East Hampton Town Police Captain Michael Sarlo has his eyes and ears open and his mind made up. The newly appointed police chief said when he takes the helm on December 28, the department will work to connect more with the community and introduce new ideas and programs to become stronger and more efficient.
Capt. Sarlo, 43, will take his oath on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Town Hall and begin as chief in earnest, ready to tackle many issues in the town.
At his office last week, he said one of the most important ways to keep the town safe is to maintain an open dialogue.
“Communication is key,” he said. “It is extremely important to me and to my former bosses that we try to clearly communicate about where our focus is, what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s always a two-way street. That was ingrained in me when I became a police officer.”
He added that he’d like to get the town and the police department to work together and bridge any gaps there might be in public safety and bolster public confidence.
To do that, he said he has in the past tried to make himself available to help the officers and the department understand what the community is looking for.
He mentioned how important this was during his time as the Montauk precinct commander from 2009 to 2010.
“We are here in Wainscott and that is quite a distance [from Montauk],” he said. “It’s important that the community feels they have an administrative staff supporting them. The officer there [Lieutenant Chris Hatch] is the key as the liaison for Montauk. He’s the chief’s eyes and ears and representative among the community there.”
Capt. Sarlo sees one issue on the rise that he’d like to crack down on in his time as chief.
“Right now our main focus is helping to reduce larcenies and burglaries,” he said. “There hasn’t been an overall dramatic spike in the overall statistics, but it seems to be more sprees, where there is a rash all at once.”
He said the key to preventing these types of crimes is to educate the community about what they can do to stay safe and secure.
In addition to working closer with East Hampton residents, some changes within the department are expected. Capt. Sarlo said that by spring, Town Police cars will have dashboard cameras to back up officers during courtroom testimony and address minor complaints from civilians about how they are treated during stops. He said the department has secured capital funding for the cameras, which will cost between $80,000 and $100,000.
The department also hopes to purchase a new crime scene and command van, a mobile operations center that can be used for special events or major accidents, for example. Capt. Sarlo said capital funding of about $120,000 could go toward the van, which he said would be a “valuable tool.”
Most important, Capt. Sarlo said, he wants everyone to stay in the loop about what is happening in East Hampton. He said Chief Ecker has already set a great example.
“His availability to the public has been unprecedented,” Capt. Sarlo said. “It’s easy to get bogged down in the administrative end and not be always available. How we manage our time and how I make myself available will be a challenge.”
As a sports buff, Capt. Sarlo said he’s no stranger to tackling the hard stuff. A former athlete in football, basketball and baseball, the Springs and longtime East Hampton resident said a team mentality will go far.
“The attitude and approach of holding each other accountable—I feel we have that here,” he said. “Sports is an area that I feel helped me in my career. It’s about teamwork, accountability and camaraderie.”
Capt. Sarlo, who grew up in East Hampton, said his father, Chris Sarlo, was the East Hampton High School principal for 19 years, from 1974 to 1993, and thus has a deep connection to the community.
“The example he set for us growing up—I can only hope to come close,” Capt. Sarlo said. “He’s been a very positive influence and sounding board for me.”
Married to Paula Sarlo, an interior designer, and with two children, Daniel and Melina, Capt. Sarlo said he’s committed to East Hampton, just as Chief Ecker was before him.
“I don’t pretend to be Eddie Ecker—he’s one of a kind,” the captain said. “I’ve learned a lot from him and I plan on living by the popular saying: ‘I not only use all the brains that I have, but all I can borrow.’ I try to beg, borrow and steal from everybody to develop my own sense of style, and I will work hard to do my own thing and push for professionalism, accountability through the ranks and doing our job as the community expects us to.”
Despite having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in speech communication, the future chief joined the department in 1995 as an officer in the patrol division at the urging of his brother, Kevin Sarlo, who retired as captain in 2008 after 23 years.
“I looked up to our local officers, and Chief Tom Scott was a good friend of our family,” Capt. Sarlo explained, adding that while he was in high school, his older brother became an East Hampton Town Police officer in 1985. “Our late uncle, Danny Guthrie, was a New York Police Department detective when we were growing up and we always looked up to him and loved his stories. I really liked the idea of being a part of our community, and also took some criminal justice courses during college [at the University of Maryland, College Park] as well.”
In 2002 Capt. Sarlo made sergeant. From 2004 to 2005 he served as the East Hampton precinct commander, then was promoted to lieutenant in 2005 and to captain in 2009. As captain, he became the commanding officer of the Montauk precinct and later became the executive officer, working as the assistant to Chief Ecker.
In this position Capt. Sarlo oversaw 51 officers, assisted with budgeting, scheduling, staffing and department regulations, and worked as the liaison to the U.S. Department of State, the Secret Service and the FBI.
Capt. Sarlo said after his many years of service, he feels that becoming chief will give him more of an opportunity to do what he’s been doing.
“As I moved through the ranks, my bosses have afforded me opportunities to step in and come in with new ideas to help the department grow,” he said. “They’ve nurtured me to feel confident in the administrative end of police work. I’m looking forward to taking a more visible role for the department.”