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Bellone shakes up Suffolk police department

Officers from the Suffolk County Police Department gather

Officers from the Suffolk County Police Department gather in the Gilgo Beach area on Dec. 5, 2011. Credit: James Carbone

Shaking up the top brass in the Suffolk County Police Department, County Executive-elect Steve Bellone is naming veteran police official Edward Webber as interim commissioner, replacing Richard Dormer, and removing four other top police officials.

District Attorney Thomas Spota's chief investigator James Burke also will be named as the department's top uniformed officer at the start of the new year, according to party sources.

Regina Calcaterra, Bellone's incoming chief deputy, said Bellone is making the changes because of his "commitment to voters . . . [that] he would quickly move toward implementing data-driven and enhanced community policing. His commitment to voters will be implemented more quickly and efficiently with a clean slate and new leadership."

Webber, currently chief of support services, will take over as temporary commissioner on Jan. 1 and will direct the transition team for the police department. Bellone has announced a national search for a commissioner, and Calcaterra said Webber, 65, would be eligible for the appointment.

"Chief Webber is a 40-year veteran of the police department, a highly decorated officer and a former military man who is well-respected through the . . . department," Calcaterra said. As a CPA with an understanding of the departmental budget, Webber "will be key to helping us address the financial challenges," Calcaterra said.

Calcaterra has formally notified Dormer -- who has said he will resign -- and Dormer's deputy Roger Shannon, that they will not be needed next year.

The announcement of the changes came on the same day that Spota, at a legislative hearing, challenged Dormer's theory that a single killer was responsible for the deaths of 10 people whose remains have been found in the area of Gilgo Beach.

Calcaterra also told the current chief of the department Robert Moore, Chief of Patrol Nick Mango, his assistant Patrick Cuff and Chief of Detectives Dominick Varrone that they will not remain in their current positions as of Jan. 1. They have the option to bump back to the lower-paying rank of captain or retire. The notification was made Thursday so those officials can file for their pensions within the 15-day limit to begin receiving benefits in the new year.

Presiding Officer William Lindsay (D-Holbrook) said, "I think the new county executive has a right to put his stamp on the new government. There certainly had to be changes in the police department."

County Executive Steve Levy, in a statement, defended the officers being ousted: "These are fine public servants who wrested control of the department from the union and were able to rein in costs while reducing total crime by more than 20 percent."

Legis. John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset), the minority leader, said Webber has the "greatest degree of institutional knowledge" and will be a "stabilizing force" during the changeover. However, Kennedy said he was "a little surprised" at the extent of the changes in the department. "There is going to have to be streamlining of administration in the police department and maybe this is part of that. We'll have to see what cards unfold," he said.

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