OSSINING, N.Y. – Lt. Michael McElroy is putting down his shield for the first time in nearly 40 years, but despite retiring from the Ossining Police Department, McElroy said he will always be a police officer.
“Being a police officer is a part of you. When you’ve done something and enjoyed it for 40 years of your life it is difficult to leave it behind,” McElroy said Wednesday while packing up his office. “I will miss it. It’s a hard thing to do. But like an athlete who enjoys being paid to play a game, I really enjoyed my time serving Ossining.”
The 61-year-old said he watched the village and town of Ossining unfold and become a great place to live in the 40 years since he first strapped on his badge as a member of the Village of Ossining Police Department in June 1973. Since becoming a lieutenant in 1987, McElroy has helped teach the history of policing at Westchester’s Police Academy, served as a domestic violence instructor and taught dozens of other classes and trained hundreds of officers. But the most notable moments, he said, were the rise of “crack” cocaine in the ‘80s and the attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
“When I started, they didn’t worry about terrorism training or chemical and biological warfare training or a lot of the things today’s officers deal with on an everyday basis,” he said. “Things have changed not only here but nationally and a lot of it has also been for the better. I think this community has gotten a lot better and safer.”
McElroy added that he was honored to serve with the men and women in the Village of Ossining Police Department.
“I’ve always said, and it remains true, that men and women in our department are among the very best in law enforcement,” he said. “I know it might sound like a cliché, but it is true that police officers do something that many people couldn’t be paid enough to do. Being a police officer is a true calling and our department has some of the best in the world. It’s going to be difficult not working with them every day.”
Other officers in the department said the feeling was mutual. Sgt. Ray DeBenedictis, who referred to McElroy as “Uncle Mac,” said he felt like the department was losing a great mentor.
“I’ve grown very close with him in the 20 years we’ve been working together and he has been an amazing mentor,” DeBenedictis said. “I think the biggest thing that is going to change around here is that old school perspective of police work. He has vast experience and he has made this department a better department because he has adapted to what the community needed. Losing someone with that amount of experience will be impossible to replace.”