Longtime TCO Trades Sag Harbor Traffic for New York City Ports

Sag Harbor Village PD Head Traffic Control Officer Pablo Londono, who is headed for the Port Authority Police. Michael Heller photo

Pablo Londono’s story is a love letter to the American Dream.

He yearned for years to become a police officer, but was held back by the fact that he wasn’t a United States citizen. He came from Colombia at the age of nine, with his family simply overstaying its visa, he said, but he finally achieved citizenship last summer. And next week, after more than a decade working as a traffic control officer helping to keep Sag Harbor’s busiest streets orderly, Mr. Londono, 28, will depart the village for the New York Port Authority Police Academy.

“It was a lot of waiting and hoping it would happen,” he said of the citizenship process. “Dreaming that dream of becoming an American, and accomplishing anything you want as long as you work hard. It was worth the wait. I love this country. Home is here.”

Mr. Londono first started with the Sag Harbor department part-time in 2008, and moved up to full-time about two-and-a-half years ago. He has also worked as a part-time police officer in Southampton Village, worked as a school crossing guard and school monitor at Sag Harbor Elementary School and earned an associate’s degree in business administration from Suffolk County Community College.

He said he has been drawn to a career in public service because he enjoys helping people. Oftentimes TCOs are the first official presence that visitors to Sag Harbor see, and they often approach TCOs for assistance.

“If you help one person, you’re making a difference,” he said. “Personally, for me, it’s satisfying to assist the village.”

Sag Harbor Police Chief Austin J. McGuire said Mr. Londono will be hard to replace. Not only is he a dedicated TCO, Chief McGuire said, but he also does a significant amount of managerial work, including reporting, scheduling, recruiting and training.

“It’s organized chaos. It’s a very hard job,” said the chief, who hired his highest-ever number of TCOs this summer, a group of 10. “I always say people can be replaced, including myself. It’s true of everyone except Pablo.”

Mr. Londono said he enjoyed working with Chief McGuire and his TCO colleagues, calling them “family.”

“Chief really appreciates what we do,” he said, recalling times when Chief McGuire brought pizza and beverages for the TCOs. “He supports us 110 percent. When you have that support from the top-down, it means something.”

The chief and the longtime TCO have a particularly strong bond. Chief McGuire met Mr. Londono eight years ago, while Chief McGuire was still an officer with the East Hampton Town Police Department and Mr. Londono was a monitor at the elementary school. One of Chief McGuire’s daughters was in kindergarten there at the time, and when he visited occasionally to read books to the class, he took note of Mr. Londono’s warm and caring personality.

“This kid doesn’t stop, ever,” Chief McGuire said. “He’s a very hardworking young man.”

Mr. Londono said he will remember Sag Harbor fondly.

“I’ll miss everything,” he said. “The chief — I couldn’t be happier to work under his leadership — the sergeant, the cops, the community. The people I work with are like family. I’ll miss the kids I cross in the morning. You develop a relationship with them. That means a lot to me.”

Mr. Londono, a 2009 graduate of Bridgehampton High School, said he’s looking forward to trading his small village for a big city. He’ll spend six months in the Port Authority Police Academy in Jersey City before stepping into a role protecting key travel hubs, including the airports, subways, bus terminals, bridges and tunnels.

“I love going to new places,” he said. “I think the Port Authority will be an exciting adventure.”

In an age when the threat of terrorism is a concern, particularly in post-9/11 New York City, Mr. Londono said he’s also ready for the challenge of guarding major commercial areas, such as the World Trade Center. The Port Authority lost dozens of officers during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“I’ll be able to learn so much, have the opportunity to meet new people and serve and protect some of the most important infrastructure in the city,” Mr. Londono said.

Chief McGuire said the experiences Mr. Londono has with the Port Authority force will enable him to “learn some things that I never learned. He’ll have a whole other perspective. The experience he’ll gain from being there will be unparalleled.”

It’s a skill set that Mr. Londono hopes to bring back to the South Fork some day.

“My goal is to come back,” he said. “In a big city you can make a difference, but not like you can in a smaller community.”