Southampton Police to rejoin drug task force

Southampton Town Police personnel should be back in the East End Drug Task Force within the next 45 days, newly-appointed Police Chief Bill Wilson told members of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association Monday.
The new chief also said he believes the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton areas are a priority for him as the department’s new head.

The district attorney’s East End Drug Task Force was formed in 1988 and uses undercover officers from the East End town and village departments, along with officers from the state and county departments, to investigate narcotics on the East End.

Southampton Town contributed an officer to the task force during the group’s first two years, but stopped doing so in 1990 when the town department formed its own street crime unit to investigates drug crimes, among other things, within the town.

Mr. Wilson, who has spent his entire career prior to being town chief as a Southampton Village officer and later as the village police chief, said he was a member of the task force for two years and was assigned to the Flanders area.

“Within the next 30 to 45 days, we will have town representation back in the task force,” he promised Monday. The chief also said he plans to maintain the street crime unit in the town police.

“Over the next few years, I’m going to be doing my best to change things in a positive direction,” the chief said.

That includes possibly changing the boundaries of the established police sectors in town, although he stressed that Flanders, Riverside and Northampton would not be getting less coverage. The hamlets would likely be getting increased coverage, he said, since he’s looking to increase coverage in areas with a high volume of calls, such as those three.

“If anything, I’d be looking to move resources from some of the statistically slow areas into the busier areas, and they can slide back out, if need be,” he said.

The department has one sector assigned to the three hamlets and in recent years has had a second car patrolling there as well, the chief said.

“I want police officers out of the car. I want them speaking with you,” he said. The chief said he doesn’t support rotating shifts, where an officer would work daytime hours one day and nighttime the next, nor does he support 12-hour shifts, saying they can “quickly turn into a 16 to 18 hour shift” if an officer has to respond to an accident or arrest toward the end of his shift.

Another change the new chief said he hopes to make is to move the department toward “paperless” processing of crimes, which can reduce the amount of time it takes to process an arrest and get those officers back on the street sooner. He said he was successful in doing so in Southampton Village.

The chief said he also hopes to work out agreements with the State Police and possibly Riverhead Town Police and other village departments to allow town officers to use those police headquarters to do things like paperwork and fingerprinting, so they don’t have to go all the way to the town police headquarters in Hampton Bays.

“I’m a huge proponent of the multi-jurisdictional approach,” the chief said. In addition to being more efficient, it also increases the chances of getting grant money, since the state rarely gives grants to individual departments and prefers multi-agency initiatives.

Mr. Wilson was appointed town chief several weeks ago, replacing longtime chief Jim Overton, who retired after more than 20 years as chief. Mr. Wilson’s appointment generated some controversy because the department traditionally has appointed its chiefs from within.

[email protected]