Chris Hughes took over the reins of the Northport Police Department this summer as chief after two decades with the department. He sat down for an interview about his career and goals for the 17-member force serving the village of 7,400 residents. This transcript is edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Q: Did you grow up in Northport?
A: Born and raised. Both my parents grew up in Northport as well. My wife and her parents did, too. So it's one of those communities that people just don't really seem to want to leave or, if they do, they find a way back.
Q: Did you go on to college?
A: I joined the Air Force, basically right out of high school...I got stationed in Germany for about three and a half years. And I discovered another passion of mine, which was aviation.
Q: What are some of the biggest issues you think are facing the village?
A: There was a time approximately five years ago, when we really were dealing with a pretty strong heroin epidemic ... A lot of people really wouldn't expect it to be within the confines of the village. But that was an all-encompassing problem ... We were having a lot of overdoses, we were seeing people in hard times. And, you know, you can't arrest your way out of every problem — sometimes getting somebody in front of a judge can help them get the help they need in court-mandated treatment program or something like that. And I feel that our personnel really did a great job. And I think the county itself has done a pretty good job. So far, we've seen a decline in that.
Q: What do you think are the reasons for the decline?
A: I think people are reading a lot in the news about the epidemic and how it was impacting people, whether it be medically, physically ... And I think the word on the street is that you don't want to sell drugs in the village, or you don't want to get caught possessing them. And we're pretty strict about that.
Q: And how is the police department's relationship with the village government? (Last month, Northport police department arrested Village Administrator Tim Brojer on charges of third-degree grand larceny, third-degree criminal possession of stolen property and public corruption.)
A: I can't comment on that particular investigation only because it is ongoing ... But as far as the relationship, it's very good. We have an open line of communication. We do everything we can to assist them and in running the village properly, and I know they're trying their very best to do that.
Q: Is there anything you want our readers to know?
A: I think sometimes the small village departments get looked upon as not being a full-service police department. While we may not have dogs or helicopters or motorcycles, I think that our department is comprised of very well-rounded officers because they work in the confines of the village every single day.
FROM THERE TO HERE
Graduated from Northport High School in 1994
Discharged from the Air Force with the rank of senior airman
Began Northport PD career as an officer and rose to sergeant
Named chief in 2019 with $230,000 annual salary