An angrily split Amityville Village Board Monday night approved creation of a commissioner's position for the village police department, a job that would come with broad administrative duties and place the department for the first time in its history under direct civilian control.
The 3-2 vote came even as the measure's supporters on the board vowed that the job would remain unfilled for the foreseeable future, leaving newly installed police chief Glenn C. Slack, who opposed it, atop the department's chain of command.
LaLota described the measure in an interview Tuesday as an "insurance policy" that makes sense because Slack has taken on dual roles leading daily policing and departmental administration, including areas like scheduling and budgeting, that had previously been handled by the department chief and a lieutenant. In the past, a lieutenant handled much of the administration, but the village has left that job unfilled to cut costs.
"Why shouldn't the board be prepared if he can't be a superhero and do the job of two people?" LaLota said.
He estimated a commissioner would cost the village close to $100,000 annually, about $150,000 less than pay and benefits for the lieutenant. Slack works with a full-time administrator who costs the village approximately $50,000 a year.
Kevin Smith and Dennis Siry, who cast the dissenting votes, said that a commissioner's pay would be better spent hiring new police officers. Commissioner "sounds like a nice name for a secretary to me," Siry said. "What we need are extra feet on the street."
Response to the measure from a crowd of residents that included several former members of the union representing village police officers was overwhelmingly hostile, underscoring long-simmering tensions over issues related to police pay between the board majority and PBA supporters.
"You have weakened our police department so much by your politics," resident Carol Brennan said to the board. "You're ruining our village." She suggested that creation of a commissioner's job was part of a plan to eliminate the department, something board members have repeatedly said they do not want to do.
Bay Village Civic Association president Joan Donnison also criticized the law, focusing on a presentation by LaLota that suggested some of the contingencies that could trigger the board to hire a commissioner. Those included the retirement of Slack or the administrator or inadequate police supervision from Slack. .
Donnison called those conditions "arbitrary and loosely knit," and said a commissioner didn't seem to be needed.