For Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano, the decision to enter the profession of law enforcement came after he thrived as a member of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
“I liked helping people, dealing with people,” said Fabiano, seated in his office at the police department on Division Street.
So, 35 years ago when Sag Harbor Village Police Chief John Harrington offered Fabiano the opportunity to take a part-time job with the department, complete with “an old, bent 38” caliber gun, the Sag Harbor native jumped at the opportunity.
“I love this job, I love Sag Harbor,” said Fabiano. “I would hate to see anything happen to this police department. It has been here since the 1800s.”
Some members of the Sag Harbor Village Board have recently called the future of the village police department into question. The village and the Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association (PBA) have reached a stalemate in contract negotiations with both sides calling the other unreasonable.
For over a month now, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride has pursued proposals from other police agencies like departments in East Hampton and Southampton as well as from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department.
While village trustees have often sought comparisons in contract negotiations, Fabiano said the atmosphere this time is different and there is definitely a feeling the Sag Harbor Village Police Department is in real peril.
Losing the department would be a detriment to the community, said Fabiano, noting his officers have one of the best response times on the East End and are truly a part of Sag Harbor.
“We are involved members of this community and everyone knows us here,” he said. “My door is open 24-hours a day and everyone knows that.”
“Do we really want to lose control of our own police department,” added Fabiano, noting that communities like Greenport Village, which disbanded its police department and is serviced by Southold Police Department, could see more comprehensive police coverage with their own department.
“So is this a good direction to move in – in my opinion, no,” said Fabiano.
Fabiano said many residents have come out in support of the department.
“They can’t believe this is even being discussed,” he said. “And within those discussions a lot of people have said they also don’t think the PBA should get everything in their proposals, which I agree with too. I am not saying I agree with the village. I don’t agree with either side. I think everyone needs to bring this down a notch and come to the table to make a deal.”
The PBA asked for a 4.5 percent increase in salary, as well as for additional changes in the police contract affecting longevity, over-time, sick and vacation leave. According to PBA President Pat Milazzo, the length of the contract would be negotiated. The last two contracts were for four and six years, he said. The village responded, offering a zero percent, one-percent and two-percent increase, which was declined. Neither party has made a counter offer, although they are scheduled to come back to the table in September.
“Their salaries are a certain rate because every day they do put on a gun, put on a vest and work over the course of 24-hour days doing different shifts, which can be hard on people,” said Fabiano. “Is this a nice area? Absolutely. It’s a beautiful place to work. Can anything happen at any time? Absolutely. You just never know.”
Fabiano said he likely would have not asked for as much in an initial proposal as the PBA did.
“I think everyone bears some responsibility here,” he said. “I think everyone has to be aware of the economy. People also have to be aware of what kind of job this is, and that these people do have homes and families as well.”
“We need to come to the table and trade ideas,” Fabiano continued. “That is how we used to do it. We would trade ideas and not leave the room until it was resolved.”