The History of the Town of Camillus Police Department
Reprinted from the book “A History of the Town of Camillus”
with permission of Ralph H. Sims
Police department history is very interesting. In the very early days of town history, most hamlets and villages had a constable to deal with police problems. Later, with the expansion of the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department and the New York State Police, many calls were handled by these agencies. They still help with special problems in the Towns.
In 1948, The Village hired Frank Pugh of Warners as the first official police officer. His duties were later expanded to include the Town of Camillus, which he patrolled in his own vehicle. In 1960, he left for a position in the Sheriff’s Department and was succeeded by Tom McGraw. A part-time officer, Matt Sitnik was appointed at the time to work under McGraw. In 1962, the town purchased its first patrol vehicle. On January 1, 1963, Donald O’Hara succeeded McGraw who left to work for the State Department of Motor Vehicles. Matt Sitnik left his police post later in 1963.
On July 7, 1965, Camillus town board members, Dan Walter and Frank Tigh, presented a resolution based on article 10, section 150 of the New York State Town Law, calling for the creation of a police department for the Town of Camillus. Donald O’Hara was appointed Acting Chief with Frank Legg as a special Village Patrolman. Later O’Hara was appointed as Chief.
In 1972, Chief Donald O’Hara resigned. To fill the vacancy, Sargent Larry Fleming ran the department for a few months until a new chief could be appointed. That same year Robert Powers was made Chief, a position he held until 1978. At that time, Larry Fleming was made Chief and held that position until 1993. In 1993, Earl Macholl was appointed Chief. In 1995, Chief Macholl stepped down and Lloyd Perkins was appointed Chief. In 2005, Chief Perkins retired and Thomas Winn was appointed Chief.
The department has come a long way since its creation in 1965. At that time, Chief O’Hara worked out of his home with a desk provided in the village garage. In 1969 the police department moved into the former Fairmount grade school that earlier had been the first home of the Fairmount Fire Department. Then the department operated with just two patrolmen. Around 1983 – 1984, the Camillus Police Department moved into their present location in the Camillus Municipal Building. As of now, the department has 25 members.
Chief Perkins had made a special effort to improve the Police Department’s image. Through talks to schools and civic groups by the Chief and his officers, Town citizens now have a better understanding of the role and function of the Department. A classic example is the patrol car that is parked randomly on Town streets, with a large illuminated meter on top telling drivers their speed as they approach. The message is, “we are not here to harass you, but to help you be aware of how fast you are driving and, if appropriate, adjust your speed!” In 1998-1999, Chief Perkins and his officers donated hundreds of hours of their time to remodeling Police Department facilities to improve operating efficiency and save the taxpayers quite a bit of money.
Chief Winn continues the Department’s efforts in making contacts with town residents and civic organizations, improving traffic safety and crime detection and solving of those crimes.