Reinstated police chief apologizes to residents, says failure to follow policy ‘inexcusable’

The Southold Town Board has reinstated police Chief Martin Flatley, who offered a formal apology to the community at a special Town Board meeting Monday, and also announced his plan to retire in 2024 as part of a settlement agreement.

The chief had been suspended indefinitely without pay in August after a two-year investigation into the department’s handling of community complaints about a retirement party for one of its sergeants.

“I apologize to all the residents of the town and in particular to the residents who called 911 to the police department to register a complaint regarding activities associated with the retirement party,” the chief said. “It deserved a professional response from our department, which they did not receive.”

The Town Board unanimously approved a resolution to reinstate the chief.

“The breakdown in training, communication and failure to follow policy and procedure amongst department members is inexcusable and understandably has eroded the public’s trust in the police department,” the chief continued. “I as the chief of police for the Town of Southold assume the ultimate responsibility for my actions, lack thereof and the actions of the 70-plus members of our department regarding this matter. I apologize to the Town of Southold and fully accept the responsibility. Going forward, I will ensure that this type of activity will never occur again under my leadership. I will work to restore the trust and relationship that all Southold Town residents deserve to have with their police department.”

Councilwoman Sarah Nappa commended Capt. James Ginas for taking on the responsibilities of acting chief during Chief Flatley’s suspension. Supervisor Scott Russell thanked Chief Flatley and Capt. Ginas as well.

“Circumstances aside, it was my honor to serve that position in the department,” Capt. Ginas said. 

Well-wishers surrounded the chief after the resolution was passed and he was greeted with applause after entering the lobby at the conclusion of the meeting. Chief Flatley declined further comment to a reporter.

“I’m anxious to return to work and continue serving the Town of Southold,” he said.

According to a settlement agreement, Chief Flatley accepted the suspension without pay from Aug. 12 through the ratification of the agreement. A reprimand letter will be permanently placed in the chief’s personnel file, and he is required to release a letter of apology to the public. He will retire on June 24, 2024. 

Mr. Russell said the settlement has concluded disciplinary action for the chief and he would reassume the job on Tuesday. Three officers and a civilian are still subject to disciplinary proceedings and the results of the investigation are still unavailable to the public, he said. A hearing officer has been assigned, but Mr. Russell said he is unsure of the dates.

“The issues with Chief Flatley have been resolved and hopefully we can get back to business,” he said.

The Suffolk Times reported in August that the Town Board took disciplinary action against five town employees in the aftermath of the investigation and how the department handled phone calls from the public about the retirement party.