By Eli Ruiz
LIBERTY Since his junior year in high school, Ellenville native Robert Morse has known what he was meant to do.
“I took a Vo-Tech course in Criminal Justice my junior year at Ellenville, and I knew then what I was going to do with my life,” says, Morse. After graduating high-school Morse attended Ulster County Community College in Stone Ridge.
Morse would begin his law enforcement career at age 19, working part-time for both the New Paltz, and his home town Ellenville, police departments. In 2006, Morse accepted a full-time position with Ellenville, where he would become a member of the department’s bicycle patrol. Morse stayed on in Ellenville until 2008, when he accepted a job with the Village of Liberty Police Department.
“I decided I needed a change of scenery and that I was more capable of being a full-time officer and interacting more with the people here in Liberty,” said Morse.
Almost immediately after his arrival in Liberty, Morse began pushing for a bicycle patrol for the Liberty PD. Received tepidly at best, Morse’s idea was put off, Morse says, “because of the hills.”
“They just kept telling me there were too many hills in Liberty for a bike patrol to make any kind of sense,” explained Morse.
Indeed, the village has its fair share of inclines. Streets like Buckley, Chestnut and Lake to name just a few can make for a tough walk, let-alone a bike ride.
Last October the Village of Liberty named detective Scott Kinne interim police chief, in place of retiring Robert Mir. In May the village board voted unanimously to remove “interim” from Kinne’s title.
Soon after his appointment, Kinne outlined his plans for increased foot and bike patrols to make the department more visible.
“A big focus in the village and for the police department is getting back out in the community,” said Kinne in a June 16 interview with the Democrat.
By June, the bike patrol was officially introduced to the village.
“It was actually pretty easy,” said Kinne. “I brought it up at a village board meeting in October and, well, we already had a guy [Morse] certified and ready to go. There wasn’t that much of an expense on our end, just equipment and gear. The board was very excited about this idea and Trustee Corinne McGuire, became a huge proponent of the idea.…
“In April we used approximately $1,300 in seizure monies to purchase the bike and the equipment, and the cost to taxpayers was zero,” added Kinne.
The department settled on a Fuji 27-speed police combo mountain bike.
“It’s gonna last a while. Most officers use heavy-duty gear. With the drug money we were able to purchase light-weight duty gear specifically for his bike patrol . . . Puts far less of a toll on Robbie,” added Kinne.
Morse started going out into the community in May and as Kinne tells it, “I immediately started getting feedback from local businesses and the community as well… We couldn’t be more excited about the positive feedback from the community. The bike patrol takes the officer out of the car and puts him right in the community… it eliminates that car window between the officer and the citizens.”
As for results, well, just ask Morse and he’ll tell you.
“Just one hour into the program I stopped a vehicle for a cell phone violation and they turned out to also have a suspended license. I’ve had six arrests just on bike patrol this month alone,” Morse said.
In 6 shifts from June 1 to June 16, Morse has ridden 32 miles on Main Street and has made “quality of life” arrests ranging from littering, open containers and trespassing to arrests for unlawful possession of marijuana.
“Everyone has been very nice, accepting and friendly… I’ve had no issues at all with the public and we’re making an impact here. I know that not only does the community appreciate what we’re doing but so do the local businesses,” said Kinne.
In fact, Liberty Fitness Center owner and operator, Cindy Fracasse, said, “I’m very happy about the new patrol and how he [Morse] interacts with the kids. This will show the kids in town that they can do a lot more than just sit in front of a TV playing video games or hanging out on the streets and [Morse] isn’t just going up and down the street, he’s also checking around and behind buildings.”
Anthony Martinez, owner of Anthony’s Barbershop, said, “I think it’s a very positive thing for the community to see that the police are actually back out in the community and on the beat… it’s a great way for the police to introduce themselves to the community. It’s a much friendlier way of doing police work.”
Morse hopes to bring some of the programs he helped implement during his time at Ellenville to Liberty. “I want to work with the Parks and Recreation Department to bring things like the bike-a-thons and obstacle courses I did in the community out in Ellenville. I’m all about getting to know the community… getting involved.”
Oh, and about those hills everyone was worried about? “I don’t know what the big deal was… I’ve never had a problem getting up or down any of these hills,” said Morse.