Martin Flatley’s rise to Southold Police Chief

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Martin Flatley was appointented Southld Police Chief at Tuesday's Town Board meeting.

Capt. Martin Flatley will become chief of the Southold Town Police Department on July 5, succeeding retiring Chief Carlisle Cochran.

Capt. Flatley, 53, was appointed Tuesday night by the Town Board and will be officially sworn in during the board’s July 5 session.

The Suffolk County Department of Civil Service approved the provisional appointment, which will become permanent next March after the captain has taken and passed the Civil Service test, Supervisor Scott Russell said.

Capt. Flatley joined the force in 1980, but had previously served four years as a seasonal police officer during the summer. By the time he went to the Suffolk County Police Academy, he already had a good deal of experience because, unlike today, he said, seasonal police officers at that time worked alongside regular officers and weren’t assigned only to traffic duties.

Capt. Flatley said he and Chief Cochran went through training together and joined the force within two weeks of one another. It had been expected that the two might also retire together until Chief Cochran announced last month that he would retire now due to health concerns.

From the moment that announcement came, Capt. Flatley was the presumed favorite for the job. But the Town Board announced it was opening up the search. However, because there was no existing Civil Service list of chief candidates, the board gained permission to appoint the captain to the provisional position.

While he’s pleased with his appointment, Capt. Flatley said it will be challenging to make the transition, especially during the busy summer season.

“There will be a learning curve in the beginning,” he said.

He assumes the Town Board will take his advice about promotions within the department to fill his current position and others that will open as people within the department move up in rank. Right now, he’s preparing a memo for the board outlining responsibilities of the department’s 48 members.

Law enforcement was always Capt. Flatley’s interest and after finishing high school at McGann-Mercy, he graduated from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., with a degree in criminal justice. Having grown up in Mattituck, he wanted to join the Southold Town force, but also applied in other states in case a local job didn’t open up.

“I’ve been lucky through my career,” he said, noting that in a small department like Southold’s, timing has a lot to do with advancement.

He was a patrol officer for his first five years on the force and was then assigned to the Juvenile Aid Bureau. But he always had his eye on a position with the Detective Division, and that happened for him in 1988.

“That was my dream at the time,” Capt. Flatley said.

His responsibilities included working with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s East End Drug Task Force from 1991 through 1994.

In March 1998, he faced a crossroads when he was offered a promotion to sergeant, but that meant leaving the detective bureau and resuming patrol work.

Ironically, within a few months, as a result of a retirement in the department, he was promoted to detective sergeant and assigned to supervise the Detective and Juvenile Aid divisions.

Department members kid him about his relatively short time as a patrol officer, he said. He takes the ribbing in good form, but notes that because he came up through the ranks, he has a feel for the responsibilities and challenges faced by officers at various levels in the department.

In 1998, he was offered an opportunity to attend the 195th session of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy. Then, in 2001, he was promoted to lieutenant and became executive officer of the department, serving as Chief Cochran’s right-hand man.

After former town supervisor Josh Horton created the position of captain, he saw his rank raised in 2004.

As chief, Capt. Flatley will be supervising his own son, Rory, who is a patrol officer. But he said he makes it a point not to interfere with his son’s direct supervision by other ranking officers.

But through his son, he is able to stay in touch with the needs and experiences of officers at various ranks. He also makes a practice of starting early in the morning, before the midnight shift goes off duty, and staying late to see the evening shift start work. Otherwise, when you work only days, you lose touch with many in the department, he said.

For the past few weeks, Capt. Flatley has been working with Chief Cochran to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Despite all the responsibilities he’s shouldered as executive officer, there are other aspects of the job he is learning, such as grant writing and what he describes as the massive number of reports that must be filed with various levels of government these days.

“I’m happy for him,” Chief Cochran said of his colleague’s promotion.

Capt. Flatley loves that officers today have access to so much new technology that helps them do their jobs more effectively, but he wants to ensure that the technology doesn’t prevent officers from “looking out the window” and interacting with the public.

When he takes the oath of office in July, his wife, Susan, a former Southold Board of Education member, and his sons Rory and Ryan, who is a chef at Frisky Oyster, will be by his side.

While Ms. Flatley is proud of her husband and pleased about his promotion, she also recognizes that it will take him away from home more, the captain said.

After his swearing in, he said he’ll begin to hit the books to prepare for the chief’s Civil Service test. It’s been about 10 years since he had to take such a test, he said, and “it would be embarrassing not to pass it.”

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