Westhampton Beach Rejects Town Offer To Combine Police Forces

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The Westhampton Beach Village Board on Monday rejected a proposal from Southampton Town to consolidate police forces, putting to rest any talk that the village might do away with its own department.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst expressed interest in consolidating departments this past summer, after Westhampton Beach Mayor Moore took office and longtime Village Police Chief Ray Dean retired, and the town sent over a formal proposal to the village in mid-September, the mayor explained in an email sent on Monday evening.

The proposal would have consolidated the two policing sectors in the village into one, reduced the number of full-time officers in the area, and would not provide any part-time officers, on-site dispatchers or traffic control officers, according to Ms. Moore.

The proposal, however, was projected to save village taxpayers roughly 56 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value—meaning a property owner whose home is assessed at $500,000 would have saved about $278 per year.

The Village Board rejected the offer from the town, stating that it was unclear whether the Southampton Town Police Department would be able to provide the same level of service that village residents have been accustomed to receiving, particularly because other parts of the town require more frequent service than others.

Currently, Southampton Town Police patrol more than 145 square miles and 450 miles of roads. They also average 2,800 arrests and 57,800 calls for service annually, according to data compiled by the village.

Town Police have an annual operating budget of $19.7 million, with roughly $17 million of that coming from tax revenue, and the department also accounts for nearly a quarter of the town’s $81.1 million budget for 2014. The town force has 103 officers, though only 89 are employed full time.

In contrast, Westhampton Beach has set aside $2.28 million for its police department for the 2014-15 fiscal year, accounting for nearly a quarter of its $9.76 million total operating budget. The village has 11 full-time and six part-time officers. The department also employs five part-time traffic control officers, two full-time dispatchers and two crossing guards.

After taking this information into consideration, the Village Board determined that it did not need to examine the proposal any further and formally declined the offer, according to Ms. Moore.

Board members have not yet hired a replacement for Mr. Dean, who announced his retirement in late June. Lieutenant Trevor Gonce, who was one of nearly a dozen candidates to interview for the position, continues to oversee the Village Police force’s day-to-day operations.

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