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Chief Wilson Stepping Down From Town Police Department

Police chief retiring after tumultuous year and a half.

UPDATED 1:18 p.m.

After just 18 months on the job, Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson tendered his resignation on Tuesday.

Wilson told Patch the he decided to retire because he has been blocked at every turn from making the kind of changes and improvements to the police department that he had hoped to when he was appointed. He said that a majority of the Town Board — either because they are financially hog tied or because of internal board disputes — have not allowed him to accomplish what he set out to do.

"I can't get any progressive action taken by the board for staffing, funding, technology; I can’t get anything done,” he said.

He said it is no secret that a majority of the Town Board does not want to see him continue in the post. "That is not the reason I'm retiring," he added.

Wilson said he contemplated the decision for a while, and now another opportunity has arisen that he wishes to pursue. He would not reveal what that opportunity is, though he said it will begin Jan. 1, 2013.

He will not be accepting any retirement incentives from the town, he said.

In an email to Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst indicating his intent to retire, Wilson wrote, "I would like to thank you, and the Board, for the opportunity to serve with the men and women of the Town PD, they are a talented group of law enforcement professionals. The people of the Town of Southampton are fortunate to have police officers of their calibre."

He continued, "I urge the Board to reconsider its position regarding funding of the police department. Lack of staff, technology infrastructure and equipment are making it increasingly difficult to provide effective services to the community. For the good of the Town and future of the STPD, please provide them the resources necessary to fulfill their critical mission."

Wilson said his resignation takes effect Dec. 1, but he is currently on vacation and will close out November with vacation days.

He said that for him to continue in the post would be a waste of the townspeople's time, the police department's time, and his time. “So I'm going to step away."

“If this gives somebody else an opportunity that can do some good for this police department, then that’s what I want,” Wilson said.

In a statement released to the press Tuesday afternoon, Throne-Holst said she respect's Wilson's decision and thanked him for his service to the town.

"I also share Chief Wilson’s concern with regard to proper staffing levels and the need for the implementation of modern police technologies which have been and remain a priority for me," Throne-Holst said.

Throne-Holst said the Town Board will confer over the next few days to development a transition plan to new leadership for the police department.

Wilson was the chief of the Southampton Village Police Department when he interviewed to be the top cop on the town level, after James Overton retired.

Anthony Tenaglia, then the department's caption, interviewed for the job too. After the Town Board chose Wilson over him and lieutenants who applied, Tenaglia retired.

“It’s a vote of no confidence for the command staff of the Southampton Town Police Department that have worked and been here during every major catastrophe, sacrificing their time," Tenaglia said at the time. He said he had the community's support, and called Wilson's appointment a political decision.

Then-Councilwoman Nancy Graboski was in Tenaglia's corner, calling him "the most qualified and experienced candidate for the position."

At the time, Throne-Holst beat back accusations that political backroom deals were made, and said the decision was based solely on its merits. She said that hiring Wilson was a monumental decision for the future of the department  and “it was the right one.”

Throne-Holst said the board voted for change, rather than status quo.

Though the Town Board picked Wilson in a 4-1 vote, with Graboski as the sole dissenter, Wilson ran into obstacles soon after assuming his new post.

While the headcount of the police department was reduced as a cost saving measure, Wilson's requests for technology upgrades to make the now-smaller department work more effectively and efficiently were repeatedly rejected by a board majority.

In March, the board voted 3-2 to promote Robert Pearce from lieutenant to captain, even though Pearce was not Wilson's pick for his second-in-command.

And Wilson reported receiving more than one surreptitious offer to retire, soon after being appointed.

There were accusations of police files being shredded in the days before Wilson assumed his post, and then boxes of documents related to controversial personnel investigations were seized by the district attorney's office.

Wilson disbanded the department's Street Crimes Unit soon after his appointment.  The commanding officer of the unit, James Kiernan, was suspended at Wilson's recommendation, but a recent settlement allowed him to return to work. Another member of the unit, Eric Sickles, remains on suspension, and the district attorney's released two convicts who were arrested by the Street Crimes Unit after Sickles' credibility was called into question.

