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County funds $1.75M East End police communication project

The Suffolk County Legislature approved $1.75 million in funding last Tuesday to upgrade police communication equipment on the East End, including a communication tower planned for Jamesport, an area police say has bad reception. 

The project, initiated by Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini, is called the East End Law Enforcement Communication Project. 

“Improving the communications systems utilized by the collaborative efforts between the District Attorney’s office, the Suffolk County Police Department and the various local police departments here on the East End will improve safety for the officers and community as a whole,” said Legislator Bridget Fleming, a co-sponsor of the bill authorizing the funds. 

The updated equipment will give the District Attorney’s East End Drug Task Force more opportunities to interface with the local police departments as well as the Suffolk County Police department, she said. 

Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Austin Maguire, who is the vice-chair of the East End Police Chiefs Association, said the project has been in the works for almost 20 years, since Sept. 11, 2001.

“The system will give interoperability and communications countywide between all the different agencies that is not available today,” he said at the Legislature’s April 20 meeting. He said it will provide “seamless communication between Suffolk County police, East End police and other departments.”

Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki said there are 10 police departments on the East End. 

“My police department in Southampton Town operates on the frequency that is not the same as Sag Harbor Village, East Hampton Town, even Southampton Village,” he said. 

“The reason we don’t operate on the same frequency is because we have inadequacy in the infrastructure to support that type of communication. The bill before you would address these inadequacies and allow the infrastructure to be built out in such a way that we will all be able to operate on a common frequency. This is critically important in times of emergency,” he said. 

“Currently most of the East End Police departments, including us, use our own separate radio systems that differ from SCPD, and each other, and we cannot communicate directly between departments,” Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said in an email. “This forces us to have two radios in our cars; one for our radio system and one for SCPD.”

The county project includes costs associated with building out the infrastructure (towers, antennas, radios) to bring all law enforcement in Suffolk County on the same 800 radio system, according to Chief Flatley. 

Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said his department already is on the 800 system. 

“To make this entire East End Communication Project work, the North Fork will need tower work in Greenport and Jamesport before we could potentially use this system,” Chief Flatley said. “As an example, the cost of the work on the Greenport tower alone was to exceed $1 million. When completed, this will enable all law enforcement in Suffolk County to operate on one radio system and promote greater interoperability when interacting with each other during mutual events.”

Back in 2017, a press conference was held in Southold regarding a grant received for the Greenport Tower site that will be part of the overall project, Chief Flatley said. 

“The monies were received then, but the project still has not been built out for one reason or another. Suffolk County has the lead on the work in this project so they are working toward implementation.”