The Historical Evolution of the Town of Mount Pleasant, New York Police Department
PREFACE: According to land records, the town of Mt. Pleasant became incorporated in 1788. Obviously, there was some compelling urgency to incorporate beyond a demand usually necessitated by increased population or circumstances of Municipal development. Such inference becomes validated by researching older tax maps that disclose farmlands and estates to have been the predominate occupants of the unincorporated Town. The rolling hills and sparsely settled Hamlets of Kensico, later named Valhalla in 1902, with Hawthorne, Thornwood and Pocantico Hills combined to comprise a calculated twenty-eight square miles of the unincorporated area of the Town of Mount Pleasant. Except for an area occupied by Phelps Memorial Hospital, which was conveyed to the then Village of North Tarrytown by the Town, the area remains essentially the same today in 1999.
In 1885, New York City decided that the proximity, geographic basin and resources within Kensico and the contiguous area of North White Plains, which also comprised part of the Kensico community, were conducive to constructing a water reservoir. The original and much smaller version of the Kensico Dam was constructed. Some twenty-eight years later, New York City decided that the expanded construction of this reservoir was essential to meet the water resource needs of an escalating Metropolitan population constantly influenced by the immigrant migration from Ellis Island.
KENSICO DAM CONSTRUCTION RANGES FROM 1913 TO 1917: The expanded and current version of the Kensico Dam construction attracted a variety of employees that resulted in a local population explosion. Housing was built to accommodate the needs of laborers and their families. In house medical facilities followed while markets and social businesses developed simultaneously to accommodate the needs of the increased population. Overtures of sabotage to the Dam construction site, together with this spirited concentration of people, generated increasing social and domestic behavior patterns requiring New York City to enlarge a original token Bureau of Water Supply Police Agency adopted in 1835, to a more practical Department of a minimum of twenty mounted officers in 1913.
BUREAU OF WATER SUPPLY POLICE: Consequently the BWS Police patrol force became more adept in assuming policing jurisdiction over the workers, their families and the properties associated with the reservoir construction. Notwithstanding the inauguration of the New York State Police Troop K Barracks located in Hawthorne, and the absence of any formal agency within the unincorporated area of the Town of Mt. Pleasant, the BWS Police became the primary police agency in the Southern part of Town and it was not unusual for them to respond to miscellaneous and emergency calls from and for other residents of town.
On or about 1917, the Kensico Dam construction concluded and the more stable communities of North White Plains and Valhalla developed in the Towns of North Castle and Mt. Pleasant, respectively. Although diminishing somewhat in size, the BWS Police remained primarily to oversee the property concerns of New York City and by habit continued as a source of public Police protection in the contiguous area of the Town of Mt. Pleasant.
TOWN O MT. PLEASANT SPECIAL PATROLMEN: On or about the 1930's as the BWS Police were phasing out, recollections and some evidence indicate that at least eight men assumed a part time and personal obligation as "Special Patrolmen" to Police the unincorporated area of the Town. Although Town records are unavailable, one may assume such appointments to have been properly sanctioned by elected officials, as an existing personal pistol permit verifies the "Special Policeman" status conferred upon one such officer.
One may also conclude that official appointments occurred to confer necessary authority upon each individual to eliminate the specter of Municipal and/or personal liability associated with the duty performance of the officer. To have done otherwise would have been tantamount to sanctifying a vigilante service.
Obviously the intents of this pioneering group of officers was to influence the elected officials of the Town of Mt. Pleasant as to the need of organizing a bona fide Police department. They were aided in their persuasion by alluding to the Villages of North Tarrytown (renamed Sleepy Hollow in 1997) and Pleasantville, who organized their village Police departments in 1893.
It should be known that the mission and objective of these "Special Patrolmen" was so intent that each used their personal cars and motorcycles to patrol the unincorporated area of the Town of Mt. Pleasant.
This appeared a crude, but nevertheless, positive foundation to the beginning of the Town of Mt. Pleasant Police Department.
