When Steven Skrynecki was sworn in as chief of the Southampton Town Police Department, he brought with him over 40 years of law enforcement experience. With a pedigree that rivals the top cops in America’s largest cities, we have an experienced law enforcement professional at the helm in Southampton, committed to keeping our East End abode safe.
As a Nassau County Police Officer, Skrynecki rose up the ranks through a storied career policing Nassau County. Departing from Nassau as the chief of department — the highest-ranking uniformed member of the police force — Skrynecki left a post where he oversaw all operational aspects of the Nassau County Police Department.
His influence on the Nassau County Police Department, one of the nation’s largest suburban law enforcement organizations, will be felt for generations to come. They, too, are a reason why Nassau County was named the “Safest Place to Live in America.”
And while Southampton Police Department may be smaller than the 2,400-member department to our west, Skrynecki’s commitment to public safety for the 60,000-resident Town of Southampton is stronger than ever.
During his 42-year career with the Nassau County Police Department, he held several notable positions, including serving as the commanding officer (CO) of the Vehicle Theft Squad, CO of the Robbery Squad, CO of the Second Precinct Detective Squad and CO of the Narcotics/Vice Squad — among many others. He also served as a commanding officer of Internal Affairs, as well as chief of detectives.
His wide range of experience and police executive management skills range from patrol operations to investigations including general, special, undercover and counter-terrorism — which helps the chief in his leadership of the Southampton Police Department’s new technological lab, which is a subsidy of the U.S. Secret service. The lab has the equipment to evaluate all smart communication devices — like phones, tablets and computers — used in nearly all serious criminal investigations.
“I had exceptional opportunities in Nassau County that afforded me the experiences that are hard to come by. I use those experiences today to serve the residents and the Town of Southampton,” Skrynecki says.
“The policing in Southampton is certainly different from policing Nassau County, in terms of volume, but when you look at it as a microcosm, it is very similar. People are people, communities are communities, and their wants and needs are all fairly similar,” he says. “The outstanding men and women of the Southampton Police Department are among the most talented and dedicated I have workd with in my career.”
“Ultimately, people want to feel safe, no matter where they are — whether they are in an urban or a rural setting — and we are fortunate to have the full support of Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and the Southampton Town Board. While some of the technologies and methodologies differ, the primary goal of public safety is the same,” Skrynecki says.
He says a critical component of his strategy on policing is community outreach and involvement.
Since taking over the reins in Southampton, Skrynecki has introduced over 20 new initiatives, focusing on everything from increased community relations, officer safety and accountability, and new, state-of-the-art policing techniques that curb crime in our area.
Skrynecki, through his education and professional experience, has a unique vantage point to reform and improve policing, which is in the best interest of all East End residents.
“Police reform is a never-ending process, always searching for new police methodologies and technologies to be used in policing. They need to constantly evolve and need to meet community concerns and objectives,” he says.
Skrynecki says that Commissioner Bill Bratton, a previous Dan’s Papers High Profile feature, is a friend and a role model whom he views as a mentor. They are frequently in touch, as they both spend time on our East End.
One of the new initiatives that the Southampton Police has implemented is the unmanned aircraft program, which has been tremendously helpful, the chief says, for managing large events and also rescue efforts. These aircraft have the capacity to carry inflatables, dropping them to individuals who may be in distress offshore. They can also be used to locate people in the woods — be it a missing person or someone attempting to evade arrest. They are operated by federally licensed pilots.
Another of the new initiatives launched in which Skrynecki takes particular pride is a new collaboration on the mental health of Southampton residents. The new pilot program, which is considered first-of-its-kind on the East End, involves the tandem efforts of law enforcement and mental health professionals.
Prior to the implementation of this reform, police officers were required to bring some of those with mental health needs to Stony Brook Hospital. The 40-mile drive each way would take two police officers off the street for several hours.
Now, with these new reforms, a mental health professional is brought with the police to mental health-related calls — via telehealth — bringing the needs of the residents to the source and allowing for instant evaluation of the person in crisis.
Furthermore, it keeps more cops on the beat and fewer cops in transport — a win-win for all involved — while also assisting the person in need with getting their circumstances required.
“This, to me, is an exciting new initiative, and is a win-win-win,” Skrynecki says. “It’s a win for the police department, in the sense that was not tying our resources up unnecessarily. It’s a win for the person in crisis. It’s a win for Stony Brook Hospital. It’s a win for the various healthcare agencies that we work with, who now get to address the mental health needs of the individuals in crisis. And, of course, it’s a win for the person in crisis, who receives the mental health attention they deserve.”
Skrynecki continues, “This reflects the community’s concerns, also, of the police playing roles that they are not suited to play. We recognize that we have a role in times of crisis, but in times of mental health crisis, there are other professionals who may be better suited to address these issues.”
A decorated, career law enforcement professional, Skrynecki at the helm of the Southampton Police Department is one of the main reasons that our community is safe. And, while police work and crime are an ever-changing field, Southampton residents should feel confident that Skrynecki is up to the challenge.
“We have a five-year record of declining major crime in Southampton, due, in part, to our commitment to community involvement, the dedication of the men and women of the department, and our desire to explore ways to improve,” he says, “while at the same time, dealing with an ever-increasing population on the East End.”
Todd Shapiro is an award-winning publicist and associate publisher of Dan’s Papers.