Police Chief Loses Lawsuit Challenging Creation Of Police Commissioner Position

James Overton is the Police Chief of the Town of Southampton, New York. In 2006, the Town passed an ordinance creating a new position of Police Commissioner. Under the ordinance, Overton would report to the Police Commissioner.

Overton sued the Town, contending that the creation of a Police Commissioner position would undermine his authority under New York law, which required the Town to “maintain the office of Chief of Police.” The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court dismissed Overton’s lawsuit. The Court found that the state law “clearly and unambiguously provides only that the Town must maintain the office of Chief of Police and does not prohibit the Town from appointing a Police Commissioner to whom the Chief of Police must report. Nothing in the law prohibits a local government from making its Chief of Police responsible to other elected or appointed officials. The Town properly enacted a local law creating the position of Police Commissioner in the place of the Board of Commissioners it had previously established.”

Overton v. Town of Southampton, 857 N.Y.S.2d 214 (N.Y.A.D. 2008).

This article appears in the August 2008 issue