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Brief History | NRPD Mission Statement

THE NEW ROCHELLE POLICE DEPARTMENT
(A Brief History)


The Town of New Rochelle established its first professional police department in the Spring of 1885. Up until that time, for almost two centuries, the community had employed constables to provide law enforcement services. The constable-magistrate system, inherited from America's British ancestry, had been the traditional and almost universal system of law enforcement in the United States up until the middle of the nineteenth century. During the nineteenth century population growth and increased mobility gradually diminished the effectiveness of this personal, relatively informal, and less organized system. Towards the middle of the century larger American cities began establishing professional police organizations to administer their law enforcement services, and by the end of the century smaller communities like New Rochelle joined the trend.

Modeled after the New York City Police Department in substance and structure, the original New Rochelle Police Department consisted of four officers; a Captain, William Conklin, to command the department, and three "roundsmen", Thomas Ford, Edward Kelly and William Stouter, to provide uniformed protective patrol and other police services.

In 1896 Edward J. Timmons replaced Conklin as Captain and commander of the Department. Timmons would command the Department for the next twenty-four years and lead the department through what was probably the period of its most dramatic change and growth. In 1899 New Rochelle incorporated as a City, and Timmons became the Department's first Chief of Police. That same year Timmons introduced bicycles, a mounted patrol and a horse drawn wagon to increase the department's mobility. In 1908 he introduced motorcycles to contend with new police problems created by the automobile. And, in 1914 the Department commissioned its own first automobile, a second hand Cadillac. By the time Chief Timmons retired in 1920 the New Rochelle Police Department had grown from a small cadre of four officers with little more substance than the old constables to a full service Police Department with its own Headquarters, automobiles, motorcycles and eighty men.

The Department would continue to grow through the twentieth century, and was for a short period during the early 1930's divided into two precincts. The Second Precinct, however, had been something of a political football from the start; and, after the installation of a new communications system in 1935, it was abandoned and sold. By the 1950's the Department had grown to over 150 men, and outgrown its old Headquarters on Lawton St. To accommodate the need for more space a new Headquarters was built at 90 Beaufort Pl. attatched to the new City Hall.

The New Rochelle Police Department now employs over 250 personnel with 186 sworn police officers and features the latest development in law enforcement services including community oriented policing. The Department currently responds to close to 50,000 calls for service, investigates over 2,000 Part 1 crimes, and processes 3,000 arrests every year. In its history it has responded to and managed literally millions of police functions and events from simple traffic control business to standoffs with barricaded gunmen and multiple homicides.

Its most noteworthy events involve great effort and accomplishment; but, as many, if not most, noteworthy events in police service, effort and accomplishment born of and overshadowed by tragedy. On the afternoon of February 24, 1938 a twelve year old schoolboy, Peter Levine, disappeared on his way home from school.By evening his parents had been contacted by kidnappers demanding ransom for his safe return. New Rochelle Police Detectives and agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation commenced a search and investigation that attracted worldwide attention. Their exhaustive efforts were largely unsuccessful, however. The body of Peter Levine washed ashore on a New Rochelle beach on May 29, 1938 badly decomposed and missing head , feet and hands; and, although the investigators were able to develop several strong suspects, no one was ever charged with kidnapping or murder. Two suspects, Werner Fred Luck and Edward John Penn, were ultimately charged with and convicted of attempted extortion.

In another, even more tragic event, on the morning of Valentines Day 1977, a disgruntled employee at the Neptune Movers on Weyman Avenue returned to work after a two week suspension and went on a shooting rampage. Within seconds he had killed four and wounded two fellow employees, Heavily armed, Frederick Cowan, then took up a position to await responding police units. Police Officer Allen McLeod was shot and killed as he exited his police vehicle in the company parking lot, and three officers were wounded as they attempted to assist him. A standoff that lasted into the late afternoon concluded when an assault team located Cowan's body in an office where he had apparently committed suicide.

The New Rochelle Police Department has endured its share of tragedy, setbacks, criticism and other difficulties, but it is emerging today as one of the more progressive Departments in the region. On June 2, 1993 the Department was certified as an accredited agency by the New York State Law Enforcement Accreditation Council. On May 9 the department introduced community oriented policing in its own PACT (police and community together) program. The Department has also reorganized a number of its other units and functions for more efficient performance, embarked on an aggressive computerization program, taken over the city's harbor patrol, established a new bicycle patrol and begun research and development on a number of other progressive projects. Attitude is positive and morale is high as the Department and its members look forward to providing the best and most efficient service possible to the community.

 

© New Rochelle Police Department 2006