When she was young, Jodi Bizari fondly recalls sitting down with her father and uncle every Saturday afternoon to watch the police reality television show “Cops.” She said she enjoyed watching the action unfold, never dreaming that, one day, she’d be cast into the role of the show’s stars.But after earning a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Brockport in criminal justice in 2006, she became a member of the police force at Cornell University. Still, the 33-year-old Rochester native never imagined, that a few years down the road, she would eventually move to Long Island—her fiancé is an officer with the Riverhead Police Department—and continue her career in law enforcement.
Ms. Bizari is now the first female constable serving in the Village of West Hampton Dunes; she moved to Cutchogue in the spring and began her part-time job with the oceanfront village on July 4.
“That was a busy weekend,” she said during a recent interview, noting that there are a lot of similarities between Cornell and West Hampton Dunes. “I’m used to dealing with all different types of people, and I enjoy meeting people as well, so it hasn’t been a bad transition.”
Ms. Bizari, who works between 20 and 30 hours per week, said she is enjoying being a part of the nine-member team, even if she is the only woman. West Hampton Dunes boasts five full-time and four part-time constables.
And, so far, her fellow constables have enjoyed having her on board.
“Jodi is great, she’s such an asset to our department,” Sergeant Brian Hennig said. “She does a great job with the kids, especially. It’s nice for the little girls around here to see Jodi at work because it shows them they can do it too, even though there are a lot of men on the job.”
A constabulary is different from a police force only in name and size. Constables in West Hampton Dunes must receive the same training as police officers and, therefore, have the right to carry guns and make arrests. However, both Mr. Hennig and Ms. Bizari note that since the village is so small, their department is able to focus more on community outreach than enforcement. There are fewer than 200 homes in the incorporated village, which still is primarily a summer resort community.
West Hampton Dunes Mayor Gary Vegliante, who introduced Ms. Bizari at the Village Board meeting on September 6, said he was excited to have her working in the village. She is now making about $20 per hour, which, Mr. Vegliante noted, is compatible to what part-time officers make in Southampton Town and the Village of Westhampton Beach.
“She’s highly decorated and comes with some terrific reviews from past coworkers,” he said, referring to her long list of certifications and special training. “She brings a whole new dimension to the department that I’m very happy about. I think she’s terrific.”
After graduating from the Tompkins County Law Enforcement Academy in Ithaca in 2007, Ms. Bizari continued gaining experience while working at Cornell, whose police force put a lot of emphasis on training, she said. In her seven-year tenure there, Ms. Bizari earned patrol rifle, mountain bike and child safety seat technician certifications. She also is a field training officer, a general topics instructor and can assist with on-the-job training for new members of the force.
“That was really rewarding, but also a big responsibility,” she said. “It was cool though.”
She noted that her time at Cornell, a department that boasts more than 70 officers, provided her with a number of unique experiences, such as working in an area with a lot of foot traffic, breaking up parties, and responding to noise complaints and similar issues—skills that she can apply to her new job in West Hampton Dunes. She noted that because students were constantly coming and going from Cornell, much like most of those who own and rent homes in West Hampton Dunes, she has plenty of experience with handling people who are not necessarily familiar with the rules of a community.
Mr. Hennig noted that because the village is made up of private homes and doesn’t have a business district, it gives his team of constables more time and resources to focus on community issues—something that Ms. Bizari has embraced since she began her position in July.
For Ms. Bizari, ensuring their safety of children is one of the most important aspects of the job.
“That’s why she gets so serious about people going 40 mph down our roads,” Mr. Hennig said, “because you might not have seen them, but you just passed two kids playing at the end of the driveway, or a mom walking her baby in a stroller.”
Mr. Hennig said Ms. Bizari has “probably met every kid in the village by now,” citing her frequent stops to chat and introduce herself to those she sees while patrolling.
“They ask a lot of silly questions,” she said, including if Ms. Bizari gets to hit people in the head with her baton. “But that’s why it’s good because you get the opportunity to educate them and show them that [police] are not like what you see on TV.”