Meet Long Beach’s acting top cop


As the executive officer of the Long Beach Police Department, Richard DePalma was second-in-command to Commissioner Ron Walsh, who resigned on Jan. 22 after three years on the job.

When Walsh departed, DePalma stepped in, named acting police commissioner for the foreseeable future. He will continue to make his inspector’s salary of $221,785. The city is not currently looking for a permanent commissioner.

DePalma, 48, grew up in Rockville Centre. He graduated from Southside High School, and earned a degree in history, philosophy, politics and law from Binghamton University in 1997. He always knew he wanted to work in law enforcement.

“I always had respect for cops growing up,” he said. “It was always something I aspired to do, although I don’t think I saw myself sitting in an office, which is ironic. When I was a young man, I wanted to be out in the world helping, contributing and making a good contribution to society. I thought being a police officer would be a good way to do it, working with the community and doing what we can to serve.”

After graduating from Binghamton, DePalma moved to Long Beach and joined the New York City Police Department in 1997, initially patrolling Manhattan’s West Village, in the city’s 6th Precinct. He was there for five years before being hired by the Long Beach Police Department in 2002. He now lives in Lido Beach.

DePalma has had a variety of assignments in the department over his 22 years there. Early on, he was a member of the plainclothes street crime unit. He was promoted to sergeant in 2008, and patrolled in uniform before becoming the street crime unit sergeant. He spent a total of four years with the street crime unit.

He returned to patrol in 2012 as a sergeant, and in 2019 he was promoted to lieutenant, before eventually moving up to deputy inspector and then inspector. He also served as executive officer twice.

“I was the executive officer initially under Commissioner (Phil) Ragona,” DePalma said, “and then I continued to be the executive officer under Commissioner Walsh.” Walsh took over two months after Ragona resigned in 2020. In the interim, DePalma was temporarily promoted to acting police commissioner for the first time.

“I’ve had some great bosses, and I’ve taken a little bit away from each of them,” he said. “I’ve always described it as a bag,” he added of his career. “I take a little bit from one boss and throw it in my bag, and a little from that boss and throw it in my bag. I try to take a little bit of something from everybody to help me do my job better and learn, because I’ve had a lot of great teachers.”

One of the first challenges he will tackle, he said, is the full implementation of the department’s body camera program. About half of the officers on patrol have been outfitted with body cameras since December, and the rest should have them by next month.

“We are in the process of implementing the officers in body cameras,” he said. “Pretty much all of the day-shift officers are trained, and now we’re working on getting the night-shift officers trained with the body cameras. It’s a good tool for the department and for the public, for transparency purposes.”

In a related move, DePalma and the department are also working toward improving their management of the video they collect. DePalma said this is the “bigger and harder” aspect of their work with body cameras. The department is also still adjusting to longer shifts, expanded from 10 hours to 12.

The department tries to develop, and maintain, good relationships with community members of all ages. DePalma said that Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts regularly visit the precinct, and on “walk-through Wednesdays,” officers drop in at schools in the Long Beach district to meet with students. They have also participated in career days, and National Night Out also draws large crowds each August, when the department and community members spend time together.

“I think the Long Beach Police has a great relationship with the community, I really do,” DePalma said. “Are we perfect? No, but can we improve? Of course. But I think we do have a good relationship, and I plan on continuing that relationship and doing what I can to get my officers to engage in the community, have a good relationship and serve.”

DePalma said he understands that he’s the top man in the department now, but reiterated that he can’t do the job alone.

“I’m the guy sitting in this chair right now, but this department has over 100 employees, sworn and un-sworn, and it’s a team effort,” he said. “No one can do this job alone. I’ve been living here since 1997, and I do have a great feel for this community. I know a lot of people in this community — my kids go to school in this community. I love this area, I love being here, I love living here, I love working here. Not only do I work here to serve, but living here gives me perspective of what the residents want as well.”