A Conversation with Sag Harbor Police Chief Austin McGuire

Sag Harbor Police Chief Austin J. McGuire.
Sag Harbor Police Chief Austin J. McGuire.

By Kathryn G. Menu

Six months into his position at the helm of the Sag Harbor Police force, the former Lieutenant in East Hampton Town’s Police Department talks about changes on the East End, and upgrading technology and communication in the historic village.

How has the transition been?

It has been great — everyone has been working really well together and they have been very accepting of me. It is different. As close to East Hampton as it is it does feel slightly different in that it is smaller. But it has been great.

What are some of the other differences between working in Sag Harbor as opposed to East Hampton?

I think what you find is in smaller departments we all have to do more. You are more cross-trained and really have to be prepared to handle different situations. In some departments you have officers that are very specialized — in smaller departments you have to be kind of like a jack of all trades.

Our season kicked off a couple weeks ago? How was Memorial Day weekend in terms of what the department had to deal with?

There was a lot of volume in terms of people, in terms of traffic. We had about three arrests for DWI [driving while intoxicated], which is typical on summer weekends. One of our officers went to Southampton and helped out with the East End DWI Task Force and they had a number of arrests.

Is that first holiday weekend a litmus test for what you can expect the whole summer?

I would say, yes. We do get three or four weeks of quiet before school gets out and we are off to the races for July and August. I expect we are going to have a very busy summer.

When I worked here 19 years ago this was a very different place though. It was a bar town. There was Amazon on Long Wharf, there was Rocco’s where the West Water Street condos are, there was the Harbor House. It was a bar town where now we have two new coffee shops that opened up this year, so it is a very different dynamic that it was 19 years ago, and honestly, I think much better.

Often what we are dealing with are car accidents, traffic related incidents and everything that comes with the increase in volume … Everyone wants to be in Sag Harbor.

Summering here since childhood and living here full time since college, how have you seen this area change?

I think it has become more populace. I think Sag Harbor — I have lived in Noyac for 16 years — post 9-11 had a lot of people that lived in New York City decide they were not going to live in the city anymore and they came here. So I think we have a different demographic in Sag Harbor School District than 20 years ago when this was the working man’s Hamptons.

So the demographic has changed, there are more people than we have ever had and I don’t know how many more we can fit on the East End as a whole, but while it has changed, has it all changed for the bad? No. I think there has been a lot of good. There are a lot more resources than there were 20, 25 years ago. The school districts have all gotten better. This is a really nice community to live in.

Any initiatives or innovation you hope to bring to the department?

We contract with the Village of East Hampton for dispatching services and it is amazing how much technology is available, so I hope to bring more of that into our records management, and our dispatch services where everything can be available at your fingertips when you need it. Training is another thing I would like to improve on. There are a lot of great, free training opportunities for departments on the East End — we train together a lot — and the bigger departments will actually have people who focus on that in the off-season. When I was in East Hampton I was in charge of training, and with law enforcement evolving, even though we are small, I think it is important that we are able to take advantage of what is available to us … technology, training and growing our relationship and communication with the community are really where I want to focus.