Tom Sardino

July 14, 2000

The man Syracuse called Chief was laid to rest Monday. About 75 law enforcement officers in ceremonial dress saluted Thomas J. Sardino, Syracuse's longest-serving police chief, at 1 p.m. at Columbus Circle as a midnight blue hearse carrying his coffin slowly drove by.

Dad was an innovator, educator, peace maker and role model one of Sardino's five children, former Common Councilor Patrick Sardino, told the crowd of several hundred mourners inside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. We are better cops, better citizens and better parents for having been a part of his life. He said his father's legacy is that the Syracuse Police department is made up of the finest men and women in the country.

The services for Sardino - who died Friday at the age of 72 - drew hundreds of police chiefs and officers. Politicians such as former Mayor Tom Young were also in the crowd paying tribute to the cigar-chomping, hands-on chief who ran Syracuse's force from 1970 through 1985.

Sardino was planning to run for mayor, himself, in 1985, but he pulled back on the advice of former Mayor Lee Alexander.

There's a lot of programs he started over the years that we're still carrying out today, said Syracuse police Chief John Falge. He set the standard. He said Sardino was the first chief in New York to introduce neighborhood watch and community policing concepts.

The funeral even attracted former critics of Sardino, such as former city police Officer Edgar Prue, whom Sardino disciplined on numerous occasions. Out of all of them, he was the best (chief), said Prue, who worked for six Syracuse police chiefs. I battled him. He was a worthy adversary. Tom knew his stuff. I'll miss that.

The Rev. Paul Angelicchio, whom Sardino persuaded to serve as the police department's chaplain in 1977, said Sardino nearly broke his hand with his firm handshake when they met at Our Lady of Lourdes Church on Valley Drive. But I looked into his eyes and there was compassion and love, Angelicchio said. At a 1978 hostage scene on Ford Avenue, Sardino asked the young priest to accompany him inside the suspect's house to help negotiate a peaceful conclusion. The chief said, 'Follow me in,' Angelicchio recalled. I told him I had no protective vest on. He said, 'Stand behind me, I'll protect you.' He said Sardino protected the city in the same fashion.

He recalled how Sardino - a tough disciplinarian who would take away vacation days from officers for even small infractions - always seemed to be patrolling the city in Car One to make sure its residents were safe and his officers did their jobs professionally.

"When Car No. 1 was out, everyone panicked," Angelicchio said.

Following the church service, four Syracuse police officers on motorcycles led the hearse and funeral procession past the Syracuse police station on State Street as it made its way to St. Mary's Cemetery in DeWitt. Four soldiers from Fort Drum fired three volleys from their firearms and local bandleader Stan Colella played taps on a trumpet at the grave.

Falge presented Sardino's widow, Nina, with the flag that draped Sardino's coffin, and saluted her.

The Onondaga County Sheriff's Department and state police helicopters buzzed over the grave site. The silence of the cemetery was momentarily interrupted at 3:30 p.m. as 911 dispatcher Todd Shields broadcast a farewell to Sardino over the police radios.

"The men and women of law enforcement of Central New York bid farewell to Thomas J. Sardino," Shields said. "His service to the people of the city of Syracuse will be a legacy for years to come."

The cemetery service ended with a John Feehan, an Amtrak police officer wearing a plaid green kilt, playing "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes.

Tom Sardino was my first Chief. He promoted me to Sergeant. Later he tranferred me from supervising detectives in CID to the midnight-8 shift in uniform for speaking out of turn. He promoted me one more time, to Lieutenant, then put me in charge of the dreaded Internal Affairs. Like hundreds of other cops, he afftected my life profoundly. I am a better man for serving under him.