Since the Southold Town Police Department began the accreditation process through the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services in 2017, police advisory committee chair John Slattery says it has made important strides.
For example, Mr. Slattery said, in response to criticism of the department’s transparency with regard to crime statistics, its website now provides crime statistics on a quarterly basis.
But during a meeting with Town Board members Tuesday, he said the department can — and should — be doing more to ensure that law enforcement personnel are properly trained, efficient and trusted by the public.
“Don’t get me wrong. I think we have the greatest police department on the face of this earth,” Mr. Slattery said. “I would be more comfortable if we had somebody from the outside looking at it on an ongoing basis.”
He asked Town Board members to consider passing a resolution to not only support the accreditation process, but adopt a time frame and budget for implementation.
According to data from the state, the other four East End Towns — East Hampton, Riverhead, Shelter Island and Southampton — have all received accreditation. Smaller departments, like Sag Harbor Village Police, are not accredited through the state.
James Abbott, a police advisory committee member and former deputy Suffolk County Police commissioner, said that the lack of accreditation could be a vulnerable spot in the future for a host of reasons, including liability if an officer, for example, is accused of malfeasance.
Councilman Jim Dinizio, liaison to the PAC, said the process will help the department set and follow standards. “We learn about our jail, we learn about our dispatch, our buildings. They have to be up to a certain standard — and are they? I suspect from what I hear that they may not be,” he said.
Councilwoman Jill Doherty said that, despite some initial hesitation, she now fully supports the process and said it could serve as a check and balance on the 51-member department.
“The [recommendation for] 51 officers came from a study done over 20 years ago. Is that correct for our town the way it is now? Does it need to be updated? All of these things will come out of that,” Ms. Doherty said.
How to fund the accreditation process remains a top issue in moving forward.
“We just need, as a Town Board, to be more committed to getting this done,” Mr. Dinizio said.
Supervisor Scott Russell urged PAC members to work with Police Chief Martin Flatley to develop a budget and find a way to offset the cost. It had been estimated at a minimum of $150,000, since it involves compiling documentation and labor that would require the attention of a full-time sergeant, according to officials.
“Treat it like a capital plan,” the supervisor said, asking to see a proposed timeline, tasks and costs broken down by year, so they can be considered during each budget process. “[That] would be a lot easier to absorb,” he said.