Southampton Village Police Chief William Wilson was incorrect last week when he stated that he wasn’t being “irresponsible” with his overtime budget expenditures being at 60 percent over budget [“Police Overtime Well Over Budget,” April 3]. I ask village residents to decide what is irresponsible spending. Chief Wilson is over-promoting the police staff, asking for more police officers and requesting $319,280 for next year’s overtime. In 2009, will he be requesting $620,000 for overtime? Chief Wilson settled on $170,000 for his overtime budget last year. Police Commissioner Mark Epley concurred with this figure, and the Village Board, along with Mayor Epley, approved the budget last year.
In addition to the village department, the Village of Southampton is protected by the State Police, the Southampton Town Police, the Suffolk County Sheriffs Department and the Suffolk County Police Department. You will see a Southampton Town Police car at Southampton Village Police headquarters every day. The Village Police Department was picked as a relief point for the Southampton Town Police Department.
When important dignitaries visit Southampton Village, the U.S. State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security provides protection. Politicians visiting are afforded U.S. Secret Service protection. The governor and the New York City mayor travel with their own protection teams.
The overtime in the police department is poorly regulated. The village administrator does not even have copies of overtime documents. The overtime slips that explain why the money was spent are not available under the Freedom of Information Law.
The K-9 police officer is paid four hours of overtime pay every paycheck to care for a German shepherd. He doesn’t actually work the four hours. The detective, who doubles as the Southampton High School basketball coach, is paid overtime to ride the school bus with the team from school to school. This is while he is being paid by Southampton Public Schools to coach the basketball game. Detectives make their own schedule and hours in pursuit of overtime pay and standby pay.
Captain Thomas Cummings recently attended the FBI National Academy for 10 weeks. If suspensions, injuries, training and military commitments were causes for overtime in the police department, then Captain Cummings’s training could have waited until the police department was back to full strength. Overtime was spent in the captain’s absence to perform his duties.
There is a one-hour overlap in shift schedules that occurs twice a day. This can be seen at 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. The police department has up to 10 personnel on duty during these hours. The 40-hour training requirement Chief Wilson speaks of can be accomplished during roll call, and the flagrant practice of allowing police officers to go home early during the shift overlaps should be discontinued. The DARE officer spent 10 years working a seven-hour shift and getting paid for eight hours, and nobody said a peep.
The police department has too much brass. Presently, one lieutenant and one sergeant are assigned to the re-accreditation function and schedule day shifts. This has always been done by one person while working a scheduled patrol shift. Federal grant money has been steadily decreasing for the Village Police. The “Stop DWI” and seat belt grant programs have almost dwindled away. Because arrest totals and ticket totals are down, the grant writer has trouble justifying the need for more money each year.
Contributing to the problem is the organizational makeup of the Southampton Village Police. You sometimes have a chief, captain, lieutenant and two sergeants supervising one police officer. So when Mark Epley says having one police officer on duty is “unsafe,” he is failing to mention the entourage that goes with the one police officer.