A conversation with Det. Jeff Proctor of the Sag Harbor Police Department who was recently honored by the Southampton Kiwanis Club as the department’s Officer of the Year.
By Stephen J. Kotz
Congratulations on being named the Officer of the Year. Was there one particular case for which you were honored?
Over the course of the year, there were many felony investigations that were solved. One of them involved counterfeit $100 bills; another involved a grand larceny of $48,000; and another involved a string of burglaries last summer.
I’m very proud because it was the fourth time I was honored, once as a police officer and three times as a detective.
Have you always been a police officer?
No, believe it or not, before I became a cop, I owned a deli in Mastic. I enjoyed it. I’m a people person, and I enjoyed talking to people and hearing about their problems. It was a bit like being a bartender. In 1998, I took the police test because my father, who is a retired New York civil servant, made me. And I was looking for something with a little more security. I took it with some friends, but I was the only one who got a good enough grade to become a cop.
My first job was with Westhampton Beach. I did a lot of foot patrols on Main Street. And then I was assigned to the marine patrol and did that from 2000 to 2001. Then an opportunity arose here and I was in the mood for a change. I was hired here in June 2001. I started as a regular office and then in 2008 was promoted to detective.
When I got here in 2001, I was assigned as the DARE [Drug Abuse Resistance Education] officer. I enjoyed that very much, working with the sixth, seventh and eighth graders.
I love the community I work in. I wish I could afford to live here. It’s a great community—the school district is fantastic. It reminds me of watching the Andy Griffiths Show. I enjoy coming to work. I enjoy the people I work with.
Usually we associate detectives as wearing suits, and hear you are in uniform. How are your duties different in a small department like Sag Harbor?
Being a detective here is unique because you wear so many different hats. I write vehicle and traffic summons, I respond to aided cases and quality-of-life issues, and I’ll even be seen walking the beat on Main Street in the summer months.
You become a detective at the discretion of the chief of police based on your reports and interviewing skills. He recommends you to the BCI [Bureau of Criminal Intelligence] at the Suffolk Police Academy and you go through training there.
How have things changed in Sag Harbor from the prospective of law enforcement since you have been with the force?
When the economy was booming, there was a lot less crime. With the economy not so good and construction at a bit of a standstill, crimes like burglaries and larcenies are on the rise.
There’s also a situation with drugs on the rise, including heroin. Over the past few years kids have gotten into their parents’ medicine cabinets and been taking out the pain pills. Doctors are now leery about issuing prescriptions, so the pills are not as easy to come by. So instead of buying one Oxycontin pill for 20 bucks, they’ll get a bag of heroin for five bucks. Unfortunately they are going to get hooked.
I’d say that 90 percent of the crimes I’m confronted with involve drugs in some way—the criminal is a drug user. Just about everybody who comes through this door is a drug user. To me jail is not always the answer. You need to look at treatment.
We’re shorthanded right now, so we’ve become more of a reactive department as opposed to a proactive department. You used to see officers patrolling Main Street.
There are also fewer DWIs. People are getting smarter and taking taxis and there’s also the fact that with less staffing, we can’t be on constant patrol like we used to. We used to be able to sit on Long Wharf and just watch people pour themselves out of the bar and into their car.