Indeed, these "Special Patrolmen" should be recognized within the relative history of the Town of Mt. Pleasant Police Department for their endeavors. In retrospect, it becomes obvious that their persistence, dedication and tenacity eventually convinced the public and the elected officials of a need to formally authorize and organize a Police department. Such members are identified as:
1. Edward J. Rooney
2. Joseph Klaus
3. Mathew Pastell
4. Hubert Robertson 5. George Mosher
6. Edward McCurdy
7. Ollie Van Tassell
8. Eric Stein
9. Herbert Olsen
MT. PLEASANT POLICE DEPARTMENT ORGANIZED IN 1941: The year 1941 brought with it a Town Board Resolution to officially organize the Town of Mt. Pleasant Police Department. It is no coincidence the primary Police telephone number assigned was 769-1941, and it remains so today, secondary to 911. Police Headquarters was established and located in a vacated school building located at 70 Broadway, Hawthorne, New York. This building has since been razed. The Police motorized fleet consisted of one patrol car with no mobile communications. Emergency dispatching occurred through 30 minute telephone communication intervals from the patrol car and/or by displaying a red emergency signal light atop of the headquarters building that was visible to the passing patrol. Optimum emergency arrival times often exceeded 30 minutes. Eight members were appointed as provisional Police officers, subject to civil service certification. One such member, Joseph Klaus was appointed Acting Chief of Police, however, following civil service certification Edward J. Rooney became the first certified Police Chief of the Town of Mt. Pleasant Police Department. Chief Rooney remained in that position until his retirement in 1967. The original Civil Service members of the organized Police Department were...
1. Edward J. Rooney, Chief
2. Eric Stein, Ptlm.
3. Mathew Pastell, Ptlm.
4. Herbert Olsen 5. Author Rooney, Ptlm.
6. William T. Grady
7. ID Pending
8. ID Pending
1951 BANNER YEAR: Following ten years of establishment and a somewhat stable atmosphere of presence, the Department experienced some advancements. The Department grew from eight men to ten men, and from one to two patrol cars. Even more significant was the progression to a "state of the art" two way F.M. mobile communication system. Such advancement enabled the Police to respond more timely in emergencies and gain a more positive image. The Police radio station was licensed as KEC 315 on a frequency on 37.10 Megahertz. This frequency was shared by some surrounding departments and ended an era of Police isolation for Mt. Pleasant Police Department.
RANGE OF DUTIES: Collateral with assigned duties and responses to a range of sporadic criminal calls, patrols assumed a daily obligation of school crossing duties. Such commitment required that the day tour demand more personnel than the balance of tours, particularly that of the midnight 12-8am tour. The 12-8 tour consequently was assigned a single officer. When any calls generated on such a tour requiring Police response, the officer was required to utilize a telephone switching device causing all subsequent calls to be answered by the State Police until such time as the officer returned and restored the switch. Calls received during this time were responded to by the State Police. Non emergency calls were communicated to the officer upon his return to the Headquarters desk.
PRE-MANDATED 40 HOUR WORK WEEK: During this era the work week consisted of a schedule requiring officers to work a maximum of 7 consecutive days before being entitled to 24 consecutive hours off. In a 21 day work cycle involving three eight hour tours, (12-8, 8-4, 4-12) one would have an aggregate of 4 days off. The Town of Mt. Pleasant pay scale for starting patrolmen was in fact the lowest in Westchester County, having escalated in 1951 to $2,700 per annum. Annual incremental raises ranged from slight to none. Note the work schedule and pay scale were the subject of ridicule throughout Westchester County. The absence of the Taylor Law to align realistic pay scales and working conditions fueled officer frustrations and initiated a constant stream of transfers to other Westchester County Town and Village Police Departments. Replacement Candidates would accept employment with the Town of Mt. Pleasant to become certified and quickly transfer to a more lucrative paying department. The quick transition and multiplicity of traversing Police candidates soon earned Mt. Pleasant the title of "Recruit Training Department of Westchester County".
