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Jul 11, 2017 1:03 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

A.J. McGuire Looks Forward To More Time As Official Sag Harbor Village Police Chief

Austin J. McGuire, chief of the Sag Harbor Village Police Department. JON WINKLER
Jul 11, 2017 1:32 PM

In the bustling vicinity of Sag Harbor Main Street, Austin J. McGuire has his eyes on everything.

Sitting comfortably in his office at the Sag Harbor Village Police Department headquarters last Thursday, June 6, the chief of police was looking at the live feed of Main Street through security cameras, keeping his eyes on the filled-up traffic spots and busy sidewalks—something he’s had a crash course on over the last year, and will now grow even more used to in years to come.

The 46-year-old was officially sworn in as chief by Sag Harbor Village Clerk Beth Kamper on Monday, July 3. He had served as provisional chief since May 2016, took the chief’s test in March and learned in June that he had made the grade.

Chief McGuire’s career in law enforcement spans nearly 20 years and includes service in both the Sag Harbor Village and East Hampton Town police departments.

Born in Brooklyn, he grew up in Roslyn Harbor but had spent his summers in Sag Harbor with his mom’s side of the family since the age of 13. He graduated from Central Connecticut State University in 1994, majoring in psychology with a minor concentration in criminal justice, though he said his future was uncertain at the time.

“I was actually very torn as to what I wanted to do with my life,” Chief McGuire said this week. “As I started getting closer to the end of college, I realized I had to grow up and do something with my life that was worthwhile. I started looking into police work and it appealed to me.”

He started his police career in 1997 as a seasonal police officer, first for the Suffolk County Parks Department and then for Sag Harbor Village before being hired by the East Hampton Town Police. There, he worked his way up the ranks with over six years as an officer, four years as a detective, four years as a patrol sergeant, and four years as a lieutenant.

As a resident of Noyac for more than 17 years, Chief McGuire is never far from the docks of Sag Harbor or the streets of East Hampton. In that time, he said, he’s seen the difference in environment.

“East Hampton Town is much bigger and more diverse,” the chief said. “You’re handling different types of calls because it’s so much bigger. Even the stuff that you don’t deal with regularly, you have a higher frequency of calls because it’s a bigger place.”

He said he had heard that the position of police chief in Sag Harbor would be open to apply for on January 1, 2016, after Thomas Fabiano retired in 2015. With that, he took a chance and sent in his resume.

“This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Chief McGuire. “I loved when I worked here—it’s a great community. I wanted to have my own thing and mold it the way I want to. I think anybody who’s ever been in administration in law enforcement knows that the ultimate goal is to get to a chief spot.”

He started as acting chief in February 2016 and then became provisional chief three months later—which he said was a great experience. The chief said he is thankful for the support of the Village Board and his fellow officers, and also to East Hampton Town, for the experience he gained while moving up the ranks there.

Those who know him from his early days as a cop or just as a frequent civilian visitor in Sag Harbor might be fortunate enough to still have the number for his cellphone, but he said he doesn’t mind that.

“I do want to have that closeness to the community,” the chief said. “I want people to be able to call me if they’re having a problem. It’s unique, but I want to be reachable. That’s always been my thing since I’ve been a cop. Just because I didn’t live in East Hampton for the past 17 years doesn’t mean people don’t know me. I’ve formed a lot of great friendships in the surrounding communities. There’s not one day that I regret coming here.”

Chief McGuire said he has a few projects to look forward to, including plans to update the department’s rules and procedures, incorporating more training sessions for officers, and hiring a new police officer. He also said that he wants to combat opioid abuse in the community by figuring out a way to monitor users to see if they stay clean and mentally healthy after they’ve gone through an overdose or addiction.

Above all, Chief McGuire keeps his eye out for the residents and his co-workers in the line of duty.

An example of this came on December 16, 2016, when he was one of the many members of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department who responded to the fire at the Sag Harbor Cinema. The cold weather that day caused any water spilling from the hoses to freeze on the ground, so he kept an eye out to make sure his fellow firefighters didn’t slip on the ice.

“It’s a miracle that nobody was hurt that day,” the chief said.

Thinking of the incident made him think back to one day when he was paying a visit to the Montauk School to read to a class.

“A kid asked me once, ‘Do you ever get scared?’ and I go, ‘You know what? I can honestly say that I’ve never been scared for myself. I’ve been scared for other people, but I’ve never been scared for myself.’”

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