State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) said in a joint letter this week that a statewide shortage of New York State Troopers is to blame for the decision to lock the front door at the Riverside barracks and have troopers dispatched from Farmingdale.
The two lawmakers sent the letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo and Joseph D’Amico, the Superintendent of the State Police.
“We believe it is critically important that additional Trooper classes be initiated, and we remain committed to ensuring that the necessary funds are included in the upcoming 2016-17 state budget for the purpose of training recruits,” the letter read. “While we understand that many agencies and departments experience staffing issues from time to time, it appears as though this staffing shortage is negatively affecting the police services provided to our communities.”
The legislators said reducing the Trooper presence and locking the facility, which first opened in 2004 on land owned by Southampton Town, is a “step backward” in stemming crime in the area.
“It took a tremendous amount of work at all levels to obtain the land and secure the necessary state dollars to build and outfit this facility,” the two lawmakers said.
Major Joseph Tripodo, the commanding officer of Troop L, which covers all of Suffolk and Nassau counties, told The News-Review last week that the Riverside barracks will lock the front door and consolidate its dispatch, likely at the end of this month.
Some local residents have opposed the move to close the door of the facility.
But Major Tripodo said he doesn’t anticipate public opposition to change the outcome, since the decision to move the dispatcher came from higher-ups in Albany.
Unlike town police, which have civilian dispatchers, the state police used two troopers, one in the day, and one at night, to dispatch, answer calls and man the front desk for walk-in traffic.
The change will put those two officers on the street patroling, instead of in the building answering calls, Major Tripodo said.
Calls to the Riverhead barracks will go to Farmingdale, and Troopers there will dispatch police cars in Zone 2, which covers Suffolk County, and for which Riverside is the zone headquarters, he said.
“The objective is to get the troopers off the desk and onto the road on patrol,” he said.
There will still be a full compliment of officers in the building, although Major Tripodo acknowledged there may be times where there is no one in the building.
The front door will be locked but it will have a dial-in phone to officers inside the building, who have been instructed to answer it and come to the door if needed.