The Old Brookville Police Department in Glen Head. (March 23,...

The Old Brookville Police Department in Glen Head. (March 23, 2011) Credit: Jason Andrew

Muttontown officials last night rejected a demand from residents opposed to creating a community police department that the village hold a referendum before proceeding.

"We are going forward," Mayor Julianne Beckerman told the crowd of more than 150 people who packed the meeting at Village Hall.

Village attorney Steven Leventhal told the audience, which appeared evenly divided on the issue, that state law prohibited holding a referendum for this circumstance.

Opponents of the plan said more than 50 residents have already collected signatures of more than 500 residents on petitions demanding a referendum. But the board said it will have the police department operating by the end of next month.

The board voted last month to pull out of the Old Brookville Police Department, citing what it said was disproportionate costs paid by Muttontown.

Larry Smiley, a leader of the opposition, said that having emergency calls handled by the Nassau County 911 system dispatchers instead of an Old Brookville dispatcher will extend response times.

"When you call 911 now, it gets answered in the Old Brookville Police Department," he said. "It's seamless. When you call the Nassau County police 911, a police communications operator answers . . . and then transfers the call to a second human. You have two opportunities to be on hold. There's a big difference in response time. That's a deal-breaker."

But former Nassau police Administrator William McHale, who has been tapped to be the village's first chief of police, said the dispatching system is less critical than the number and location of patrol cars available to respond.

He added that with a Muttontown Village department, there will be two or three cars on patrol at all times, more than currently available from Old Brookville.

"The response time will be much better, guaranteed," he said.

Muttontown leaders objected to paying nearly $3 million -- more than a quarter of department costs -- yet having just an equal say with its six village partners, several of whom pay less than half that amount.

The other villages rejected Beckerman's suggestion that the current contract that expires May 31 be extended a year without change so the issue could be negotiated. She said the village had to act to make sure it had police protection in place.

The Old Brookville department, formed 62 years ago, also covers the North Shore villages of Brookville, Upper Brookville, Mill Neck, Matinecock and Cove Neck.

Upper Brookville is reviewing its participation in light of Muttontown's action.

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