Meadow Lane November 06, 2012 at 06:41 PM
This is a case of having one of the best jockeys in the business being held back by a team of jackasses. If anyone should leave office, it should be half of our Town Board and that monkey they have placed in that patronage job. Billy Wilson is a great leader and his departure is a great loss. Good luck, Billy. We didn't deserve you.
East End Farmer November 06, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Southampton didn't deserve Billy Wilson...bring back the crooks that the DEA couldn't trust. If that's the best Southampton's Town Board can do for its citizens and WE don't do anything about it...WE will get exactly what WE deserve. "WE The People"...the joke's on US. Time for a change in Town government.
People Person November 06, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Thank you CHIEF Wilson for your efforts. You are a great cop who gave me much more respect for the police institution than anyone else. Wherever you go, please know that the best wishes of a grateful community go with you always.
Fred 'n Freeda November 06, 2012 at 07:06 PM
I had hoped that you would stick it out and, one day, overcome the obvious obsticles in your path...corrupt politicians and their henchmen. Returning Southampton Town Hall to an honest place of government when it is so corrupt is an insurmountable task, that is clear to me now. I hope that you have left a good trail for the DA's office and I hope that those rotten bastards get their just dessert. You're a good man - no, you're a great man - Billy Wilson and your honesty and hard work ethic will be missed by all. Best wishes and good luck from a grateful and thankful Southampton.
Gramps Pupany November 06, 2012 at 07:17 PM
I've seen 'em come and I've seen 'em go and Bill Wilson is the top cop who ever filled that rank in Southampton Town and Village. Any time you push an honest cop out of a job in the same year we hear that rampant prostitution is being offered by eastern European women right here in our town, it smells of corruption to me. It smells like organized crime and that does not mix with politicians. Best to get rid of these rotten apples before the barrel turns to vinigar and get us an honest cop. Otherwise, hand it over to the DA for investigation and prosecution.
highhatsize November 06, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Wilson was toast after he bungled the Sister Jacqueline Walsh hit-and-run killing. He was allowed to stay on until he got his ducks in order for his next career move, a Republican appointment.
K. November 06, 2012 at 08:20 PM
My old buddy Bill Wilson is a great guy and I am sorry he had so much trouble. It always seemed to me that he respected his office and was an extremely professional law enforcement official. I wish him Godspeed and am glad to see he at least gets out of the rats nest with dignity and respect.
Jerry Can November 06, 2012 at 08:41 PM
" I hope that you have left a good trail for the DA's office and I hope that those rotten bastards get their just dessert. "...This sounds juicy. Pray tell, Pray tell.
SCOTT November 06, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Bill, Thanks for your service it is well appreciated. Its unfortunate this is the way the whole country is going, nothing but grid lock, greed and folks getting voted in who really dont care about the community or actual job, just cashing the CHECK. Bill good luck in retirement and remember people do appreciate your service.
highhatsize November 07, 2012 at 12:30 AM
to SCOTT: (sigh) That should be, "You[']r[e] an Idiot." The record breaking overtime, the massively expensive "technology upgrade", and the (still unexplained) Kiernan fiasco all were proofs of Wilson's incompetence as a manager. However it was his incomprehensible decision to conceal the identity of Sister Jacqueline's killer for over a week, enabling the killer's complete escape, that sealed his fate. Wilson's bureaucratic mistakes were tolerable but his failure in this essential responsibility was too much to take.
Shelly November 07, 2012 at 03:07 AM
A sad day in our community. So much for the Town Boards support in helping you bring our Police Department into the 21st century, in order to better protect this community. You gave it you all. Wishing you the best with your future endevors and thank you for a job well done.
Algebra November 07, 2012 at 03:10 AM
You continue to resemble the southbound end of a northbound horse. You've never met the man, and you experience as a desk jockey does give you the right to pass judgement on someone who has been in the trenches.
highhatsize November 07, 2012 at 03:45 AM
Whom, one wonders, do the Republicans have in mind as a replacement. Pearce is the most obvious candidate since the Republican board members (and Malone) approved his captaincy over Wilson's objections but he has only been captain for a short time. However, they may be reluctant to import someone from outside the department considering the result that that decision has produced today.
Jaguar-Guy November 07, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Thank you for your service Bill Wilson.
Tom November 07, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Perhaps the Town Board could right their wrong and coax former Southampton Police Department Captain Anthony Tenaglia out of retirement. I thought he should have been given the appointment last year. The town would benefit from having him back, but who could blame him if he declined......
highhatsize November 07, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Note the timing of Wilson's announcement, coming just before it could be expected to be pushed off the front page by election news. Nevertheless, we STILL want our questions answered: - - - Why was Wilson chosen in the first place over the presumptive best candidate, Tenaglia? What are the facts behind Kiernan's suspension and reinstatement without penalty? Why was the identity of Sister Jacqueline's killer concealed for ten days? - - - Here's a novel concept that the Town Council should look into - - - open government.
Ray Overton November 08, 2012 at 04:43 PM
His comments about not getting the financial support for improved technology might have a little more credence if he hadn't spent a ton of money to redesign and then implement the critical new shoulder patches that each officer is required to wear. My question is who approved this expenditure? It seems to be solely a personal statement by the outgoing chief to prove who was in control. Personal opinion his decision to resign is a plus for the Town of Southampton.
Britt November 09, 2012 at 07:22 PM
First, he talks about not having enough staff, maybe he shouldnt have made a handfull resign. Also he let valuable positions go and did not fill those postions, and when he did fill those postions they were with inexperienced officers with minimal training. You can not run a police department with officers that can not do the job correctly. Second, not enough techology and equipment to do the job, maybe he shouldnt have spent all that money on new police cars and new uniforms and patches. Lets decrease his salary to make up for the loss. But not that would have been good enough for him. He was not a good candiate in the first place and karma finally came around. It a good thing you resigned.
highhatsize November 10, 2012 at 01:59 AM
I just read on 27east that Wilson was not at work before, during and after the Hurricane Sandy and nor'easter emergencies and that he won't be coming back. His resignation doesn't take effect until December 1 but he is GONE. Captain Pearce has been named acting Chief. What in god's name did the Town Council SEE in this man?
John Doe December 23, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Southampton town police department is filled with insanely corrupt officers (mainly the drug task force). I've seen first hand that they'll set up honest, hard working individuals through badgering entrapment tactics. One specific individual comes to mind that I know personally does not sell drugs. Then they'll throw a picture in the post a year later saying how they've taken down a major dealer ? They also protect those in this town who have been selling drugs for decades and look the other way. It's a terribly corrupt system and its a shame that they allow things to go on in this town that hurt troubled individuals and families battling addiction in exchange for "leads" and financial restitution. It's time to get rid of all the corrupt individuals regardless of rank...
Joan Pelosi April 03, 2013 at 05:46 PM
"Thank you" for uncovering Keirnans wrong doings! Carma! I love it! They need to uncover the lie's he made up about P.O Giammatteo!

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