By Andrew Wroblewski
Christopher Hatton is walking in his father’s footsteps, but he’s taking a slightly different path.
“My father was a New York City fireman, he wasn’t a cop,” said Hatton, whose father, the late James Hatton, spent 30 years with the New York City Fire Department. “But he got me interested in civil service.”
That interest soon built into a “desire” to serve the community, and he opted for police duty.
After a 28-year-long, distinguished career in the Suffolk County Police Department, which has taken him to the Third, Fourth and Sixth precincts, the Internal Affairs Bureau and Marine Bureau, that choice has led him to Huntington.
Hatton, 52, of Miller Place, is the Second Precinct’s newest commanding officer, replacing Edward Brady, who retired in July.
At the Second Precinct, Hatton has had little time to gradually get acclimated. On July 19, the day before the inspector assumed his new role, a man was shot in the leg in Huntington Station. Four days later, police arrested and charged a Holbrook man for the shooting. And this past weekend, there were separate shootings in Greenlawn and Huntington Station by unknown assailants.
Welcome to the precinct, inspector.
The shootings took place in one area Hatton said the precinct is focusing on: Huntington Station.
“It’s no secret, we have gangs in Huntington Station,” he said in an interview.
One gang the Second Precinct has identified is the Tip Top Boyz. In March, a suspected member of the gang, Sheldon Leftenant, 22, was arrested and charged in connection to the shooting of Second Precinct Officer Mark Collins earlier that month.
To combat the gang problem, Hatton said the precinct is “debriefing,” or interrogating, anyone who gets arrested.
“Any person who comes in here in handcuffs gets questioned. We ask them what they’ve been involved in, what they know – no matter how trivial they think it might be,” Hatton said. “You’d be surprised what people will tell us when they sit here getting processed for an arrest.”
That information is then shared across the Suffolk County Police Department’s computer network, he said, to help solve crimes not only in Huntington, but across the county.
Along with enforcement, this strategy is also being employed to chip away at Suffolk’s drug problem, which has creeped into the Town of Huntington in a major way. After two Northport men were among 14 people arrested on June 2 in connection to a heroin supply chain originating in the Bronx, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota called Northport the “center of the heroin storm” that is overwhelming communities on the North Shore.
“We’ve noticed a heroin problem and the consumers of the drug are middle-class white students, which seems to be the North Shore of Long Island,” Hatton said. “From Northport, to Smithtown, Stony Brook and Miller Place – that seems to be where the drug problem is.”
This usage spirals into an even bigger issue, he said. Users steal money from their families and from those around them to get a fix. This includes breaking into cars, stealing and then selling stolen property.
“The drug problem creates a problem for the entire community,” he said.
And it’s the community, the inspector said, that he’s ultimately working to improve.
In his newly assumed role, Hatton has already taken strides to connect with Huntington’s leaders and residents. For example, he spoke at Huntington Station’s National Night Out celebration on Aug. 4.
And by engaging with the public, the inspector has already begun to make his mark.
Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone called Hatton “an experienced police leader who is highly respected within the department,” in an email Monday.
“I look forward to continuing the good working relationship that Huntington Town has established with the Second Precinct,” Petrone said. “Already, we have begun to discuss and will continue discussing how collaboratively we can address issues of public safety and quality of life in the Town.”
“Inspector Hatton has hit the ground running,” Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards said in an email. “I look forward to working with him in partnership in Huntington Station and the overall township.”
These comments reflect Hatton’s seemingly glowing reputation among his peers in the Suffolk County Police Department. As the Third Precinct’s executive officer, his most recent post prior to moving to the Second Precinct, Hatton was known a “terrific, even-tempered, calm, confident and smart” man, said Third Precinct Inspector Robert Brown.
“It was a great pleasure working with him,” said Brown, who mentioned that he and Hatton both started in enforcement on the same day with the New York City Police Department in 1986, but the first time they worked together was at the Third Precinct, starting about a year and a half ago.
If his experience in the Third Precinct, which Brown said has varied neighborhoods – including Hatton’s own hometown of Brentwood – and a lot of community groups, is any indication, Hatton “is going to do great” as the Second Precinct’s commanding officer.
After growing up in Brentwood and attending St. Anthony’s High School, which was then located in Smithtown, he enrolled in SUNY Oneonta, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1985.
He started with the NYPD in 1986 as an officer and transitioned into the Suffolk County Police Department in 1987. That began his nearly 30-year-long stint with the department, assuming roles included commanding the Internal Affairs Bureau and the Marine Bureau, and as executive officer, or a precinct’s second in command, at the Sixth and Third precincts. He’s also a graduate of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
Another important role of Hatton’s is as a father. He has two children and two step-children with his wife.
All of this experience is carrying over to his role in the Second Precinct, Hatton said.
“I think I have vast experience in what goes on in all of the areas of the police department,” Hatton said. “It’s all prepared me to do this job. A job that, as an officer, you aspire to do: run a precinct.”