After 43 years in the Southampton Town Police Department and 21 years as its top officer, Chief James Overton has notified the Southampton Town Board that he is planning to retire.
The announcement comes amid growing pressure from the Southampton Town Board to add a town detective to the East End Drug Task Force.
The task force, whose efforts are coordinated by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office, comprises police officers from across the East End and DA investigators. Mr. Spota has repeatedly called out Southampton Town police brass for not committing a detective to the regional effort.
Although the Town Board voted last year to require one detective be assigned to the task force, Chief Overton reportedly pulled the officer without letting the board know. Town Board members have publicly discussed ways to force the chief to abide by the resolution to reassign a detective.
“His only purpose during his entire career was to serve the people of Southampton Town to the best of his ability,” read a department press release prepared by Captain Anthony Tenaglia. “He would not bend to any political pressure and maintained the integrity of his position throughout his entire career.”
The chief informed all Southampton Police officers Sunday afternoon of his intention to retire, effective April 16, and told the Town Board of his intention to retire during an executive session, which are not open to the public, last month, according to the release.
“It has been a great run of 43 years and a great town to work for,” the chief said in a statement.
Chief Overton joined the force in January 1968 and served as a patrol officer, detective, detective sergeant, lieutenant andcaptain before he was appointed chief in January 1990. Capt. Tenaglia wrote, the chief “has been an inspirational, dynamic, honest and sincere leader” who “will be missed.”
Capt. Tenaglia has been the department’s second in command since Mr. Overton has been chief. The captain said the decision as to who the new chief will be is up to the Town Board.
In a statement congratulating the chief and thanking him for his decades of service, Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst noted that civil service laws require the town fill the position internally.
“The public can be assured the Town Board will work closely with its police department to ensure a smooth transition,” she said.
She called the chief’s retirement “well earned.”