Last week, I attended an informational session with the Southampton Village Police Department in front of Village Hall. Shortly after I arrived, Mayor Jesse Warren approached the group of officers, and a dialogue ensued. Many issues were discussed, and tensions were high, but perhaps the most poignant moment arose when Sergeant David Dorchak asked Mayor Warren, “What was the most important thing I told you to do when you became mayor?” The mayor could not recall. The sergeant continued, “I told you to get to know your officers.”
As he said this, I looked across the circle at all the familiar faces I know from back in our high school days, and now from school drop-offs, parades and community events. This is the beauty of living in a small town: the shared history, the common ties and the sense of belonging.
This is what Mayor Warren doesn’t seem to understand.
If the mayor had taken the time to get to know his officers, he would have been aware of the family crisis faced by a dispatcher this past year. Instead, he exacerbated the problem by refusing to fill multiple vacant positions. The dispatchers pressed on with dangerous staffing levels — only to find their department disparaged on political fliers for excessive overtime.
If the mayor had taken the time to get to know the officers, he would have vetted members of the village task force more carefully through an open and honest process that considered ulterior motives and past history with the department. But, most importantly, the task force findings would not have appeared on political mailings before they were shared with members of the police department.
Living in a close-knit community doesn’t mean we can’t address complicated issues like police reform. In fact, it makes us better suited to do so, because we start from a place of common ground and respect. But it all begins with strong leadership from a person who understands the spirit of our community.
Our local residents rally behind one another, and we give back to our village. Sure, we have differences of opinion, but we stand next to each other at tee-ball games and cheer our children on with a deep sense of pride for the place we call home and a hope that the next generation will have the same. Our numbers are dwindling as housing prices skyrocket, but our small network of everyday people — police officers, teachers, health care workers, small-business owners — is the very heart of this village.
It’s time for a leader who understands that.
Vote Michael Irving for mayor on June 18.
Mary Catena Crosby
One fine body…