Political leaders are urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reverse the decisions to lock the public out of the New York State Police barracks in Riverside and funnel calls through the Farmingdale barracks instead.
State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) attended a meeting of the Bay View Pines Civic and Taxpayers Association Friday night in Flanders and encouraged residents to pressure the governor’s office.
The plan currently calls for two desk officers at the Riverside barracks to switch to patrol duties, although troopers disclosed Friday that they’ve been operating two officers short for about the past month.
Sgt. John Dolezal and Lt. Jose Febo of the state police spoke about the future of the Riverside barracks, saying the plan is consistent with what’s being done at trooper barracks throughout the state.
“We really need the bodies on the road,” Lt. Febo said, adding that troopers get few walk-in complaints at the Riverside barracks.
Despite this, he said, the Riverside barracks’ recent shortage has occurred because two junior officers were pulled from Riverside and moved to Farmingdale for communications experience, where they would replace two Farmingdale troopers who retired. The state police are waiting for more officers to be transferred to Riverside to fill those gaps, Lt. Febo said.
The Riverside barracks covers the East End towns, and its troopers are also the patrol agency for the Shinnecock Reservation and Sunrise Highway. Calls to 911 from those areas go directly to state police.
In other areas on the East End, 911 calls go directly to the respective town police departments.
The Riverside barracks was originally expected to close to the public by the end of October, but a time frame for implementing that plan hasn’t been established, although the plan remains in effect, according to Sgt. Dolezal.
He said community concerns and vendor issues ,such as installing an external telephone connecting the Riverside location to Farmingdale, are the major reasons for the delay.
The troopers plan to merge the dispatching unit from the Riverside barracks with the Farmingdale barracks in order to put the two dispatch troopers out on patrol in the East End. The front door to the Riverside building would be locked and calls to the Riverside barracks would be relayed to, and dispatched from, the Farmingdale barracks.
The barracks will still be manned by investigators and administrative officers and will be still be used by troopers filling out paperwork or switching shifts.
A call box with a phone and instructions will be installed at the front door of the Riverside barracks, the officers said Friday, although there will be times when the building is empty. Calls made on that phone will transfer to Farmingdale if no one is present in Riverside to answer, officials said.
Lt. Febo encouraged people to call the Riverside number, 727-2727, even if they have already called 911.
While town police have civilian employees working dispatch positions, the state has troopers doing so. Mr. Thiele said they looked into the possibility of having civilians handle dispatch at the Riverside barracks and learned that even if they did so, there is still a requirement that an armed trooper be in the building with the civilian dispatcher.
Lt. Febo said the troopers have received calls regarding the recent spree of car break-ins in the Flanders areas and have communicated with Southampton Town police.
Ron Fisher, president of the Bay View Pines civic group, said his organization will initiate a petition calling for the front door of the barracks to remain open to the public.
Photo Caption: Sgt. John Dolezal addresses the Bay View Pines Civic and Taxpayers Association Friday night. (Credit: Tim Gannon)