New Police Chief Ron Petrie poses at his desk on his first day on the job.
by Dave Warner
Ron Petrie woke last Wednesday morning and realized he was now the Chief of Police for Little Falls after the previous evening’s ceremony during the Common Council Meeting. Family, friends, and fellow police officers had all attended, watching as his wife Lisa pinned the new badge on his shirt.
However, now the job is real as Petrie sits behind the desk and takes the reins of a department that has had only eleven chiefs before him in its entire history. For him though, it has been something he has been thinking of almost his entire life.
“I grew up in Little Falls, and my father was Justice of the Peace in the Town of Danube. So growing up, we had troopers in the room off of our living room that we still refer to as ‘the office’. That’s where my father held court. Growing up, the troopers would stop at the house and have coffee with my mother and wait for my father,” said Petrie.
Seeing all the troopers and the uniforms around the house, left a lasting impression on Chief Petrie and his oldest brother, who just retired out of Saratoga County as a police officer.
Petrie’s other brother Mike, went to the State Police as well but passed away last year from cancer.
He said “I don’t know if it was the cars or the uniforms. Back in the ’60s, all the troopers had to be over 6 feet tall. When they came for arraignments at the house they had to have their Stetsons on and they looked like giants to me. I was a five-year-old kid.”
At eight or nine though, it became common-place. “A troop car would be in the driveway and we’d still play kickball in the yard and it was an automatic home run to hit that troop car. I remember one day that the ball actually went through the window and into the car and nobody would go to get it. That was the end of the game.”
Petrie started police work part-time in Mohawk, then went to Dolgeville part-time and the Sheriff’s Office, but Dolgeville gave him his first full-time gig. “Within a year, I had transferred down here. It was November 12, 1999, that I transferred to Little Falls,” he said.
He remained an officer in the Little Falls PD until August of 2010 when he got sworn in as the Chief of Police in Frankfort.
Petrie returned to Little Falls as the Assistant Chief in January of 2018. “Chief Massi said this is the road I’m traveling at this point and he was looking for someone that was capable of taking over, so for the last year, that was the road that we both traveled together,” stated Petrie.
Coming back to Little Falls last year, most of the changes that Petrie noticed were internal ones. “Being a smaller agency, we’re kind of a training ground for the bigger agencies. I was gone eight short years, but there was only one guy on the force that I had worked with eight years prior. Other than Sgt Dibble, it was a complete turnover of the agency,” he said.
Petrie had the same issue in Frankfort during the time that he was there. “I bet we recycled officers four or five times.”
Having that much turnover is kind of a double-edged sword for Petrie. “I was always thankful to see people progress in their career – to move on to something bigger that they wanted. On the flip side of that is the cost to the community. Training and hiring, but it’s the cost of doing business.”
However, the community then gets to hire young eager officers. “They’re not sick or injured and they can’t wait to come to work and hit the road,” said Petrie. “It’s not a bad thing to get that new blood.”
Petrie thinks that having the Police Academy in Little Falls is important as well. “In order to instruct it, you have to learn it, so we’re always right on top of everything. The newest ways of doing everything, the latest training, we always have it. We’re ready to teach other people what to do and how to do it.”
Petrie thinks that there should be a consistent academy presence. “We just graduated one, but the one prior to that was almost seven years ago and the one prior to that, was a few years as well. It has been kind of sporadic. I’d like to get into a routine so that local agencies know that this academy is coming up and they know when they can hire when they can train, and what the cost is.”
“Our academy being in a community like this and being tight-knit…I think we provide some of the best candidates these agencies are looking for. Internally, it’s something I want to take advantage of,” he said.
Department wise, Petrie would like to see more community involvement – more getting out. “I know that at night we check doors, but having a bike patrol, having someone walk the street. To just walk Main Street and say hi to people and businesses and have a quick chat…you see that the business owners are happy for that.”
Petrie says that Chief Masi had things pretty well set and that there won’t be a lot of changes as far as policies are concerned. “Those are nationally recognized policies and I’m not going to change them. We’re going to try and stay on the cutting edge and update some equipment.”
“Everybody talks about our police cars. They look great, but one of them has almost 200,000 miles on it,” says Petrie. “Toys are great, but for me, getting the guys to have conversations and community evolvement and talking to people. That’s what’s important to me.”
Petrie went on to lament about social media, texting, and not having those conversations between everyone. “On a Friday or Saturday night, I wanted to be downtown with a group of kids in front of Ed’s Pizza hanging out and having a conversation about what happened or what’s going to happen. Now, the kids feel like they’ve hung out with everyone because they’re in a group message.”
“To me, that’s not great communication. The face to face interaction is a priority for me,” he said. “Before when we got a call for a disagreement between two neighbors, they had already tried to talk it out. Now, that’s not the case. They just call the police.”
“I want people to not fear to come to the police or not be afraid to call us and ask a question or talk,” said Petrie.