Dan Rattiner's Stories

A Sagaponack Idea: How Often Do You Get a Chance to Design a Whole New Police Force?

Sagaponack Village is considering establishing its own police force. It’s rather a startling development. The whole village is just eight years old. It was founded as a reaction to an attempt by a group of oceanfront residents wishing to make an official village approximately 200 yards wide and five miles long along Sagaponack’s beachfront and in neighboring communities. The only way to stop this was to incorporate the unincorporated hamlet of Sagaponack into a village. Beat them to the punch. They did that, voting 285 to 11 to create the Village of Sagaponack.

On the other hand, it seems to have been a good thing to do, now that they’ve done it. They bought a former artist’s home on the Montauk Highway and made it into a lovely village hall. They have a village seal. They have an official flag. They elected a mayor and a council passed some laws. And they now preside over a two-by-two-and-a-half-mile potato-shaped community that sports some of the most expensive property in the country. For a number of years, the private income of the people of Sagaponack topped the list of wealthiest zip codes in the nation. It’s a pretty fancy place.

Of course, they have not yet gotten around to providing all services a village usually provides. There is no Sagaponack Highway Department, for example. And until now there has been no Sagaponack Police Department. The village contracts out these things to the Town of Southampton, which surrounds the village on three sides. The cost for police services per year, for example, is $2 million. And that means if Sagaponack were to put together its own police force, they’d have for starters this
$2 million they now pay others. That’s a big chunk of money, $2 million, although it’s just a piece of pocket change to most of the residents.

If Sagaponack decides to have a police department, they’re going to need a lot of things. This then is a unique opportunity. Only once in a lifetime does one get an opportunity to decide how to equip a police department. Here are some suggestions.

If Sagaponack is going to have a police force, they are going to need police cars. And they don’t have to be regular police cars.

For example, they could be plug-in electric police cars to help save the environment. After all, at 4.7 square miles, they wouldn’t be expecting any high-speed chases. People trying that would be inside Sagaponack and back outside in a minute and a half at high speed, if my calculations are correct. So go the proper route. Save the environment.

Or, if they didn’t like the idea of electric cars, they could do it a different way. Maserati makes a wonderful four-door sedan. I’ve seen them. There’d be nothing but the best for our police force. And it would be a first for Maserati.

Put the village seal and the words SAGAPONACK POLICE on the sides of the police cars, then put a three-word slogan under it. No other police department out here has a slogan on the side. But then, the wealthy of Sagaponack are mostly from the City of New York, which does. New York City’s police slogan is COURTESY, PROFESSIONALISM, RESPECT. We could find something appropriate. I know. It should not be three words, it should be two. Nine tenths of the population is rich New Yorkers. But more than half the land in Sagaponack is potato farms. Make it a salute to the potato farmers. Put EAT POTATOES on the sides of the police cars. And put on the roof of whichever kind of car they get a Potato Bazooka, of the kind used in the American Revolution to fire Long Island potatoes and drive back the British Redcoats as they tried to wade across the Shinnecock Canal.

It’s important to equip the police properly to keep law and order in a community. Each officer will need need to carry a gun, for example. I vote they make it a fake gun. You wouldn’t want anybody to get shot in Sagaponack. They should have lots of lights and flashlights. The biggest crime problem in Sagaponack to deal with would be second-story break-ins to private homes by burglars at night. We all know Willie Sutton’s famous phrase, “I rob banks because that’s where all the money is.” Inside the homes of Sagaponack are valuable antiques and paintings and jewelry. Everybody knows that. Also, you know the phrase “If a rich guy drops a thousand dollar bill on the floor, he doesn’t bother to pick it up.” So there is that there. The police should have lots of flashlights and flood lights not only on their persons but on their vehicles. Also bullhorns. Many of these great mansions are up long driveways. “Stop!” they could say. And it would be heard.

I also think the police should be equipped with bouquets of flowers they can, at a moment’s notice, present to the wives of the owners of the homes in Sagaponack. It would be a nice touch. They should also wear sneakers as regulation footwear. So you wouldn’t hear them coming. But they should have a pair of boots they carry in a backpack, which they can take out when it’s mud season in the potato farms.

There are four kinds of police officers in most communities. But you wouldn’t need all four kinds in Sagaponack. There are no sidewalks in Sagaponack, for example, except for the 80-yard walk between the Two Room Schoolhouse and the Sagg General Store and Post Office. So you wouldn’t need the cops that walk the beat.

You would need, however, the regular police people to drive around in the Maseratis or the electric cars or whatever. And you would need the detectives. I would give them undercover uniforms—they could wear blue sweatshirts with baggy blue pants held up by bicycle clips at the ankles. That’s what the famous detective Orlan O’Rourke wears in all those books about him written by that famous Sagaponack author, I forget his name for the moment. He smokes a pipe. The author, that is.

You’d also need summertime police to enforce the parking regulations during that period. Visitors come to Sagaponack in the summertime. Or try to. That’s why we put up the No Parking signs during that season. The summer police should be in the regular police uniforms all the regular policemen wear, but without the boot backpacks and with reflective yellow vests that read OH NO YOU DON’T.

The biggest problem for the Sagaponack Police Force might be, however, where you’d bring a perpetrator once you cuff him. At the present time, the police from Southampton drive the perps to Southampton Town where they have a jail with an overnight lockup in it. That’s a pretty good thing and not a situation anybody in Sagaponack would like to change, but then when you take things into your own hands, well, you’ll just have to put up the perps.

You can buy lockups. They are made of steel, have bars on the front and can be bolted together. You can buy them online. Trucks deliver them. You just have to have the room. But where?

There is only one municipal building in Sagaponack, as I said, the Village Hall. It’s small, as I said, a former two-bedroom affair, and at the present time, it’s filled with clerks and filing cabinets and a mayor’s office. Maybe the lockup could be put down at the Sagg Store, or at the school. But maybe that would be a bad idea. You couldn’t put it at the post office, anyway. That’s federal and they’ve got their own problems. So it has to be at Village Hall. Maybe you could buy a small model lockup, not a cheap one, after all, because this is Sagaponack, but small sized, though large enough so a prisoner could move around a bit but small enough so that it could fit in one of the Village Hall’s upstairs bedroom closets. That would work.

Eventually, though, putting in a police department is like getting married. You get kids, you get a bigger house, you get two cars, you get all the toys and barbecues and decorators and other stuff. With a police department, it will lead to a building out back for the department. (I envision it with two entrances. The prisoners come in one entrance where the police sit elevated on a platform. And at the second entrance, the wealthy come in to report things and look down at the policemen sitting below the platform.)

And there you can have the police lockup, next to the evidence room, the locker room, the courtroom, the judge’s chambers, the police car garage, the weapons room and the cafeteria. Also the firing range out back.

Did somebody ask what official colors the police uniforms should be? Why, of course, blue. They’re the police.

* * *

As we go to press, we learn that the Village of West Hampton Dunes is considering putting together its own police force. That’s interesting.

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