The New York State Police barracks in Riverside will close its front door and no longer post a trooper at the front desk, possibly by the end of this month, according Major Joseph Tripodo, the commanding officer of Troop L, which covers all of Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
A full complement of officers will still be stationed at the barracks, he said.
The two troopers who currently man the front desk to answer the phone, one in the morning and one at night, will switch to patrol, Major Tripodo said.
The Riverside barracks, which opened in 2004 on land donated by Southampton Town, is the headquarters for Zone 2, which is Suffolk County, Major Tripodo said. The Zone 2 commanding officer, Captain David Candelaria, is stationed there.
“We anticipate by perhaps the end of the month that we will be consolidating the dispatch from the Riverside barracks to Farmingdale,” he said in an interview. “Essentially what will happen is, the desk operations and dispatch at Riverside and will be consolidated and the trooper cars in Zone 2 will be dispatched from Farmingdale instead of Riverside.”
Unlike the town police, the Riverhead Trooper barracks does not have any civilian employees, so troopers handle the phone calls and dispatching, Major Tripodo said.
“The objective is to get the troopers off the desk and onto the road on patrol,” he said.
The move didn’t sit well with some.
“I am concerned about the loss of an important physical presence of law enforcement in the community,” said Vince Taldone, the president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.
“Although dispatching can be done from anywhere, the local dispatcher knows far more about the local community and crime issues. Plus, the desk officer is there to answer questions or respond to requests for help from walk-ins.”
Mr. Taldone argued the state is not upholding the bargain made with Southampton years ago. The town’s financial assistance, he added, was to create a benefit of a law enforcement presence in a neighborhood that suffers from a serious crime problem.
“By pulling out its staffer and locking the door, the state is not holding up its part of the bargain,” he said. “Whether or not the state feels that the facility uses its resources efficiently or not, there was a deal made between the town and the state and the state is now reneging on its part of the agreement. That is just wrong and with the upcoming revitalization of the area, the state’s timing couldn’t be worse.”
Thomas Mungeer, the president of the New York State Troopers Police Benevolent Association, also has come out in opposition to the move.
“Having a trooper available at the station is an essential service and an indispensable tool for local residents as well as travelers passing through the area. The lobby of the station is frequented by travelers asking for directions, seeking medical assistance, reporting car trouble or even requesting the use of a telephone,” he said in an email.
Mr. Mungeer said the move also removes the local knowledge that troopers have with the communities they patrol.
There will still be investigators, sergeants, the captain, and occasionally troopers coming in to do paperwork or switch shifts at the barracks, according to Major Tripoda.
In response to an outcry from town leaders in both Southampton and Riverhead in March over the possibility of the lobby going unmanned, state Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele said the issue boiled down to no civil servant employees wanting the dispatcher job.
“To me, when Southampton donated the land and Senator LaValle and I worked to get the barracks located there, part of the plan was to have the police be able to interact with the public,” Mr. Thiele said earlier this year.
While the front door will be locked, an automatic-dial phone outside will allow someone to call inside the building. Officers inside the barracks have been directed to answer those calls and come to the front door, Major Tripodo said.
The state police do not typically get many complaints from someone walking up to the desk, he said.
Calls to 911 would go to Southampton Town police or the police agency in whichever area the call originated, Major Tripodo said. The state police are the primary police agency for Sunrise Highway and the Shinnecock Reservation, so 911 calls from those areas would go to state police.
People who want to directly dial state police can call 631-208-9002, Major Tripodo said. Those calls will go to Farmingdale instead of Riverside, and will then be dispatched to troopers out east.
“It’s not like there’s going to be any less service to the town. When the trooper is at the front desk now and takes a complaint, he doesn’t do the investigation of that complaint,” the major said. “A trooper from the room is dispatched and comes in to do the investigation.”
Mr. Mungeer said he thinks the barracks will lose officers in the long run.
“Officials with the division of state police may claim that closing the dispatching center at Riverside will place more troopers on the road to patrol your community, and that may be temporarily true,” he said. “However, history has shown that in situations like this the ‘extra’ troopers are soon lost to special assignments, promotions or transfers.”