Village decides not to reappoint police commissioner

Charles Gennario: 'I am not ready to retire'


The village is searching for a new police commissioner after deciding not to reappoint Charles Gennario, who has served four consecutive two-year terms in the position.

Gennario’s most recent appointment will expire on March 31, according to Rockville Centre spokeswoman Julie Scully, and both the commissioner and the village are “looking at all options,” she said last week. Gennario, 63, had an annual salary of $213,661 last year.

“The commissioner has indicated in the past that he was contemplating retirement,” Mayor Francis X. Murray said in a statement. “This administration is looking at its options to appoint a highly qualified candidate that wants to lead the men and women of our Police Department, bring a fresh approach to law enforcement and serve the law-abiding residents and businesses in our Village.”

But Gennario, 63, told the Herald that he considered retiring at 65. “I leave with a heavy heart,” he said in a phone interview on Feb. 22. “I was hoping to stay another few years.”

He added that if the right job offer came along from another department, he would “jump on it.”

“I wasn’t done with policing. I love the policing profession,” he said. “I am not ready to retire.”

Gennario, who grew up in Massapequa Park, joined the Rockville Centre Police Department in 1986, after serving in the Marine Corps for four years, from 1979 to 1983. He spent 12 years as an officer in the department, seven years as a sergeant and five years as a lieutenant before being appointed as the village’s police commissioner.

“I’ve had a great run here,” he said. “I love this department. I love this village. I always looked at this village as my own.”

Gennario said he has taken pride in keeping residents safe during his eight-year tenure. In the first quarter of 2017, he announced to the village board of trustees that crime was at an all-time low. This year, Rockville Centre ranked No. 44 on the National Council for Home Safety and Security’s list of “The Safest Cities in New York 2018,” with violent and property crime rates at 1.03 and 9.25 per 1,000 inhabitants, respectively.

He said that his greatest accomplishment, however, may have been securing some of the most talented officers for the village force. “I’m proud of the people that we have hired,” Gennario said. “I think that we have some of the finest people in this Police Department.”

Scully said that the village began posting an advertisement seeking a new commissioner on Newsday’s website on Jan. 19, and had conducted interviews since then. Members of the Police Department are being considered, she noted, as well as outside candidates. Scully added in an email on Monday that more details “would be premature to discuss while no decisions have been made.”

Gennario said he was not given a reason for why he was not reappointed, and that he did not see it coming.

“I realize that I’m responsible for everything my organization and my department does and fails to do; that’s a basic tenet of leadership,” he said. “The mayor and the board of trustees are responsible to the residents to make sure they receive the best possible police services. . . . If they perceive a failure, it’s not only their right, but their obligation, to make changes.”

The department recently endured a two-week trial, which ended last month in the acquittal of Officer Anthony Federico, who was accused of police brutality during an arrest outside a South Park Avenue bar in 2016. And on Feb. 10, Officer Christopher Stafford was arrested for allegedly secretly recording a woman during a sexual encounter in his bedroom.

Stafford’s arrest came after the village made its decision on Gennario, and Gennario said that the village had been very supportive of Federico since he was indicted last March.

James Carty, president of the Rockville Centre Police Benevolent Association, said he did not believe the allegations against Federico spurred the village’s decision. He said the PBA was “saddened” by the news, and that Gennario was dedicated and “did a hard job well.” He added, however, that he and Gennario did not always see eye to eye on issues such as working conditions and employee benefits.

Carty told the Herald that he thought Glenn Quinn, the department’s inspector, might be a candidate for the commissioner’s job. “I just hope that whoever it is, it’s a commissioner that I can reason with and talk to,” he said.

Gennario stepped down as president of the Nassau County Municipal Police Chiefs Association around the time of the January ad, after finding out he would not be reappointed.

Garden City Police Commissioner Kenneth Jackson, who has since stepped in as the association’s president, said he was saddened to hear that Gennario would be leaving the police service, noting that he was instrumental in “fostering a spirit of cooperation, coordination and cohesiveness with all the village police departments.”

“He was able to bring all our partners in law enforcement together so we can work together on many common themes like terrorism and intelligence policing,” Jackson said.

“He’s very well thought of in law enforcement circles,” said Miguel Bermudez, Freeport’s chief of police, who has known Gennario since the two started policing 32 years ago. “The news was very disappointing.”

Michael Tangney, commissioner of the Long Beach Police Department, said he found out the village was ending Gennario’s tenure when one of his lieutenants saw the job posting. “I thought very highly of Chuck,” Tangney told the Herald. “He was a consummate professional. He handled himself very well. I think this is Rockville Centre’s loss.”

Gennario said that although his eight years as head of the department’s more than 50 officers has sometimes been challenging, it has always been rewarding.

“I hold no animosity,” he said. “Do I wish it was ending differently? Absolutely.”