Southold begins its search for next police chief

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Police Captain Martin Flatley with former supervisor Josh Horton during last summer’s Town Board discussion of the NOFO Rock and Folk Fest.

The chief is retired (almost)! Long live the chief!

Who will become the town’s top cop when Police Chief Ty Cochran steps down on July 5? The question remains open.

It appears unlikely that the Town Board will appoint a successor within the next month, in which case the department becomes the responsibility of Captain Martin Flatley, the executive officer and currently second in command. As for a permanent replacement, no decision has been made on whether to hire from within the department, as the town has done for decades, or seek a chief from another agency, as the Town of Southampton did recently.

“We’re looking at what our options are,” said Supervisor Scott Russell.

In Southold the full Town Board acts as police commissioners.

The first step in the selection process is for the town’s personnel officer to inform the Suffolk County civil service department of a vacancy in the chief’s position. The chief’s job is a civil service position, which places some limits on the town’s options. For example, a successful candidate must pass the chief’s test within a certain time frame.

“I envision we’d have a new chief of police long before summer is over,” Mr. Russell said.

The last four police chiefs all rose up through the ranks of the town department. Chief Cochran, who announced last week that he’s leaving after 33 years on the force, the last 10 as chief, started at the bottom as a seasonal officer.

Carl Cataldo, the last chief to come from outside the department, was an administrator with the Suffolk County Police Department. He took over in Southold in the 1970s.

Capt. Flatley, a Mattituck native who has held virtually every management post other than chief, said he would welcome the opportunity to be chief.

“When you work your way up through the ranks it’s certainly something you aspire to,” he said. “I look forward to the [selection] process.”

The captain joined the force as a seasonal officer in 1976. After a stint with the now-defunct Greenport Village police, he became a full-time Southold patrolman in 1981. He was also assigned to the Juvenile Aid Bureau, served as a detective and headed the investigations office as detective sergeant and lieutenant prior to becoming the department’s first captain in 2004.

Southold isn’t the only East End law enforcement agency with a recent change at the top. In March, Southampton Town Chief James Overton retired after 21 years in that position. He had been a police officer for 43 years.

But rather than promote Captain Anthony Tenaglia, the next in line, the Southampton Town Board chose Southampton Village Police Chief William Wilson, leaving a vacancy in the village force.

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