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Amityville proposes eliminating police commissioner position

Amityville is considering eliminating the vacant police commissioner

Amityville is considering eliminating the vacant police commissioner position created two years ago. A hearing on the issue is set for Nov. 13. Credit: Steve Pfost

Amityville officials are proposing eliminating a contentious police commissioner position created two years ago but never filled.

The village board of trustees last month voted 5-0 to hold a public hearing on the proposal on Nov. 13.

The commissioner job was created in September 2015 when the village board, in a 3-2 vote, approved the law after a combative public hearing that included police and their supporters opposing the position. Trustee Nick LaLota, who advocated for the creation of the position, said at the time the village “had just lost 70 years in police experience” with the retirement of the police chief and lieutenant. The law’s creation, he said, “was in preparation for another circumstance like that.”

The law meant the police department would be overseen by a civilian for the first time in its history.

John Aresta, chief of the Malverne Village Police Department and first vice president for the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, said it is uncommon for a department the size of Amityville’s — which has 22 members — to have a commissioner. Only five villages on Long Island have them, he said, and three of those have departments more than twice the size of Amityville’s.

LaLota said he would have only supported hiring a commissioner who had “decades of federal or local law enforcement experience.” But the post was never filled because there wasn’t another “sudden vacancy in the police front office,” LaLota said.

Amityville Police Chief Glenn Slack currently runs the department with the help of an administrator. Slack, who has been with the department since 1984, was promoted to chief around the time the commissioner position was created.

LaLota, who voted last month in favor of the public hearing to consider eliminating the position, said the commissioner post is important as a “no-cost insurance policy.”

Mayor Dennis Siry, who as trustee in 2015 voted against creating the position, said it is not needed.

“It’s one of those things that will probably never be used so why not take the law off the books,” Siry said. “It’s not going to be used by my administration, I know that.”

Trustee Thomas Whalen proposed removing the law, saying, “the police chief is already doing everything. Keeping it on the books kind of undermines the chief, and we want to give him all the confidence we can,” Whalen said.

Slack called the proposal a “nice gesture” by the administration that shows they’re “confident in my abilities in running the department.”

Slack said the department has four vacant positions, including a second-in-command.

“What we need here are police officers, boots on the ground, someone even like me who can put a gun belt on and take a post,” he said. “The last thing we need is another administrator.”

The public hearing is to start at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall, 21 Ireland Place in Amityville.

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