Call for the Cops

With East Hampton Village Police Chief Gerard Larsen headed to retirement, a serious question faces the village board about who might replace him. Capt. Michael Tracey is to be appointed acting chief today, but it is not at all clear that he is interested in moving up. An issue is whether the village should seek candidates from among the members of its own force or go farther afield. 

The East Hampton Village Police Department has been a steady operation during Chief Larsen’s time. Misconduct allegations have been few. The department has been open to the press and the public. And it has been able to cope with high-season demands, such as large events, including political fund-raisers. This is due not just to Chief Larsen, but to a dedicated and competent roster of officers and support staff, from which a new chief could probably be drawn.

The argument for going outside the ranks hits at something that has proven difficult not only for police but for various village and town departments: adding ethnic or gender diversity. The village police force is almost entirely white; many of the people who come within its jurisdiction are not. Having a chief who is naturally sensitive to their perceptions could be an asset for community relations. 

Village officials are right to hunt anywhere and everywhere for the best candidate. However, they should not forget to look closely at the existing Police Department ranks, whose members offer proven competency, experience, and all-important local connections.