Notes by the wife of a rural policeman

Notes by the wife of a Rural Policeman
By Ethel G. Smith
Jake and Smitty in front of the Twin Deer Restaurant in Coram. Their precinct was steps east of the dark building.

Brookhaven Town 3rd Precinct police booth. The house was on Middle Country Road, later the entrance to the Coram Drive In. Constable car next to the building.

This is a brief story of the duties of a rural policeman as seen by his wife. My husband Alvin R.L. Smith was appointed Special Constable of the Town of Brookhaven for the purpose of controlling traffic and answering all complaints pertaining to police work. Judge (Justice of the Peace) William Court offered my husband the appointment providing we move to the middle of the town. We were living at the time at Bluepoint and my husband was then employed in the tool room of Justice Roe & sons of Patchogue.
Before my husband a man named Bruce Baker served in the capacity of motorcycle officer. He was seriously injured in an accident and my husband was to be appointed to fill the vacancy. After much consideration we decided to take the offer. The appointment was approved on Nov. 8, 1930 and we moved to Centereach, a small community then with a population of 198 and a two-room school.
The house we rented from Mr. E. Emery on the north side of the Middle Country Road was anything but modern. There was a pitcher pump in the kitchen for the water supply and there was a privy in the backyard. The house was shared with the farm hands who occupied the rooms of the upper floor. Despite this we managed fairly well.
The duties of my husband called for being subject to call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. My duties were to receive calls at home and relay them to certain pickups where he patrolled. At the time the telephone operator located in Ronkonkoma knew about everyone and she would pick up calls and co-operate in relaying them.
The Middle Country Road was then a two-lane concrete road. The territory to be covered was from the Smithtown line eastto the Riverhead line, a distance of about 16 miles. In which a distance of about 5 miles from the main line of the Long Island Railroad north for about 5 miles.
The state built certain main roads, but left the control up to the counties and towns. The responsibility of any markings on the road was up to the town also placing and maintenance of the traffic lights was a duty placed upon my husband. At the time there were only two traffic lights in the center section of town. One at Middle Country Road and Hawkins Avenue in Lake Grove. The other in Lake Ronkonkoma at Portion Road and Ronkonkoma Avenue. Later one was place on Middle Country Road and Rocky Point Road in Middle Island.
The traffic became heavier for the two-lane road especially on weekends, so in 1931 the state began adding a third lane to Middle Country Road. All summons issued were made returnable before one of the two Justices of the Peace, Justice Marchant in Yaphank or Justice William Court in Lake Grove in his part time garage and part time feed storage building.
As time passed, Alvin became acquainted with most everyone within his territory on a first name basis. The name Alvin didn’t seem to fit and he was called “Smitty”, then, Smitty the cop” by which he was known through the town.
By 1937 the force of special constables had grown to nine men and the town fathers made up of eight justices of the Peace and the Supervisor to for s police force. They added seven more men to the existing force, with Edward N. Bridge of Patchogue in charge as Chief., four precincts were started in Patchogue, Center Moriches, Port Jefferson and Coram for the center of town. Alvin was made Sergeant in charge of the Coram precinct with three other men.
They started the first year doing twelve-hour shifts, which were long hours, but a relief from the subject of being called for 24 hours. The police force kept expanding and Alvin was appointed acting Lieutenant in 1946 and made Lieutenant by Civil Service in 1949, by the first police civil service tests given in Suffolk County. By 1951 the force was legally made a department with 51 members. In 1955 a traffic division was formed with Alvin in charge in which capacity he served as Acting Captain until 1960 and his transfer to the County Police.
The police department gradually progressed until Nov. 1959 when the people believing that something bigger must be better, voted their police department to be consolidated with other departments in the western part of this county into a county police department. The Brookhaven Town Police department at the time expanded to 120 men being well organized with Divisions of Detectives, Traffic, Marine and Juvenile aid and was considered one of the best organized departments in New York State.
On January 1, 1960 the Brookhaven Town Police was absorbed into the Suffolk County Police. Alvin with other Acting Captains were reduced to the rank of Lieutenant. He served in charge of Traffic engineering until Sept. 14, 1960 after 30 years of service, “Smitty the Cop” retired.
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