Village Board looking to meet with town officials to discuss police issues

Doug Roberts

Village Trustee Doug Roberts’ criticism of Southold Town Police Department coverage of Greenport will prompt a meeting between board members and town officials.

In a Feb. 9 report, Mr. Roberts criticized the fact no arrest had been made related to either a stabbing in the village last October or a Peeping Tom incident. Days later, however, on Feb. 13, an arrest in the stabbing was made when police charged a Bronx man with first-degree assault. Mr. Roberts said at last Thursday’s work session that he wasn’t criticizing the job the officers do, just how they are deployed, and that several residents have come to him in the last month saying they are scared and don’t feel safe.

In his earlier report, Mr. Roberts had requested that the Village Board formally accuse Southold Town of failing to adhere to police coverage requirements set forth in a 1997 stipulation between the village and town. That stipulation stemmed from a lawsuit filed in 1995 challenging policing levels in the village. The lawsuit was filed one year after Greenport Village disbanded its own police department and began using Southold Town police.

The Village Board decided against a formal accusation in favor of a meeting to discuss policing issues further. Mr. Roberts said he asked to challenge the stipulation in order to “make sure the residents feel safe and get adequate police coverage.”

Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said she thinks the policies of the new president may have something to do with those current feelings. She said she feels the town has listened to the village more in the last couple of years and that there is more police presence in downtown than in prior years.

Trustee Julia Robins said the manner in which Mr. Roberts questioned Police Chief Martin Flatley about some unsolved crimes during a recent Synergy event in Greenport was “a little aggressive.”

Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said he has spoken to the police chief and was told there are some deployment issues that, for the officers’ safety, can’t be made public.

Chief Flatley said in an email Friday: “Greenport Village is a separate sector that is always manned and has been this way since the agreement.”

In addition to at least one officer being assigned to the village, the department also has overlapping sectors that are manned and supervisors who are on the road, seasonal two-officer foot patrol assignments and other special patrol units that may be conducting work in the Village, such as K-9 or narcotics enforcement, Chief Flatley said.

Responding to Mr. Roberts’ criticisms, Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said by email Friday: “We would be happy to discuss this or any issue of mutual importance. I am glad he decided to finally include the Village Board in the discussion. I think it’s always more productive to have a real discussion about important issues rather than self-serving grandstanding that’s more motivated by getting attention than solving problems.”

‘Welcoming village’

Mr. Roberts also presented two proposed resolutions last Thursday: one guaranteeing that the village will not disclose anyone’s immigration status or residential status and another declaring Greenport a “welcoming village” that honors diversity and recognizes the contributions of immigrants.

The “welcoming village” resolution ran into some criticism during the board’s work session, but may come up for a vote at its regular meeting this evening, Feb. 23.

The privacy resolution was withdrawn after village attorney Joe Prokop said those issues are already covered by the Public Officers Law in New York State.

Trustees Mary Bess Phillips and Julia Robins questioned the need for the first resolution, saying they feel the village already is welcoming.

Mr. Roberts said that resolution is meant as a symbolic statement.

“I don’t see how it hurts us to put it on paper that we’re a welcoming community,” he said.

“I’ve always thought one of the great things about Greenport is the fact we are a diverse and friendly place to live,” Ms. Robins said. “I don’t feel we need a formal statement on this. I think this is who we are.”

Ms. Phillips added: “Our actions in Greenport speak louder than words,”

“Go ahead, vote against it,” Mr. Roberts said. “That would be an interesting thing.”

Under fire

Two Greenport residents speaking at last week’s work session criticized Mr. Roberts and suggested he should resign.

JoAnne McEntee criticized Mr. Roberts for describing his proposal regarding police coverage to the media before discussing it with other board members. Bob Kehl criticized Mr. Roberts’ privacy proposal for being “as close to declaring us a sanctuary city without saying the words.”

Mr. Roberts said criticism of his aggressive manner in addressing the police chief was “fair” and apologized for releasing information to the press before bringing it to the Village Board.

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Photo: Greenport Village Board Trustee Doug Roberts at last Thursday’s work session. (Credit: Tim Gannon)