Sagaponack Schedules Vote On Forming Police Department

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Sagaponack Village will continue to examine the idea of forming its own police department: The Village Board on Monday afternoon unanimously agreed to hold a special meeting on September 7, at which a final decision will be made.

The board approved the hiring of former Southampton Village and Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson Jr. to do an analysis of exactly what the start-up costs and potential contractual obligations would be for the village if it created its own police department, rather than relying on coverage by Southampton Town Police. Mr. Wilson will present the analysis at the September 7 meeting.

The village is considering whether to form a full-fledged police force, staffed full time, or a part-time force that only provides its own coverage on a seasonal basis, or for one of three shifts per day, and contracts with a neighboring force—Southampton Town or East Hampton Town are the most likely candidates—to cover the rest of the time. Creating a village department would allow village officials more ability to negotiate the terms and costs of coverage, something it cannot do with Southampton Town now.

Board members said there will not be a dedicated public hearing on the proposal, since one is not required for a simple board resolution, but that public comment would be allowed at the special meeting. The board will vote on the measure at the same meeting.

Mayor Donald Louchheim said at a specially scheduled Saturday morning meeting earlier this month that he did not want to see the village form its own police force unless there was clear, broad-based support from village residents for doing it. He did not say at Monday’s meeting whether the board has decided such broad support was present or not.

The mayor also said that had researched the possibility of holding a referendum of village residents on the topic of the creation of the police force, and he found that state laws specifically prohibit holding a vote to approve such a measure.

Mr. Louchheim said that he met with Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst last week to discuss possible changes to the way Town Police provide coverage to the village, which could head off the creation of a village department, but that no offer from the town has materialized. He said that up until the September 7 meeting date, the village would listen to any offers the town might make.

“I met with the supervisor last week and told her we are still waiting and, uh, we are still waiting,” Mr. Louchheim said. “I told her what our schedules were, and that up until our final deadline … we are willing to consider any proposal we are given.”

If the village were to form its own force and contract with East Hampton Town for its supplemental coverage, Southampton Town would lose some $2.3 million in annual tax revenues paid by Sagaponack residents—an amount roughly equal to more than 10 percent of the town’s total police budget. The cuts, town officials have said, could mean several police officers would have to be laid off from the already shorthanded department.

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