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Longest-serving Nassau cop retires after 48 years

Paul Imbornone, 70, said after three or four

Paul Imbornone, 70, said after three or four years as a police officer, he thought, "How nice it would be to retire after 20 years." Imbornone is retiring after 48 years with the Nassau County Police Department. (Sept. 22, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Thursday morning, for the last time, Officer Paul Imbornone pulled his Nissan Altima into Spot 56 in the sprawling parking lot behind the Nassau County Police Department's headquarters in Mineola.

"Reserved. Most Senior N.C.P.D. Member," says the sign marking the spot, an honor bestowed on Imbornone for being on the job the longest. He retired Thursday at age 70 after more than 48 years on the job - the longest-serving sworn cop in county police history.

"When it's your time, it's your time," he said as he walked the halls of headquarters Wednesday.

His police career began at age 21 in 1962. It has taken him from a foot post in West Hempstead, a radio car in South Floral Park and stints analyzing accident scenes and lecturing children on roadway safety to his latest assignment at the Property Bureau in Mineola.

"After about three or four years as a police officer, I thought, 'Well, how nice it would be to retire after 20 years,' " he said of his early days. He added: "Who knew that I would be here this long?"

During nearly five decades, Imbornone has seen his department change with the times: the rank "patrolman" changed to "police officer"; cops now need college credits; and society - and the department - began to take the enforcement of drunken driving more seriously.

Nassau Police Commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey said one of Imbornone's greatest contributions to the department was his service to a team that analyzed accidents and devised strategies for changing placement of traffic control devices.

A 2004 Newsday article estimated 42 percent of all students in Nassau County took a traffic-safety class Imbornone ran for years.

As Imbornone grew more senior and more of his academy class retired, his fellow cops occasionally offered good-natured ribbing. "When are you going to retire? Life is too short!" he recalled them saying.

Imbornone has stayed at his rank his whole career, he said, because family obligations kept him from studying for promotional tests and because he was happy being a police officer.

As he retires, he knows he'll miss the camaraderie of being a cop, he said.

"Just the interaction with all the members on the job, with the brotherhood," said Imbornone, of Islip Terrace.

His retirement plans? He'll volunteer at a nursing home ("I enjoy working with the older people, those who don't get much company"), bicycle (he's an avid exerciser) and baby-sit his grandkids ("I'll keep them in my custody," he joked).

With Imbornone retired, two cops will be tied for most senior sworn officers: Narcotics Det. Lt. Andrew Fal and Bureau of Special Operations Officer Thomas Henson, sworn in Oct. 25, 1968, said police spokesman Det. Sgt. Anthony Repalone.

Cops can work until age 70. After that, they need permission from the county and state to stay, Repalone said.

On Wednesday, Imbornone spent his usual day sitting behind the counter in the wood-paneled Property Bureau room. One cop walked over to check on the status of a confiscated gun.

About 125 officers are retiring this year to take advantage of a financial incentive offered by the county, and several of them popped in to return their department-issued gear, including their shields.

"Take care of yourself, buddy," one retiree told Imbornone. "Nice knowin' ya!"

A day later, Imbornone would stand on the other side of that counter. "It'll be weird," he said.

After more than 48 years, it was Imbornone's turn to surrender something: His shield, No. 1629.

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