Some officers might find it daunting to police the community in which they live and grew up in. Every driver stopped for speeding could be their neighbor, every bad accident could involve a friend.But for retiring Westhampton Beach Village Police Sergeant Kerry Laube, that direct connection to his hometown over the past 17 years strengthened his sense of dedication to both his department and community.
“Some people have differences of opinion on the matter of working locally where you grew up—they think it makes the job harder,” Sgt. Laube, whose last day on the job will be this Friday, January 6, explained during a recent interview. “I have always found it made the job more rewarding, because knowing most of the people made it easier in most respects.”
Born in Southampton, Sgt. Laube, 54, moved to Westhampton as a child with his family and graduated from Westhampton Beach High School in 1980. After receiving his diploma, he spent the next three years working at the Hampton Art Cinema in the village, which his family ran at the time, before serving as a bartender at the now closed Westhampton Beach bowling alley. He also was employed as a beer delivery truck driver for a stretch.
He changed his career course on July 9, 1984—in the middle of the Cold War between the United States and Russia—when he enlisted in the Navy and volunteered to work on nuclear submarines. After two years of training, Sgt. Laube was assigned to the engineering room of the USS Lafayette.
He and his fellow crew members, who were based out of Groton, Connecticut, would fly back and forth to their vessel, which was stationed out of a base in Holy Loch, Scotland, every few months so they could complete patrols that lasted 105 days. The submarine had two crews, the blue and the gold teams, and Sgt. Laube was a member of the former. He would serve seven patrol cycles before being honorably discharged from the military in June 1990.
“It was during the Cold War,” Sgt. Laube said about his time aboard the USS Lafayette. “We used to do ballistic missile drills. We weren’t shooting them per se, but we would run drills where we didn’t know if we were going to actually fire a missile or not. We ran these quite frequently.”
After leaving the Navy, Sgt. Laube returned to Westhampton Beach and briefly worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton. It was around this time that he began volunteering with the Westhampton Beach Fire Department, and that was when he overhead that then-Westhampton Beach Police Chief Conrad Teller would soon be sending a new group of recruits to the Suffolk County Police Academy.
Explaining that he always had an interest in being a cop, Sgt. Laube said he refocused his energy and ended up joining the village’s police force in December 1992. “I thought okay, this is my chance,” he recalled.
He graduated from the police academy in May 1993 and began working as a seasonal officer that summer; he was offered a full-time position in 1999 and the rest is history.
Sgt. Laube would spend most of the next two decades patrolling his hometown though, according to his wife, Kym Laube, he was especially dedicated to educating children. Each year, for example, he would visit students at the Westhampton Beach Elementary School and explain to them that they should always find a police officer if they are in trouble and need help.
“I always loved that and I hope that is something that the other younger officers will pick up and continue to do,” said Ms. Laube, who serves as executive director of Human Understanding and Growth Services, a local organization that strives to keep children and teenagers out of trouble by providing activities and educational programming. “There is a certain way that Kerry would talk to the younger people in the community, and there are always kindergartners and first-graders who would talk about seeing Sgt. Laube.
“He has a unique way of connecting to kids, and that kind of community connectedness is important,” she added.
Ms. Laube also noted that her husband always makes himself available to her organization.
“One of the things I am most proud of him for is that he is always willing to go and travel with me and speak and give presentations about drugs and alcohol on his own time, and present the law aspect,” she said. “He was always willing to join me in presentations in other communities, and our own community, to make sure that people had good, accurate information on things like social host laws and zero tolerance for DWI for minors.”
She also noted that she is proud of the way her husband has handled the most difficult days on the job, explaining that he has been tasked on more than one occasion of responding to fatal accidents involving those he had watched grow up—and then having to share the heart-breaking news with their parents.
“Those are the days that no training can ever prepare you for,” Ms. Laube said. “That is the beautiful thing and the really hard thing about working in your own community.
“He graduated from Westhampton Beach, both of our businesses are here, our kids graduated here,” she continued, referring to their sons, Zachary, 22, and Jordan, 19. “When you are really interested in a community, it can make law enforcement a really awesome thing.”
Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore thanked Sgt. Laube for his 17 years of service, adding that he set an example that the department’s younger officers should follow.
“He always approached his duties in a conscientious and even-tempered manner,” she said. “He has served the public well, and I wish him all the best in his retirement.”
Sgt. Laube will be replaced by Andrew Kirwin who is now enrolled at the Suffolk County Police Academy and slated to graduate in April.
Though he will no longer be policing his community by this weekend, Sgt. Laube said he has no immediate plans to relocate or kick back, explaining that his wife still works locally and he still runs a property management business.
“I’m not emotional in a negative way,” he said. “I am realizing that I get a lot of time coming back to myself … We get a lot of benefits, but that is the true benefit—you get to become yourself again, you get to reinvent yourself.”