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Q&A: Martin Flatley Looks Back on First Full Summer as Police Chief

Southold Town Police Chief spent first summer dealing with tragic pool drownings, stepped-up DWI enforcement and several officers injured on duty.

After , Capt. Martin Flatley, a member of the since 1976, .

Now that he’s got his first summer under his belt as chief, Patch caught up with Flatley a few days after Labor Day to see how he and his police force held up during the busy spring and summer season of 2012 — a season that started with a bang during thel in May, continued with tragic deaths on the water and in backyard pools, and ended with stepped-up efforts by law enforcement to curb drinking and driving.

Patch: Let’s start with the three pool drownings in July, early August — two fatal and one near fatal. What happened there? Have you ever dealt with three in a row in one month?

Chief Flatley: Three in a row was very unusual. We have had pool drownings in the past, but only one or two every year. I can only think to attribute the extremely hot temperatures we had this past July to have had three in a row.

The first incident involved as a landscaper at someone else’s house. It was a situation where he was trying to cool off but he couldn’t swim — no one seems to know why he used the pool instead of a hose. As far as the case after that, we don’t know the full story there yet as we don’t have an autopsy back. She walked over to someone else’s house intending to swim, and no one else was there. But we have no reason to believe that this was anything but another accidental drowning. The was just a very lucky young man at a house party where there happened to be a doctor who saved his life.

Patch: How did the bay constables handle things out on the water?

Chief Flatley: It was a very busy summer for them. The season started with a tragedy again — the in May. That was made even more tragic because the family had done everything they were supposed to legally — he was the proper age and they made him go through boater safety course.

The pushed everyone into service very early this year — usually we start with that kind of pressure in mid-June with the — so it was a long season that really stretched our resources. And I hope that the publicity this summer cracking down ondrew attention to the fact that you shouldn’t be drinking out on the water.

Patch: A few police officers were attacked during arrests this summer — the . Is this unusual for the area?

Chief Flatley: Last month was a tough stretch as far as injuries go — we had one with a , another injured during an arrest for a domestic incident and another injured in a car accident. And what’s worse is that our normal staff of 52 is 46 this year due to retirement and just being in the process of hiring new officers. To have four more officers go out in the line of duty was tough, especially during the busiest time of year.

Patch: on holiday weekends— was this the first time Southold has been involved in such concerted efforts to curb drunk driving?

Chief Flatley: We have made efforts here and there as a department, but this is the first year that we worked with Stop-DWI and the DA’s office — they fund the checkpoint efforts, which involves overtime. During six different dates, we had 17 officers spread around the East End.

Over, we also set up checkpoints in the afternoon, when the winery traffic is heaviest — we just wanted to make a statement this year to let people know that we are out there no matter what time of day, to keep people cognizant of the fact that you can enjoy the wineries out here, but at the end of the day, you’re going to have to get home. We’d rather see people use a designated driver or a cab or limo company. And we are seeing a lot of limos on the road driving people around, which is a good thing.

Patch: We reported only two acts of violence with weapons this summer — the and a

Chief Flatley: The Orient situation was just bizarre — he was a recluse in his house, and it wasn’t a place we’d been to on a lot of calls or anything, so it was surprising. He was mad about the work that was being done next to his house, and the construction workers were very lucky — he shot at them three times with a rifle. We are still investigating the stabbing incident with the Hispanic male.

Patch: Are you still set on

Chief Flatley: We did order one to try it out, and I still feel that Chevy is a good fit for the department. The model finally came out on state contract bid — it was late — but we still have the rest of the fleet functioning out there on the road, so we still have time to consider other options.

Patch: I wanted to write about , the homeless woman who everyone saw out there every day, after she died this summer. I know your department helped her — can we talk about how the department deals with homelessness in general?

Chief Flatley: Jody had been around since I started, and we spent a lot of years dealing with her. I just think it’s amazing that she spent as long as she did living as a homeless person and survived. But no matter how much effort we made — working with the , reaching out to adult protective services, everything — she refused help at every point.

Most of the homeless we see out there are seasonal workers, bouncing from place to place. A lot of the time, they are heavy drinkers and / or have psychological problems. But most know their parameters as far as law enforcement is concerned. Homelessness is a gray area that has not changed much over the years. What we have out here is just a smaller version of what New York City has — being homeless is probably not their first choice, but I think they become content with it, and many do take advantage of programs like , which is great to have around.

Patch: Overall, how was your first summer as police chief?

Chief Flatley: It was definitely busy and definitely a learning experience but one that I enjoyed, going through a summer in a new position. I went through a full budget preparation and learned to live within our means, and you learn to refine the budget as you go along. It’s challenging when the is bound to a certain percentage of spending, so there is some give and take that has to happen there.

But what really affected the officers this summer were two suicides — Jonathan Gould of the NYPD, who had several active officer as friends, and Joe Knoll, who’d retired from our department after eight years but still had many friends throughout town. We also dealt with two civilian suicides in July. Seeing all of that happen makes it tough too.

Erin Schultz (Editor) September 14, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Franklin Saunders said on Facebook: "Go get'em Marty !!!! Keep up the good work my friend!"
ed finnegan September 14, 2012 at 02:02 PM
The new chief has done a good job...may his success continue for many years! On a related subject, I don't recall ever seeing a story on Chief Cochran's final separation payment or the number on his pension. It might be a good thing for the taxpayers of the Town to know.

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