Thirty-five years ago, Richard H. Schneider took a job with the East Hampton Village Police Department in traffic control, in a position that was then called a "specialty police officer." Three decades later, now a police lieutenant, Schneider will retire in February.
"I'm going into it more looking forward to it because it's been 30-some-odd enjoyable years, but it's still been 30 years. I'm ready for a new challenge," Schneider said on Friday.
He said he made the decision to put in his papers last year with several decisions being factored in. He and his wife Janet — who just celebrated their 24th wedding anniversary on Dec. 18 — downsized from their house in East Hampton to a home in Manorville two years ago, after their youngest graduated East Hampton High School. The commute was wearing on him and he didn't want to drive the hour during yet another summer.
Also, Schneider was inducted as president into the Suffolk County Police Association last weekend — something he had hoped to do since becoming involved with the organization's board of directors. In order to become president, officers must still be on the job, but they don't have to remain on the job throughout their appointment, he said.
Schneider has spent most of his life in the village, having grown up on the corner of Meadow Lane and Cooper Lane. He remembers his first job as a high school sophomore, at Snowflake, working for Bruce Siska, now a village trustee.
His older brother, Jim Schneider, working as a traffic control officer in the village, and when he was a sophomore in college, he was looking for a job. Then Chief Carl J. Dordelman interviewed him and hired him in 1977, but retired soon after, so Schneider never worked under him.
He recalled his first day in the field; he was checking cars and found one illegally parked in front of the old McElroy Shoe Store. A man came running out of the store before he could write up a ticket. It was none other than Paul McCartney. "I thought, 'Wow. Is this what this job is going to be like?' I was a little bit in awe of everything."
As a "special police officer," he wore a blue uniform and went for training for three days at the police academy. "Three classes, and in some places — not here — they'd give those guys guns," Schneider said. Two years later, such officers got new titles, traffic control officers, and different colored (tan) uniforms.
"They gave me a moped and I drove around to all the beaches with a chalk stick on the back of the thing. Times have changed," Scheider said.
In 1984, the village was in need of new police officers and Schneider went off to the part-time police academy with fellow recruits Jerry Larsen, now the chief of the department, and Mike Tracey, now the captain and executive officer. Thanks to the entrance exam tests, Schneider was first on the list to get hired full-time in February 1985.
He worked as a patrol officer until February 1990, when he was promoted to sergeant. In December 2006, he earned the rank of lieutenant. He's worked for four different chiefs and has served as the village's Police Benevolence Association president. Over the years, he's been in charge of the detective division and the uniform division. He even went back into patrol as a sergeant when they needed the manpower, something he said he enjoyed.
One of his favorite parts about his career has been working with different officers and watching them mature and grow as officers. Overall, he's just liked helping people, he said. "You see the best of everybody and you see the worst of everybody. There's been something new everyday."
Police work was something he hadn't planned on doing. "I fell into it. I had trained for being a teacher. I couldn't get a job right after college. I even dabbled in sports as a baseball umpire," he said. He loves the game so much that he is the "umpire in chief" of the East End ASA. He will continue to do that in retirement.
In addition to the Suffolk County Police Association, Schneider is also finishing his second year as chairman of the Traffic Safety Board of Suffolk County, which looks at grants from state commissions.
Schneider doesn't have any big plans for retirement. "I'd like to spend more time with my wife — until I drive her crazy and she tells me to go get a job," he laughed.
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