In the aftermath of the George Floyd tragedy, the slogan “Defund the police” became a cudgel with which to bludgeon Democrats. The truth is that in many jurisdictions across the country Democrats improved funding for the police.
The Biden administration, through the American Rescue Plan, committed $10 billion in funds for public safety, and President Joe Biden’s comprehensive $35 billion Safer America Plan calls for funding 100,000 more police officers.
Closer to home, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and his Town Board colleagues John Bouvier and Tommy John Schiavoni have made support for first responders and public safety a priority.
From 2016 to 2023, police personnel increased by 7 percent; base salary has increased from $11.7 million to $13.9 million. Vacancies through retirement that occurred in 2023 will be replaced, and Mr. Schneiderman is asking for four new police hires in addition to filling the vacancies.
Supervisor candidate and current Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore recently signed off on hiring two police officers to replace two retirees in Westhampton Beach Village. Maria will ensure that all our Southampton Town Police have the resources they need.
Those numbers add up to more police funds, not less.
Supervisor Schneiderman’s approach to policing is exemplary. Some highlights:
• Established a bipartisan, community stakeholder search committee to fill the position for police chief, which resulted in the hiring of Steven Skrynecki. A formidable partnership was born.
• Established the Community Law Enforcement Review Committee, which, among other things, developed a police “use of force” protocol. A more successful collaborative effort between police, government and the community would be hard to find.
• Successfully negotiated police contracts, which, among other things, reached an agreement on body camera technology.
• Increased police department bilingual capability.
• Use of telehealth to improve police mental health crisis interventions.
James Kiernan, upon becoming the new chief of police, promised to carry on Chief Skrynecki’s legacy and at his swearing-in ceremony remarked that in Southampton, “we embrace police reform while maintaining law and order.”
In the larger realm of public safety and community well-being, Supervisor Schneiderman established an Opioid Task Force and created the Department of Public Safety and hired Ryan Murphy, formerly the coordinator of safety and fire rescue in Patchogue, to serve as the new director of public safety for Southampton Town. Mr. Ryan’s expertise is in disaster planning and code enforcement.
I ask that you contrast these positive steps with the resignation of former Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson, which occurred when local Republicans last controlled town government. Chief Wilson explained why he retired, saying: “I can’t get any progressive action taken by the board for staffing, funding, technology; I can’t get anything done.”
Anthony is a former chair of the Southampton Town Democratic Committee — Ed.
One fine body…