A crowd of about 100, including dozens of uniformed police from the East End and beyond, gathered at Southampton Town Hall last Thursday afternoon for the swearing in of the town's newest police chief: Robert Pearce.
After a robust applause following the ceremony, the newly appointed police chief emerged from a sea of people standing in the town board room, grinning from ear to ear.
Pearce, a 32-year veteran of the town police department, was promoted to chief at a November 27 town board meeting, with the unanimous support of the Southampton Town Board, and officials say, "he'll do a good job."
Pearce has been acting as chief since his predecessor, William Wilson Jr., announced his resignation last month, for unspecified reasons.
During his 18-month tenure as the town's chief, Wilson struggled with the town board over funding and staffing issues, charging the department was insufficiently staffed due to budget constraints. His appointment drew the ire of some locals, especially the town's PBA, because Wilson came from outside the department – he was the Southampton Village Police Chief.
His term as chief of the town's police department came to an official end on December 1, but he has not been on the job since before Hurricane Sandy hit at the end of October.
Then - Captain Pearce led the town's emergency response in dealing with the landfall of the super storm, including massive efforts during the aftermath of Sandy.
Support for the promotion of Pearce to chief was very different from when the former lieutenant was promoted to captain in March. The Republican and Conservative majority of the town board- Councilman Chris Nuzzi, Councilwoman Christine Scalera, and Councilman Jim Malone, were all in favor of promoting Pearce, while Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Councilwoman Bridget Fleming opposed the promotion. This time around the vote was unanimous.
The resolution affirming Pearce's promotion confirmed there were fewer than three candidates willing to accept the position who have reached the rank of captain or higher in all of Southampton Town, including departments outside of the Southampton Town Police Department.
The new chief will now be the head of the largest police force on the East End, with about 110 officers, and will receive an annual salary of $166,669, according to the town board's resolution.