A project to improve radio communications between East End police departments and the Suffolk County Police Department will receive $1.75 million in funding that has been approved by the Suffolk County Legislature.
The legislature voted unanimously Tuesday in favor of appropriating the funds that will provide antennae and equipment in a to-be-determined location in Jamesport, as well as handheld police radios to connect with the system. Additional upgrades funded in part by grants are expected in Eastport and at Southampton Town Police headquarters in Hampton Bays, officials said.
The project has been in the works since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Austin McGuire said during Tuesday’s meeting.
Updating equipment will allow the 10 East End town and village police departments, other first responders, the Suffolk County Police Department and the county’s District Attorney’s East End Drug Task Force to operate on the same frequency.
Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki, speaking during the meeting, noted that his department operates on a different frequency than adjacent departments in East Hampton Town, Sag Harbor Village and Southampton Village.
"This is critically important in times of emergency, even on a regular operating basis," Skrynecki said. "[It’s] very, very critical to public safety as well as the safety of the officers involved."
Improving radio communication on the East End — where there are coverage gaps — is important, as officers often ride alone, said Legis. Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac), the bill’s co-sponsor.
"Because we have much-smaller departments and a lot of territory to cover, the officers are in their cars generally without partners," Fleming said in an interview. "When you’re out of the car with a handheld radio and you have no service, that’s obviously an unworkable circumstance from a public safety perspective."
She also noted that modernizing police departments is part of the state’s law enforcement reform and reinvention initiative.
"Certainly, robust communication is an important part of that, so we’re happy to support it," Fleming said.