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Feb 13, 2012 12:43 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board Holds Off On Police Technology Upgrade Funding

Feb 15, 2012 11:22 AM

A planned vote by the Southampton Town Board on the first part of a two-phase proposed technology upgrade plan for the Southampton Town Police Department did not take place this week as expected after concerns were raised that the measure would not garner enough support to pass.

After a presentation at a work session on February 3 by Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson, at which he pitched a two-phase plan to introduce new software that would streamline and automate police procedures including ticketing, records management, and other time-consuming tasks that currently must be done manually, the board was divided about moving forward, with some board members questioning the chief’s choice of software brand and asking that other options be explored.

On Monday, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said that while the board had been poised to vote to authorize the borrowing of $295,000 to pay for the first phase of the project at a Town Board meeting on Tuesday, the resolution to authorize the spending was pulled. There were concerns, she said, that the measure would not receive supermajority approval—the resolution would require four of the five Town Board members to green light it because it called for issuing bonds.

“There was supposed to be a resolution,” Ms. Throne-Holst said on Monday.

The first phase of the project would include new software and upgrades at police headquarters in Hampton Bays. The second phase would cost approximately $310,000 and include the installation of mobile units in Town Police cars, as well as licensing fees and other costs. That phase of the project would be expected to launch in 2013, Chief Wilson said. Since the project was first proposed, expected costs have been cut by approximately $100,000, the chief added.

Chief Wilson, Ms. Throne-Holst said this week, expressed concerns that the initiative would not receive the necessary votes and asked to delay the measure until a later date. Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone said the vote was adjourned until a meeting on February 28.

Councilman Chris Nuzzi said while he believes there is general agreement on the board that the technology upgrades were necessary, the project under consideration was pricey and he would like to see alternative systems explored. So far, Chief Wilson has only pitched the use of Impact software, which was used in Southampton Village while he was chief there and which would allow the town to data share with the village, as well as Shelter Island and the New York State Troopers.

Chief Wilson said while he had performed an “exhaustive search,” looking at five or six different vendors, having had experience with the Impact software, he felt it was the best product.

Mr. Nuzzi felt more research was necessary. “Because of the size and scope both in cost and implementation of this project, I think it’s important to look at all possible vendors and the cost associated with different systems to see if there is a system that may be better tailored to the town,” Mr. Nuzzi said.

Another system, he added, might be less costly and better able to integrate with a wider number of East End municipalities. “I would like to look at all the different scenarios before we rush to a decision,” Mr. Nuzzi said.

At the work session, Mr. Nuzzi said he would like to investigate systems that might be better able to integrate with a greater number of municipalities in Suffolk County.

Councilwoman Christine Scalera agreed. She said she’d like to consider a wider array of software options. “When you are dealing with that amount of money,” she said, “we need to do our due diligence.” She added that she spoke with Chief Wilson, who “understood completely.”

Chief Wilson did not respond to requests for comment this week regarding the decision to hold off on a vote on the resolution.

The need for a technology upgrade, Chief Wilson said at the work session, is urgent. “The Southampton Town Police Department is in desperate need of a technology software upgrade,” he said. Shared information is critical to keeping both police officers and the public safe, he said. With the new technology, officers responding to a crime scene can know immediately if a suspect has a prior record through immediate access to fingerprint and other records, he said.

The supervisor agreed that technology upgrades were critical to public safety and added the revamp would help mitigate other concerns. “It’s an efficiency issue,” she said. “It will give us the ability to put more cops on the street and not spend time processing tickets for hours. With staffing down, it’s an investment in ensuring officers will be more effective. It’s the direction public safety is going these days.”

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Couldn't the Suffolk County HQ section buy this technology and share the results with all the different municipal police forces? Pool resources save money.
By Duckbornandraised (184), Eastport on Feb 13, 12 9:52 PM
What's the point of having a Town Police Force if you're going to give the keys to the cupboard to the County?

Don't think that SCPD wouldn't love to gain a greater foothold on the East End.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Feb 13, 12 10:33 PM
Sorry Frank - but maybe you're off on this one. Understand your "foothold" remark but it's not who writes the tickets, but how they are processed and keeping track of drivers who may/may not be in one "system" that is being discussed - I hope! Shared technology and programming could go a long way to reduce all of our costs (we do pay the County for certain things last time I checked - unfortunately perhaps - police and all) so perhaps it's not the "results" but the how-to-get-it-done and save ...more
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Feb 14, 12 12:03 AM
And maybe I'm not, BW -- I'm not talking about "ticketing," so much as inviting more of an SCPD presence into the East End.

I think it's often referenced as "the camel's nose under the tent."

And while I don't often agree with HHS (mostly because I don't understand what he's carrying on about!), I think his comment (beneath this note) is a good one.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Feb 14, 12 12:31 PM
Putting aside the question of whether this upgrade is actually needed, it would be foolish to put it under the supervision of a chief of police who ran up $$850K in overtime charges last year. There have been countless cases wherein computer technology "upgrades" that were touted for their potential cost-saving efficiency wound up costing a fortune due to inept implementation. Chief Wilson has to date shown no ability to manage a project such as this. (Just what IS his academic and managerial ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Feb 14, 12 12:04 PM
Many municipalities, including NY City with its new E-911 system, have stopped allowing their uniformed service agencies to "manage" important information technology projects and have opted to place them under their IT agencies, with the uniformed agency as the client. Police (and Fire, EMT et. al.) need to stick with what they know and let the IT folks get them the technology solutions they need, usually with more accountability and better results.
By zaz (197), East Hampton on Feb 14, 12 8:16 PM
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