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State police celebrate centennial

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    Daniel Zuckerman/Columbia-Greene Media Visitors taking a peek inside a state police helicopter at Troop K headquarters in Salt Point.
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    Daniel Zuckerman/Columbia-Greene Media Old state police vehicles on display at state police’s Troop K headquarters in Salt Point.
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    Daniel Zuckerman/Columbia-Greene Media A state police trooper flips a car around to demonstrate how dangerous it is not to wear a seat belt.
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    Daniel Zuckerman/Columbia-Greene Media State police troopers on horseback kicking around giant soccer balls at Troop K headquarters in Salt Point.
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    Daniel Zuckerman/Columbia-Greene Media Visitors to the state police 100th anniversary open house had the chance to pet some of the agency’s horses.
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    Daniel Zuckerman/Columbia-Greene Media A demonstration of how state police scuba dive teams operate.
July 17, 2017 12:30 am

SALT POINT — New York State Police celebrated its 100th birthday Sunday at the Troop K headquarters in Salt Point with demonstrations of various tactics the officers use, and artifacts and vehicles on display to help tell its history.

The open house was initially going to be held Saturday, but was rescheduled due to the funeral of Trooper Joel R. Davis, who died while investigating a domestic dispute in Theresa, State Police Troop K Zone One Commander Michael A. Jankowiak said. The open house was held in honor of Davis and state police members, including those from Troop K, attended his funeral, Jankowiak said.

“He made that ultimate sacrifice,” Jankowiak said of Davis. “We’re all devastated.”

Planning for the open house started over a year ago, and in April state police members kicked off the celebrations at Camp Newayo near Syracuse, where the original 232 troopers began training in 1917, Jankowiak, who works out of the Livingston barracks said.

“Since then, this is the 10th open house event going on across the state and there’s still several more to do,” Jankowiak said.

Columbia County was initially part of Troop G, which covered the Adirondack Region to the Capital Region, Jankowiak said. Troop A covered the western part of the state, Troop D covered Syracuse and the central part of the state, and Troop K covered the Hudson Valley and Long Island, Jankowiak said. In 1968, the troops were realigned and Columbia County became part of Troop K, while Troop F was created for Greene, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan and Ulster counties.

“Demographics play into it — back then, the population was far more sparse and we did our patrolling on horseback,” Jankowiak said.

State police often work with the Hudson Police Department, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and all of the other police departments on major crimes, Jankowiak said. Jankowiak and his fellow police officers at those agencies have been happy to work together, he noted.

“The public needs to know that when you call 911 or call for a police agency, it’s a collected effort,” Jankowiak said. “It’s not a territorial situation — we’re all out there to share resources.”

One of the goals of the open house was for state police to meet with the public and help to break negative misconceptions in people’s minds about police officers, Jankowiak said.

“They equate the presence of a uniformed police officer as somebody’s in trouble, somebody did something wrong,” Jankowiak said. “If you want to come up and talk with a trooper, just walk up, introduce yourself, tell him who you are.”

People were amazed by the type of equipment on display, like scuba diving gear with a side-scan sonar, which troopers use to retrieve evidence or people underwater.

“Many of the people here were amazed, I could tell by the look on their faces,” Jankowiak said. “A regular trooper who also writes tickets and goes out to answer noise complaints on a daily basis also doubles in duty by doing a scuba dive and flying the aircraft.”

Jankowiak has been with state police for 27 years and helped to celebrate its 75th anniversary. State police is entering a new era where technology-related crimes and counterterrorism are more rampant, according to Jankowiak.

“I’m very happy to pass this legacy on to the new troopers,” he added. “The next 100 years is critical — we’ve got things turning to computer crimes, white collar crimes, things like that.”

Jeffrey King, of Carmel, heard about the event through his father, who is a retired trooper for Troop K. King himself served 20 years as an officer for the police department in New York, he said.

“It’s a family business,” King said.

King and his children enjoyed seeing the state police helicopter on display and troopers on horseback kicking giant soccer balls, he said.

“Just looking at the old photos — everything is nice,” King said.

Kathy-Lynn Enright, of Stanfordville, enjoyed the demonstrations, particularly one where troopers promoted fastening seat belts when getting into a car, she said.

“They open it up as young as preschool,” Enright said of the demonstration.

Enright finds there is more anti-law enforcement rhetoric now and hopes the open house will make people more aware of the troopers’ work and kindness, she said. There should be more open houses like the one held Sunday, Enright said.

“I hope they give more credit to law enforcement,” she pointed out. “If they [state police] would get the community involved, I think that would be wonderful.”

Paul Walther, of Putnam Valley, enjoyed seeing the police dogs and horses, and seeing the state police helicopter take off. Walther also was surprised to see all of the history and artifacts about the state police on display.

“It was very well orchestrated,” Walther said. “You wouldn’t think they [state police] have this much to display.”

Walther would definitely come to another state police open house and likes how the public gets a chance to speak with troopers.

“I think it’s great they have the law enforcement interact with the public on a more regular basis,” Walther said.

To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.