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Nov 10, 2011 3:35 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Board Revisits Police Overtime Debate

Nov 16, 2011 11:11 AM

Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson Jr. appeared before the Town Board on Tuesday to further discuss $215,000 in recently approved overtime costs incurred through the end of October that exceeded the Town Police Department budget.

The discussion was a follow-up meeting to past talks on the issue, which has concerned several board members, and 
even sparked Town Councilman Jim Malone to suggest at a 
meeting last Wednesday, 
November 9, a measure to curtail the chief’s ability to authorize overtime by requiring it to be first approved by the Town Board. All of this year’s $475,000 overtime budget for the department already has been consumed.

The board convened a special work session on Tuesday afternoon, at which Chief Wilson explained that special event coverage and shift shortages over the last two months led to a significant spike in overtime. He noted that two special events accounted for approximately $25,000 in overtime. A number of shift shortages—shifts left unfilled by officers who are out on disability or have taken time off—amounted to 472 overtime hours in September and October combined, he said.

The chief also explained that a lag in reporting overtime makes it difficult to account for costs immediately. He said that under current contracts with the two police unions—the Superior Officers Association and the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association—officers are allowed to file overtime slips up to 30 days after the actual overtime work. He also said that he has instituted a procedure that would require all supervising officers to issue a written report explaining any overtime approvals—excluding emergency and exigent situations, he said.

“We’re taking all steps possible to curb the overtime usage,” Chief Wilson said. “However, our calls for service are still up and the arrest activity has been up also. So we’re still seeing some overtime.”

Mr. Malone introduced a resolution at a Town Board meeting following the work session that would require the chief to submit summary narratives before each Town Board work session to explain negative variances in the department’s budget, as well as a plan of action to remain within the budget for the rest of the year. Also, it prohibits authorizing further overtime within the department unless there is a “compelling” public safety reason, which must also be included in the chief’s summary narratives to the board. The resolution was adopted.

At the work session, board members also discussed a recently proposed $700,000 plan to upgrade technology in the department. The technology upgrades, which include software, hardware, equipment and infrastructure revamps, are expected to greatly reduce the amount of time it takes an officer to make an arrest. Chief Wilson argued that if reductions in staff are to go forward in next year’s budget—as is planned under Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst’s preliminary $80.2 million budget—then the upgrades are necessary. Ms. Throne-Holst is seeking to utilize a decades-old town law that allows the town to force officers with more than 20 years of service to retire. Under her plan, six high-ranking officers would be forced out, and two would retire voluntarily.

Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi had expressed concern about the high cost of the technology project, which board members had previously believed would be $240,000. A resolution to approve funding for the project 
was tabled by the Town Board for the third time on Tuesday evening.

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$200,000 in poice overtime costs? Why was this overtime necessary and was the town board just notified about this in October? Why are board members not being kept more up to date. Why didn't Anna know about this sooner? Didn't the chief let her know. Whats going on, this spending must stop.
By Ms11932 (12), Bridgehampton on Nov 11, 11 1:04 AM
1 member liked this comment
Over the past three years, 15 cops have retired and 5 left for other jobs. The town hires six to replace them. The police department went from 105 people down to 91. Now they are forcing the retirement of 6 to 8 more people. The town board is well aware of the increasing amount of overtime. It takes about 96-98 cops to operate the police department. The town board will balance the budget by only budgeting for 90 cops and when there is a million dolllars of overtime next year they will act surprised ...more
By Spinny OHO (94), Speonk on Nov 11, 11 1:52 AM
Let the Chief of Police run his department. The board has hired him to do the job, and they need to communicate to him and let him work it out. Overtime is not a regular thing in the schedule, unless there is a manpower shortage, due to sickness or days off. As discussed in "Spinny OHO comment", operating a police force requires a certain number of personnel, and if they dont have the manpower, overtime is necessary. How much is it to tell someone, during an emergency, sorry but the police car ...more
By trurepublician (53), hampton bays on Nov 11, 11 9:04 AM
Imagine this Town had an active OWS protest. What we do?
By Duckbornandraised (184), Eastport on Nov 11, 11 12:15 PM
They are merely asking for the plan. Sounds reasonable to me, I don't see how they are micro managing.
By Ms11932 (12), Bridgehampton on Nov 11, 11 7:24 PM
Seems a little ridiculous to me that anyone is allowed to just over run their budget without any kind of explanation, especially tax payer dollars. I don't want to hear about the dwindling police force because in reality the police force has ALWAYS operated with under 90 officers due to the malingering workers compensation officers who just can't work because of jammed fingers or twisted wrists. I don't understand why Overton kept O/T within budget but this new guy can't. Seems to me he's just ...more
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Nov 25, 11 1:14 PM