Where are the Cops?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Where are the Cops?

...and more importantly, what are they doing?

OtBB has often reported on the politics of the Westhampton Beach Police Department at the Village Board level, but little about "the job" itself.

And no, the title reference isn't simply Officer Jeff Speer's in-plain-view matutinal siesta on Dune Road in mid-July.

It has less to do with a black SUV getting away with an illegal U-Turn at 4:15 pm Saturday in front of 133 Main Street in full view of Sector Car #116¹ four vehicles behind the offender, then it does of the quality of service the Vill­age, in the words of Village Trustee/Police Commissioner Toni-Jo Birk, "has come to know from our police department."

Incidents like those are certainly indicative of an alarming return to the old ways of doing things within the Police Department, what Mayor and former Police Chief Conrad Teller last year referred to in general as "Com­munity policing the way it should be."

Some History…

In 1998 when former Planning Board Chairman Robert Strebel took over from the Wilenski Ad­ministration, the out-going Mayor told his suc­cessor, "the Police Department thinks it runs this Village, and they're going to be your big­gest headache."

(This was the time of the tumultuous and sordid Verbeeck and Bergman cases on Mayor Teller's watch as Police Chief.)

Within his first year in office, Mayor Strebel came to understand the gravity of his prede­cessor's caution­ary words, and realized that he had to decide whether to throw in the towel as the Village of Greenport had in 1994, and dis­band the municipal department and cede policing responsibilities to the Town, or come up with a plan to whip the force into shape.

With the shuttering of the police station on Sunset Avenue a fall-back option, Mayor Strebel quietly executed the master stroke which saw Ray Dean resign his seat as Village Trustee and transfer from Southampton Town PD to the Village Police force while keep­ing his Sergeant's stripes.

Few in the Village Police failed to understand the portent of this move, that the planned ascendancy of "one of their own," David Doyle², when Chief Teller retired, had just been derailed.

But some also reasoned that Sergeant Dean, "a local kid," could at least be "brought around" to how things should continue to be done, whereas with the rumored successor to Chief Teller, another Southampton Town Ser­geant Robert Ibarger, there would not only be no more "business as usual," but probably a spate of departmental charges followed by suspensions and terminations.

While Ray Dean was not the unwavering au­thoritarian his former Highway Unit boss was, he quickly established that the 40+ year³ honey­moon was over, that while members of the department were being paid for police work, they were actually expected to be doing police work!

(What a concept! And in some instances, an unwelcome one.)

Among those who found themselves separated from the Police Department before they had intended, were Officers James Kametler, demoted Detective Fred Hager, and former Lieutenant David Doyle who, his path to the Chief's desk having been thwarted, decided not to stick around.

Chief Dean had made remarkable remedial progress during his first six years as "top cop."

Then, in successive years, elected to the Village Board were Jim Kametler and Conrad Teller, and it seemed that a priority was usurping the Chief's authority and reversing his more positive initiatives and policies.

In the view of not just a few, this has put Westhampton Beach in the midst of its great­est trial since the time of the Great Fires and Shane Daniels.

So, Mrs. Birk... is this really the level of police service and protection you want the Village to come to know?

To be continued....


¹.- While that's bad, it doesn't quite rank with the week before when a U-Turn was made on Main Street using a Traffic Control Officer as a pylon!

².- The officer named in the Christian Bergman brutality case.

³.- That's upon protracted personal observation.


1. Frank Wheeler said...

"Community policing the way it should be?!?" What exactly does that mean?!?

That came from a exchange at the front desk of Village Hall during the 2007 Election cycle, when reference was made to the once common practice of members of the police department transporting area residents to and from the airports, and "house-watching" for private clients while on duty. That was, verbatim, Mayor Teller's response.

2. Angel Face 13 said...

I am not one to talk, but Teller is a loser. How many different ways do you have to show the Villagers before they get it? If all of that is not enough, I have it on good authority that Chief of Police Teller covered up the break-in of Officer Tom Verbeeck's locker at the old station house. The Deputy Mayor has some information on that matter.

Yeah? Well, he's not likely to be forth-coming, now, is he?

3. Specialist said...

Well Dean... I do hope you have educated a few people. Conrad has a history, and it's not a good one. However, I do have to tell you that my observations of people show that for the most part they don't care or want to get involved (hence the re-elected fools we have to deal with).

My hopes are that no one or their families are left after a incident asking "Where were the Police when I needed them?" History sometimes show that it takes a major incident to ask those questions.

Conrad and the entire Village Board are responsible for decline in Police coverage; as I have said before Conrad still believes this is the 1930s and no one on the Board will disagree with him.

I do know some of the cops in Westhampton Beach and although I believe they are some of the laziest around, I wish none of them any harm.

I hope Connie and the rest think about how they will feel if (God forbid) an incident occurs where someone is seriously hurt or worse, and it was due to poor judgement on their behalf. That is a question I never want to have answer! But after reviewing Conrad's past, do you think he really cares?

He is an egotistical person who needs to be in a position of authority. What a sad way to live your life.

As for you Dean...thank you for keepin' them honest. You should be commended for your work.

I agree that too many people don't care. But I'll keep on doing this because the lesson of Pastor Martin Niemöller has not been lost on me.

Thanks for the kind words.

4. Concerned said...

Once again Specialist hits the nail on the head!

I agree that Teller doesn't care about the people, re-read his comments of late. The bigger concern is the people of the Village don't seem to get the picture. I find it hard to believe that they just don't care about the way the Village is going. They have been conned by Teller and company who have been good enough at their lies and cunning to get reelected.

But now the seats they sit in are getting a little hot, thanks to you, Dean, and those who are willing to come forward with the facts. I suspect this police issue will become even bigger in the next few months. Keep the fire under their seats and let's see which rat jumps ship first! Let's get this out in the open. People should realize the police department is a much more important issue than the eruv -- it is a matter of all of us being properly protected. I don't understand why so many people are speaking out about the eruv and not paying attention to the running of the police department. I guess until it hits home they won't get it.

Let's hope that The Press will find this important enough to start reporting some of the goings on. Meanwhile you keep the issue alive, Dean, you're doing a great job in a fair and honest way. Keep it up. We need you.

(Blushing furiously.)

Thank you once again for the kind words, but between the eruv and the police department, I don't see one as lesser than the other.

The problem is that both are on-going issues of contention, and the totality may be too much for everyone to fully grasp.

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