Reform Ramps Up: Report Blasts Southampton Village PD Management, Spending 

The Southampton Village Police Department wastes taxpayer money on mismanaged personnel, manipulates crime statistics and sidesteps rules meant to ensure diversity in the ranks, a bombshell report released May 7 has found.

The Hartnett Report, as the operational analysis of the largest village police department on the East End is known, was published on the village’s website following a special board meeting in which the findings were read aloud for the Southampton Village Police Reform Task Force. It’s named for its author, Edmund Hartnett, a former New York City police deputy chief and Yonkers police commissioner who’s now CEO of Hartnett Risk Management, a consulting firm.

“The Hartnett Report rightfully gave well deserved praise to many of our rank and file officers,” Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren said. “However, it outlined clear issues of waste, nepotism and mismanagement in the department. I’m looking forward to working together with our trustees in order to help solve these issues, improve our village police department and make our village even safer.”

The report’s release follows recent passage of police reform legislation in the village and beyond, and comes after Mayor Warren’s clash over contractual issues with Southampton Village Police Chief Thomas Cummings and members of the village board. It also comes about a month before the first-term mayor is up for re-election on June 21, in a rematch against the predecessor he unseated in 2019, Michael Irving.

The village’s 3,285 residents spend $2,318 per capita on police services, well above average $323 cited in national studies, despite the fact that the village had a crime rate of 1,492 serious crimes per 100,000 residents in 2019, which is substantially lower than the national and statewide crime rates, the report found.

“There is reportedly a complete failure to manage overtime and sick pay, which is costing the village hundreds of thousands of dollars unnecessarily,” Craig Goldberg, who chairs the task force, told the board of the report’s findings, calling its staffing policies “egregiously out of line with other police departments.”

The report found that the department is allowing officers to use police vehicles while off duty, exposing the village to liability; its radio dispatchers could be outsourced to other departments, citing “an egregious amount of sick time;” and its underutilized K-9 unit could be disbanded since it’s mostly used to assist neighboring police departments.

“The Canine Unit serves zero benefit to the village,” Goldberg said of the report, noting that the Canine officer spends one day every other week in training.

The report also recommended reducing the number of detectives.

“Given the low crime rate in Southampton Village and the below-average clearance rates, it is difficult to justify the village maintaining a dedicated detective division,” Goldberg said.

Major cases, such as homicides, are investigated by the Suffolk County Police Department, not village detectives, who mostly probe property crimes. Southampton Village detectives had an 18% clearance rate, below the 22% average for small police departments. A case is considered cleared when it results in a prosecution.

In addition, the report suggested that the department could save money by reassigning school resource officers and an investigator assigned to the East End Drug Task Force, with Goldberg stating the department’s involvement has had “no tangible impact on the opioid crisis.” The report recommended a total $1 million in payrolls savings.

As far as the arrests that it does make, the report suggested that the department may be inflating statistics to make it look like it’s making bigger busts than it really is.

“Many arrest statistics are likely inflated by traffic stops for expired registrations,” Goldberg said. “They’re being classified as an arrest versus a traffic violation. The Hartnett Group recommends that the village [police department] should focus more on more serious traffic violations, such as speeding, running stop signs and driving under the influence.”

Hiring discrimination was also alleged. For example, the most recent officers hired were all white men, and in one case, an applicant was said to have moved to the Southampton shortly before a job listing was announced in order to comply with village residency requirements—an opportunity a Black woman who scored higher on the civil service exam was not afforded, Goldberg said.

What’s more, Goldberg said there’s evidence that the department has failed to enforce rules prohibiting officers from engaging in political activity while on duty.

“The task force was sent photographic evidence of police officers in uniform distributing political material,” he said. “That should be investigated further.”

Cummings, the police chief, said he was limited in how he could respond to the report since he’s a village employee.

“Mr. Hartnett is a professional, and his report is neatly packaged,” he said in a statement. “Unfortunately, it is quite clear that some conclusions reached in the report are simply wrong and are proved to be so by the objective facts. Although I won’t speak for Mr. Hartnett, I am reasonably certain that if he had not been specifically prohibited by Mayor Warren from sharing a draft version of his report with the command staff of the police department, we would have shared additional data and information with Mr. Hartnett that, without question, would have provided material facts and additional insight, and surely altered the conclusions in dispute.”

Mayor Warren disputed the claim.

“That is completely false, and the chief knows this,” Warren said. “Ed Hartnett had a specific process that he thought was the best practice and we followed it per his direction. This is exactly why we set up an independent task force, to oversee the process in order to avoid any statements such as this. The chief is obviously just trying to distract from the mismanagement and nepotism issues the report uncovered.”

Cummings declined to comment beyond his statement, which also questioned the task force’s characterization of the report.

“Despite the fact that some members of the task force may have good intentions, it is strikingly obvious that the members do not possess the requisite knowledge and experience to suggest the sweeping changes offered to the village police department, its staffing and its deployment,” the statement continued. “In my professional opinion, the presentation is a presentation full of conjecture and assumptions that are incorrect, as well as being replete with spurious and untrue accusations. The task force’s ill-advised and unwarranted commentary is entirely unhelpful for the village board or the community in trying to determine the best future for our police department.”

The debate is sure to heat up as the elections, and summer, draw nearer.

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