New Year’s Day is Inauguration Day in Ossining. By charter, elected village officials begin their term at noon on January 1. For the first time the inauguration was held at the Budarz Theater in the Ossining Library—a perfect location for this community event, which included the installation of eleven elected officials and one chief of police.
The Village Board welcomed a new member, Trustee Quantel Bazemore. I had the honor of swearing him in. Quantel and I began our political friendship nearly three years ago, soon after I became trustee. We spent many afternoons walking along Spring and State Streets discussing concerns of housing and village government. Quantel and I have always enjoyed spirited exchanges about issues that matter. I expect we will continue to challenge each other’s ideas, and the village will be the better for it.
The installation of Kevin Sylvester as the new Chief of the Ossining Police Department was a highlight of the day. I remained fairly composed as I delivered my remarks. But if you watch the video, the tears you see me holding back are a reflection of great admiration for Chief Sylvester and his service to his department and our community. Here are my written remarks, mostly how they were delivered.
It is my great honor today, to say a few words about Chief Kevin Sylvester.
Police work is in part about enforcing laws—traffic laws, criminal laws. It’s about having expertly trained officers who know how to respond in a crisis.
Police work is also about preventing crime. At a time in our nation when so often the narrative about police departments is tinged with frustrations and fear, the Ossining Police Department stands out as being approachable and engaged with the whole community.
As the new Chief of the Ossining Police Department, Kevin Sylvester excels in his leadership in both of these critical capacities.
If you have thrown a softball in the “Dunk a Cop” booth at the village fair, attended a summer “Movie in the Park”, or “liked” a very funny FB post on the Ossining Police Department page, you have been part of Kevin Sylvester’s dedication to community outreach.
This Board of Trustees is united in our respect for the incoming Chief Sylvester and our shared vision for how the Ossining Police Department serves our community. The Village Board of Trustees also serves as the Board of Police Commissioners.
During my time as Mayor I’ve had the great honor of serving with Chief Joseph Burton, Ossining’s longest serving police chief. As Chief, Joseph Burton established community policing as the foundation for all police work. In case you missed the news this week, Chief Burton Way is now the name of the stretch of Spring Street that extends from Academy Place to Main. He walked those blocks thousands of times, because as he has said, “That’s what the whole job is, to go out there and meet and communicate with people.” Thank you Joseph Burton for all that you have given to Ossining.
(This statement about Chief Burton was interrupted twice by applause, before the final standing ovation for the outgoing Chief.)
And now we look to the future of the Ossining Police Department.
Kevin Sylvester has earned the respect of the men and women of this department. Members from every division and level in the chain of command, have spoken with me about their admiration for their incoming chief and their optimism for the future of the department he will now lead.
We know that Chief Sylvester understands the law—heck he has his Juris Doctor from Pace Law School. But beyond that, he respects the legal process from the moment of enforcement, as well as being able to see the big picture of how a case may unfold.
Kevin Sylvester knows if he calls me with an update on a situation, he is fostering a mutual trust. One that I honor, by not inserting myself into ongoing investigations or attempting to impose my ideas of how police work should be done.
Chief Sylvester also understands Ossining—he was raised here. In fact, his parents live in the house his grandfather built (which is a very funny story. Ask Kevin’s dad Skip to tell you about it.) And now Kevin and his wife Mimi are raising their family here. Three-year-old Henry will probably be up here with his dad in a moment. And you’ll see that soon Henry will be a big brother.
It is no small decision to take on the role of police chief, and serve the community you love—and in doing so you are asking your family to accept that once again you may not be home for dinner, and when you are home you may not be able to tell them about your day, and sometimes you may be the target of criticism by neighbors or even friends.
The burden you are taking on is great. And yet, when the Board spoke with you about your interest in this position you told us it is the job of a lifetime. And for all that you bring to this job—your intellect, your dedication to your department and your community, and for the tremendous sacrifice you generously offer to Ossining, you have the admiration, gratitude and prayers of this Board of Police Commissioners, of the department you lead, and this community you serve.