East Hampton Town Police Chief Will Retire at the End of the Year
Ed Ecker was named chief in 2010, and has served the department for three decades.
"I just feel it's time," Ecker told East Hampton Patch, adding that he always intended to stay in the position only about three years.
Asked who will succeed him, Ecker said he will leave the decision to the town board.
"The board will probably vote on that in executive session in the next few weeks," Bill Wilkinson said on Tuesday.
As Wilkinson also heads into the last months with the town, he said, "Serving with Chief Ecker — who by the way I've known since childhood — certainly makes the highlight reel of my career. I say that from the bottom of my heart."
"Over 30 years of exemplary experience, his veteran status, his volunteer activities, all are a tribute to the town's love and regards for the chief and his entire family," Wilkinson said. "The Ecker name has a respect throughout the town."
His father, the late Edward Ecker Sr., was a former East Hampton Town supervisor and councilman. His mother, Fran Ecker, a much-loved member of the Montauk community helped found the Montauk Food Pantry.
At 60, Ecker doesn't plan to fly south. His wife of nearly 38 years, Roxanne — whom Ecker often calls a saint — is the district treasurer at the Amagansett School and doesn't plan on retiring soon.
They will remain in Montauk, but will visit family, including daughter Karli Pena and her children, who live in California. Their younger daughter Kari Ann Shea, who is married to East Hampton Town Police Officer and former Navy Seal, Denis Shea, lives in Montauk with their 8-month-old daughter.
A Montauker through-and-through, Ecker said he'll remain an active member of the community. "I'm young enough where I can still do something else. What that is yet, I don't know," he said.
The East Hampton Town Board, under Wilkinson, named Ecker police chief in 2010, upon the retirement of Todd Sarris. He was appointed in a ceremony before a packed crowd at East Hampton Town Hall, the first gathering of any kind in the newly finished complex.
One phone call and his life could have taken a whole other course, he said.
After he served as a submariner in the Navy, he returned to Montauk and applied for three different jobs — a police officer, a postman, and an engineer with the Long Island Rail Road, a lifelong dream. While waiting for positions to open up on all three career tracks, he took a job with Suffolk County as a child support investigator for a few years. As a 28-year-old married man with two children, he was ready to take the first position that opened up. That's when he got the call from the town police in 1982.
"I was so lucky, it took only a couple of days for me to figure it out — I loved the job. I still love it," Ecker said. He knew early on he wanted to be a detective, in the trenches investigating crimes.
An uncle who is now a retired monsignor and Naval chaplain, Father Bob, as the Eckers call him, gave him the chief advice that he has carried through his long career: "It's okay to be tough, but never be mean."
"That's such great advice for anybody in police work," Ecker said.
Just four years later, he got the promotion. He recalled how he hadn't even gone through a criminal investigators course yet when, in 1986, he helped investigate and solve one of the worst sex crimes in the Town of East Hampton. A young nurse picked up three hitchhikers who raped and sodomized her, and held her captive.
Ecker credits good mentors with his long, successful career. His first sergeant, Van K. Quick taught him how to investigate and get informants. Others — the nucleus of the department at the time — were Randy Sarris, a Montauk native who later became an East Hampton Village police chief, and his brother Todd Sarris, with whom Ecker grew up, and Fred Notel, Wayne Fenelon, Dennis Dunn Sr., Charles Morici, Richard McKee, Francis Mott, Albert Ryan, former chief Tommy Scott, and William E. Segelken, Richard Lia. "They just showed me the ropes. It was a simpler time, a little bit slower, but they knew police work," Ecker said.
He remained in the detective division for 14 years, earning the rank of detective sergeant in 1989 and detective lieutenant in 1996. As a sergeant, he never went back to the uniform division as most do, he said. He is a graduate of the elite FBI Academy, which he attended for 12 weeks in 1992. He also worked as the department's training officer for years, starting in 1993.
In 1999, he was named the commander of the Montauk precinct, a move that took him out of the detective squad. In 2003, he was promoted to captain, staying in Montauk until he became the executive officer two years later.
Becoming chief was never in Ecker's grand plan for his career, but instead was something that just unfolded. Throughout his career he was more focused on "really helping people and solving problems and training young men and women to be the best police officers they can be," he said. "It's not something I invented, it's just something I perpetuated."
He is proud of the work he, the board and senior staff have accomplished during his three years as chief.
The detective squad grew bigger so that there is at least one detective working nights, enhancing the service in the town, he said. Marine Patrol was folded into the police department and has become a "top rate marine division" with the help of Chief Ed Michels. Also, the department has a formalized maternity policy, which has been put to the test through three pregnancies so far. The department has also established a transitional duty program that sets benchmarks for bringing officers who are hurt on the job back to work.
Over the past three years, Ecker said he has learned a lot, too, particularly from the supervisor. "Bill has really brought to the forefront a lot of good ideas, management wise," he said, adding, "He was always there for the police department."
A recent visit from the Secretary of State, commending the town for the work done to right a financial mess inherited from the previous administration, left Ecker with more admiration for what had been accomplished. "I felt like I was apart of that team that the supervisor put together and I felt proud of that."
"I hope I haven't let the people of the Town of East Hampton down," he said. "I feel I'm leaving them a good department full of conscientious cops."