INCREASED PERSONNEL, PROMOTIONS & 40 HOUR WORK WEEK: By 1957 the Police Department complement had gradually increased to 19 members. The increased personnel, along with two immediate sanctioned appointments to the rank of Sergeant, inflated Department optimism. The Town Board appointments were perceived internally as a credibility endorsement of the Police Department and was in direct contrast to what some regarded heretofore as a mundane aquiesence of its existence. Paul J. Oliva and John L. Brophy received provisional civil service appointments to the rank of Sergeant in 1957. On April 1, 1958, within this transition period, the mandatory 40 hour work week became effective. The legislation curtailed existing 56 hour work weeks and did much to increase morale and stem some of the flagrant transfers to other agencies. Comparative pay scales of other Communities within Westchester remained an attraction for those inclined to transfer. In 1959, the Town Board appointed Paul J. Oliva as Lieutenant of Police, with Edward Eichhorn, William Solotaroff and subsequently, Frank Alagno as additional Sergeants. The Police complement escalated to 22 members.
APPOINTMENT OF DETECTIVES - 1963: The acknowledgment of the Police and their necessary interaction with corresponding agencies to deal with increasing incidents of crime requiring pro active investigations, encouraged elected officials to support a proposal to appoint two original detective investigators within the Police Department. Patrolman Anthony Curto and David Wylock were appointed and assigned to perform the duties of Detectives.
TRAFFIC AND SAFETY DIVISION: As the community population was expanding, so increased the public demand for posting highway traffic signs, traffic surveys, signals, controls and warning devices. To meet the demands of such specialized challenges, Patrolman Rocco Verrill was specifically assigned to review and update the entire unincorporated area of the Town of Mt. Pleasant with respect to Traffic and Safety issues. He likewise dealt with proposals and suggestions from the public for their legal validity. Traffic ordinance proposals regarding speed and traffic controls were surveyed and drafted when warranted. It was necessary that each legal proposal be consistent with the New York State Uniform Traffic Control Manual. As time progressed, the division took on the added responsibility of annually painting roadway safety barriers and parking stalls, as well as installing and maintaining street light fixtures. This division is now operational with four civilian personnel and remains under the direct responsibility of the Police Department.
PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS LEGISLATION - TAYLOR LAW 1968: 1968 ushered in the implementation of the Taylor Law requiring mandatory negotiations for terms and conditions of Public Employment. Coincidentally, the timing also greeted the retirement of Chief Edward J. Rooney and the promotion of Paul J. Oliva as his replacement.
TOWN HALL FACILITY: In and around 1973, elected officials were informally discussing options surrounding the construction of a Town Hall facility. Unhappy with a dissected community that housed a Town Board meeting facility it North Tarrytown, a Highway garage and office facility in Thornwood, and an obsolete and inadequate Court and Police building in Hawthorne, the Town Board embarked on a program to immediately rent a facility to coordinate a consolidation of offices and responsibilities that were more convenient to residents. Minor building ensued at the Highway Department to house some offices, which were designated to be used later as highway garage facilities. Simultaneously, an interim facility was rented at 200 Saw Mill River Road, Hawthorne, to house the Police, Court, and Town Board Meeting Room.
In January 17, 1976, a ground breaking ceremony occurred at Town Hall Plaza, Valhalla, NY, for the new Town Hall. On March 22, 1978, the Police and Court facilities occupied the Town Hall. Soon thereafter, all other Departments occupied the building.
The advent of the Town Hall and "state of the art" Police Headquarters facility sustained the morale and motivational spirit within the Police Department. The elected officials were both supportive and eager to consider bona-fide proposals to provide appropriate manpower, pay scales, benefits, education, and equipment for the Police to perform more efficiently and to become a sense of pride within the community. There was a regulated growth of Police and civilian personnel which stabilized during this period at 42 Police officers.
Chief Paul J. Oliva retired April, 1992. Chief Anthony Provenzano assumed the position of Police Chief, retiring in July, 1996. Sergeant Russell Beckley was appointed to replace him effective July, 1996, and currently remains in that post today.