suffolk County Police Officer exam shortly after she graduated from college in 2011—and then let fate determine the rest.

“Even though I had a degree in business, I decided to see how it would go because I really didn’t know what the process was like to become a cop,” she said. “It all kind of rolled along from there.”

Things were at a standstill until she received a call last year asking if she wanted to join the Westhampton Beach Village Police as a part-time traffic control officer.

“Working traffic control I got to see the department first, which a lot of people who get hired off the whim don’t get to see what the department is like first, and how things are run,” she said. “I felt like this place is where I wanted to have my career start. I felt comfortable here and all of the other officers are great.”

Chief of Police Trevor Gonce said he is thrilled with the decision to hire Officer Czelatka, saying that she set herself apart from the other candidates.

“Hiring Police Officer Ashley Czelatka, the first WHBPD full-time female police officer, was a missing link that the department needed,” Chief Gonce wrote in an email. “The dynamic of the department has moved into the 21st century. The department staff could not be happier with my choice.

“Officer Czelatka is a great fit,” he continued. “I am ecstatic. She will do an outstanding job for the incorporated Village of Westhampton Beach.”

Since coming aboard earlier this month, Officer Czelatka said she is still settling in, noting that being the only female officer is not a huge deal to her as her class at the police academy featured 19 candidates and only two women. She has spent the past three weeks logging her mandatory 160 hours of training with a field officer, and recently started conducting her own traffic stops.

She added that her family, which includes her parents, Joseph and Diane Czelatka of North Sea, and her 23-year-old brother, Ryan, have been supportive, noting that she was thrilled that they could attend her swearing-in ceremony earlier this month at Village Hall.

“This was a big deal for them, and I waited until the last minute to tell them I was being sworn in because so many things can happen and I wanted to be sure,” she said. “I’m very excited.”

Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore, who made history herself two years ago when she became the first woman to be elected to the village’s highest public office, said she is happy to have Officer Czelatka on board, pointing to her work as a traffic control officer. While she stressed that Officer Czelatka was not hired because of her sex, Mayor Moore said she is pleased that there are such opportunities for women in the police department.

“I observed her personally while she was a [traffic control officer] and she was very professional and courteous in the manner in which she dealt with the community,” Ms. Moore said. “That is why the board supported the chief’s recommendation.”

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By sandydog21 (195), Southampton on Jul 1, 16 8:35 AM
Thank goodness that the old guard at WHB is gone and we can see some positive things coming out of the PD.
By lirider (270), Hampton Bays on Jul 1, 16 10:05 AM
Congratulations Ashley.
By J. Frankenbach (15), Southampton on Jul 1, 16 2:38 PM
Best of luck!
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on Jul 1, 16 2:52 PM
How long since women had the vote in this country? I had no idea how backward Westhampton Beach was till now. Incredible!
By hbz (7), Hampton Bays on Jul 1, 16 6:51 PM
This is a GREAT accomplishment !!! Congrats Ashley ! Your parents must be soo very proud of you !!! ;)
By toes in the water (847), southampton on Jul 2, 16 8:20 AM
I know the Westhampton police were corrupt for a long time ( the false traffic stops come to mind), but it took until 2016 for the first female officer? Where are we, Afghanistan?
By Richierich (6), Shinnecock on Jul 2, 16 8:13 PM
Come on, richierich. Take a look around the 21st century. You will see wonderful accomplishments by American womanhood.....Congrats, Ashley....
By unclemilt (57), southampton on Jul 7, 16 9:46 PM
8k run & 3 mile walk, Agawam Park, Southampton Rotary Club fundraiser