By LIZ BUTTON
Interim City Manager Frank Culross has brought back former Rye Police Commissioner Bill Pease to return to the role, replacing Lt. Robert Falk.
Culross announced Monday that effective June 23, Pease will leave retirement to take on the role of Rye’s “transitional police commissioner.”
So far, Culross has not specified a probable length for what he called “this transitional period in the City of Rye’s governmental administration.”
“We are not currently recruiting another commissioner, but I anticipate we will be looking for one at some point,” Culross said. “At this point, I am not actively looking for somebody a year from now or six months from now. Bill will be police commissioner for the immediate future.”
Pease, who served as Rye police commissioner from March 1993 to December 1999, will rejoin city staff at an annual salary of $147,144. Although it is unlikely Pease will remain Rye’s commissioner for the next 15 or 20 years, Culross said, at the same time, he should not be viewed as an interim placeholder, as Falk was meant to be.
Falk will continue on as commanding officer of the patrol division after he leaves his post as interim commissioner, in which he has worked in a dual capacity since William Connors resigned in January.
Connors served as Rye’s commissioner beginning in 2001.
Culross, who met Pease when he became city manager for the first time in 1978 and Pease was a Rye police sergeant, said he felt it was important to shore up and strengthen the sworn leadership of the department. He also felt it was appropriate to seek out someone who could not experience any conflicts of interest when it came to labor relations with the city.
“Basically, the command ranks in our police department are pretty thin. We’re a small department, and all members of the department, including Lt. Falk, are members of the bargaining unit,” Culross said. “It was important to have a person who is not a member of the bargaining unit, someone who would look at it from an overall perspective.”
Since Culross was appointed interim city manager in April, replacing former City Manager Scott Pickup, the thinness of the police department’s ranks has only grown more pronounced.
After Lt. Jeffrey Reichert retired earlier this month, Falk became the only one of the department’s three lieutenants who was actually still at work. Reichert had been assisting Falk with additional commissioner duties, like payroll and other administrative tasks; both received a stipend for their added responsibilities.
Another high-ranking officer, Lt. Joseph Verille, who had served as detective commander, has been out on disability leave for the past two years, so the department’s supervisory management staff was essentially down to bare bones, with Falk acting as commissioner and patrol commander simultaneously.
“I was looking for a way to strengthen that and bring some additional experience in,” Culross said. He said he was pleased when he learned Pease was available.
“Bill [Pease] is a person who clearly knows the Rye Police Department. He was a career police officer, and he served as our second permanent police commissioner,” Culross said. Anthony Schembri served as the city’s first police commissioner.
Republican Mayor Joe Sack said appointing Pease for a finite transitional period was a city manager decision, and not the province of the city council.
“I don’t really know much about Mr. Pease,” Sack said “But the city manager indicated that this is who he wanted and needed to work with.”
Before Culross himself appointed Pease as Rye’s commissioner in 1993, Pease was a sworn member of the police department for more than 20 years prior to being appointed police commissioner.
After Pease retired in 1999, he worked from 2000 until 2012 as a director of security and safety services for a Florida property management company.
Pease, who now lives in Peekskill, has a masters degree in public administration from Pace University and a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice/behavioral sciences from the New York
Institute of Technology. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and several other public safety training programs.
Pease could not be reached for comment as of press time.