Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley seen here in 2023, is...

Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley seen here in 2023, is retiring June 24. Credit: Tom Lambui

Southold’s top cop, Martin Flatley, who faced disciplinary action over his handling of a colleague's retirement party during the pandemic, is leaving his post this month and will be succeeded by his second in command, Southold officials announced Tuesday.

Flatley’s retirement is part of a disciplinary settlement over an investigation into the police department’s response to the party during the COVID-19 shutdown in May 2020, when large gatherings were banned due to social distancing protocols. Flatley served a more than 70-day suspension in 2022 for the department’s mishandling of the party. Two officers also faced discipline for their actions that night.

The town board voted 5-0 Tuesday to accept his retirement, which takes effect June 24. Capt. Steven Grattan is expected to be named acting police chief June 18, according to Town Supervisor Al Krupski. The appointment is pending the results of a Civil Service exam and includes a six-month performance review.

Board members said Flatley, 66, improved community policing during more than 40 years on the force, the last 13 as chief. 

Flatley was a seasonal police officer before joining the department full time in 1980. He was named chief in 2011.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have just about every position in the department,” he said Wednesday, adding he’s most proud of the 53 members he’s led, which include his sons Rory, 41, and Ryan, 38.

The 2020 party at a Cutchogue tree farm owned by former police Sgt. Steven Zuhoski prompted resident complaints that the department ignored calls and violated state protocols in place during the pandemic. Flatley's settlement included a letter of reprimand, public apology and agreement to retire this year.

“It certainly doesn’t define my career, and I’ll never look at it that way,” he said.

Calls for police reform and accountability after George Floyd’s murder while in police custody in Minneapolis in 2020 made it a “strenuous” time, coming on the heels of the pandemic, the chief said.

“We have more of a community-oriented approach,” he said. “It’s changed for the better.”

Board members said Flatley sought to improve community relations, advocating to fund school resource officers and fostering unity through “synergy” events with the town’s Anti-Bias Task Force.

Those forums brought law enforcement together with community members to discuss crime, drug and gang prevention and immigration.

“He’s always been an approachable person, always out in the community,” said councilwoman Jill Doherty. “He’s done an excellent job, and he’s done it with his heart.”

Grattan, 44, graduated from Southold High School in 1998 and entered the NYPD police academy in 2001. He patrolled the 112th Precinct in Forest Hills, Queens, before joining Southold in 2005. He was promoted to captain last year.

Krupski said the board opted not to look outside the department for its next chief because they value local knowledge.

“As captain, Steven Grattan has exhibited faith in himself and has earned the trust of our residents,” Krupski said. “The town shows that same faith in him.”

Grattan will oversee the implementation of body cameras, department accreditation and building a new police headquarters.

“I'm not looking to make any drastic changes right off the bat, but I intend to sit with each member of this agency and try to formulate a plan moving forward,” Grattan said.

One challenge is the logistics of covering Fishers Island after state troopers vacated last fall, citing unsafe conditions at the island's police barracks. 

“It is time away from their families and it’s depleting our staffing here,” Grattan said Wednesday.

Town payroll records show Flatley was paid $284,276 last year. Grattan’s salary was not disclosed, and Flatley’s retirement compensation package was not immediately available. Newsday submitted a FOIL request Tuesday for Flatley's retirement package.

In retirement, Flatley said he’s looking forward to spending more time traveling with his wife, Susan, and work for law enforcement in some capacity.

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