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May 18, 2011 10:20 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

New Southampton Town Police Chief Has Plans To Improve Department

May 18, 2011 11:29 AM

The Southampton Town Police Department opened a new chapter this week, one that could potentially steer Southampton’s largest law enforcement agency toward greater cooperation with other agencies and lead to a more proactive approach to fighting crime, according to Chief William Wilson Jr., who assumed his post on Monday.

In a Sunday afternoon interview in his now-former office at the Southampton Village Police Department headquarters, the new chief said he was eager to explore several new ideas for the department—with input from his fellow men and women in uniform. Chief Wilson spoke enthusiastically about the possibility of adding one or two officers from the Town Police to the East End Drug Task Force; reevaluating efficient ways to patrol the streets, especially in hamlets and villages where the population has grown but patrolling hasn’t changed; furthering research into a switch from rotating tours to steady ones for the sake of officers’ health; and—perhaps the core tenet of his philosophy—throwing open the doors of communication with other departments, including sharing some services.

He cited the recent high-profile art theft heists arrest as a shining example of the importance of such cooperation. In that case, Southampton Village Police worked together with three other police agencies and Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office to catch the thief responsible for stealing more than a half million dollars’ worth of art and other valuables from East End homes.

“If we had handled that case in our usual manner,” he said, “I think that guy would still be walking around, committing more burglaries.”

Taking the helm just weeks before the busy summer season, Chief Wilson acknowledged that he “can’t just start upsetting applecarts” with immediate changes, but is anticipating working with officers of all rank to determine what ideas would be a good fit and fiscally responsible. He said he would be devoting the summer to becoming intricately involved with every aspect of the department’s operations. Then, he said, he will be able to determine which ideas will work and which might not.

“I am very excited about finding out, because that’s what gets my professional blood flowing—the change, and the idea that I could possibly do some things that will modernize and enable the Town Police to take it a notch up,” he said. “Which won’t be easy, because they’re a very good organization, and they’re very efficient at policing a large geographical area.”

As he spoke, the soft sound of bagpipes drifted through the windows of his nearly cleared out office, as the Village Police prepared for an unofficial sendoff for their widely respected leader. In a moment of sentimental significance, his final day as Village Police chief marked the 25th anniversary of his first patrol—on May 15, 1986.

He offered some reflections on his five-year tenure as police chief, saying he is most proud of the hirings and promotions he has made. All but two current ranking positions were placements he is responsible for. Yet, the chief had also turned his focus toward the job ahead.

Placing a town officer or two on the East End Drug Task Force is something he is especially excited about. The D.A.’s office singled out Southampton Town earlier this year for being the only East End town department to refuse to dedicate at least one officer to the specialized unit.

Crime does not know jurisdictional boundaries, the chief noted. “Every bundle of heroin or ounce of cocaine that is seized in Riverhead or Hampton Bays are drugs that will not show up in Southampton or East Hampton schools,” he said.

Drug trafficking goes hand in hand with other crimes, including burglaries, robberies and other thefts, he noted. In addition, participating on the Task Force, which he served on from 1990 to 1992, provides resources that would be too cost prohibitive for one department alone to provide, he said. While he praised the town’s Street Crime Unit, he noted that it is limited to working within the confines of Southampton Town. “I think people will be pleasantly surprised with the results,” he said.

When asked about shifts—a sticking point in the town’s Patrolman’s Benevolent Association contract negotiations in recent years—Chief Wilson said he is in favor of adopting steady tours. Such a schedule, which the Village Police have already implemented, would assign officers to particular shifts—morning, afternoon or overnight—on a regular basis. Currently, officers might work morning hours one day and evening hours another, a policy critics blame for deleterious health effects. Chief Wilson said steady tours could lead to a healthier, more alert force and reduce time taken off for sick days.

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steady tours overall are good thing and I think its a healthy change. In my experience working with interns and residents in hospitals, some of which work very long hours, a work chart of steady appearances help morale.
But Chief Wilson is correct about the 12 hour tours, they will not be efficient as who wants an officer in this 11th hour on the job, make an arrest, and then have that tour go to 16 hours?
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on May 19, 11 8:33 AM
Contrary to what some predicted, Chief Wilson does not support twelve-hour tours. Interesting.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on May 19, 11 12:14 PM
Remember Chief, hands off the Boardy Barn!!
By G (342), Southampton on May 19, 11 1:10 PM
Good Luck, it all sound very positive.
By Bayman1 (297), Sag Harbor on May 21, 11 1:05 PM