On the 22nd day of April, 1831, the Village of Seneca Falls was established and incorporated into New York State. Following the village’s incorporation, an election was held where five individuals were elected to the position of Trustee. These Trustees were to meet ten days after the election for an appointment of one of their members to be the President of the Board of Trustees. At that meeting, Ansel Bascom was named as President of the Village of Seneca Falls. Though no provision was made to establish police protection within the village limits, the President held many responsibilities and duties as part of his office.
As part of the duties of President of the Village of Seneca Falls, the President could hear and receive complaints and take such action as he deemed necessary to ensure that all laws were faithfully enforced throughout the Village of Seneca Falls. In 1837, that all changed when the Board of Trustees granted a new Charter for the Village of Seneca Falls. It called for an election of a Police Constable and the appointment of watchmen to protect the Village of Seneca Falls. The charter also described the powers and duties of the Police Constable and watchmen, marking the first visible effort to organize a law enforcement department and presence within the Village of Seneca Falls limits.
On the 19th day of July, 1837 the following resolution was adopted by the Board of Trustees: “It shall be the duties of the Police Constable to take care that all the Ordinances of the Board of Trustees are faithfully executed and to report to the Board of Trustees or to the President all such violations of the Ordinance and by-laws of the Village as shall from this time and time to come to his knowledge.” This resolution and charter remained in effect until it was revised in 1860.
The revision called for the Board of Trustees to have the authority to appoint two police constables, and to erect and maintain a village prison, also known as the lock-up, for the temporary detention of all individuals charged with a crime within the Village of Seneca Falls limits. Also a change in the charter gave the police constables the power to enforce all Ordinances of the Village of Seneca Falls under the direction of the President of the Board, who was the first Chief of Police.
For several years, the lock-up was located at the rear of the number three firehouse on E. Bayard Street and remained there until 1931, when another change in the Charter of the Village of Seneca Falls was made. In 1931, the Village of Seneca Falls purchased the old Ford garage, which is located at 136 Fall Street. The purchase established a new village hall, which housed the police department on the second floor and a new village lock-up, which existed until 1985.
The Charter of the Village of Seneca Falls was again amended on December 2nd, 1901 at a meeting with the Board of Trustees. The amendment to the charter meant that village law would be part of the incorporation of the Village of Seneca Falls and that a standard police department and police justice form of law enforcement would now be part of the village government. On March 24, 1902 the Board of Trustees appointed four full-time police officers, one being a patrolman by the name of Patrick McKeon.
On December 12, 1902 our community was saddened by the death of Patrolman McKeon who, while on patrol on the main street, was electrocuted. To this day, he is the only officer of the Seneca Falls Police Department to lose his life in the line of duty. Patrolman Patrick McKeon’s name appears on the Police Memorial in Albany and also on the Police Memorial in Washington, D.C.
In 1985, the Village of Seneca Falls Board of Trustees, along with the Mayor, purchased the property at 60 State Street, a purchase that established yet another new village hall location. The village hall remained at that location until the village dissolved in December of 2011. The Seneca Falls Police Department was also re-located to that address, with its entrance being at the rear of the building near the main parking lot.
On March 16, 2010, residents of the Village of Seneca Falls voted to dissolve the village, effective January 1, 2012. Dissolution meant that all village services, including the Village of Seneca Falls Police Department, would cease in the former Village of Seneca Falls limits. All services previously provided by the former village government would now be provided by the Town of Seneca Falls government and overseen by the Seneca Falls Town Board. In 2011, the Seneca Falls Town Board approved the establishment of a new Town of Seneca Falls Police Department, to take effect at the stroke of midnight on January 1st, 2012.
With the change meant that employees of the former Village of Seneca Falls Police Department would now become employees of the Town of Seneca Falls Police Department and would remained housed at the former village police department address at 60 State Street. On December 31, 2011 all members of the Village of Seneca Falls Police Department were sworn in as employees for the Town of Seneca Falls Police Department.
The Town of Seneca Falls Police Department is a 24-hours-a-day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year department. The Town of Seneca Falls Police Department also has an administrative and complaint desk that is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday thru Friday. The Town of Seneca Falls Police Department is currently comprised of a chief of police, two sergeant investigators, 10 full-time officers, 5 part-time officers, and 2 records clerks. The current chief of police is Stuart W. Peenstra. Under the supervision of the chief of police and the Seneca Falls Police Department are four school crossing guards, who report directly back to the department.