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Capital Region Scrapbook: Law & Order

Capital Region Scrapbook: Law & Order

Homer W. Brown represented law in Niskayuna around the 1950s. Joseph S. Dominelli, John LaMalfa and
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Homer W. Brown represented law in Niskayuna around the 1950s.

Joseph S. Dominelli, John LaMalfa and Michael Masterpolo helped keep order in Rotterdam during the late 1940s.

All four are part of today’s “Law & Order” episode of Capital Region Scrapbook.

Brown had been Niskayuna’s justice of the peace since the 1930s. Homer knew crimes and violations from days spent as a state trooper; he had joined New York state’s police force during the spring of 1926. At age 34, he was one of the oldest recruits on the force.

“The outdoors was what I wanted and what I got,” Brown said of his days patrolling North Creek and other parts of the Adirondacks.

His career as a trooper was short. During the early 1930s, he suffered a serious injury in an on-duty traffic accident and retired in 1936.

Elected office

Niskayuna police officer John McGovern persuaded him to run for town justice of the peace. He was first elected to the position in 1937.

“When I took office, John was the only policeman we had,” Brown told Kathy McGarry of the Schenectady Gazette in 1954. “Now we have eight. The first year, I handled 15 cases. Last year, I had 379.”

Brown built a reputation as a “tough but fair” officer of the court.

“I am uncompromising when it comes to drunken drivers,” Brown said. “I like to help people who help themselves, and I’m very careful not to waste energy on those who don’t.”

Brown, who worked in the drafting department of the General Electric Co. before he began careers in law and order, also was a member of the Niskayuna Town Board. He did most of his court work during the evening, and spent days on other town business. As a member of the board’s highway and drainage committee, he checked new streets before they were accepted by the town.

Brown was still on the job when he died on July 3, 1975, at age 86. At the time, he was the longest-tenured justice in the state.

Rotterdam force

In 1947, 12 policemen served and protected the town of Rotterdam’s 17,000 residents.

Three men worked one of three round-the-clock shifts. On Fridays and Saturdays, four men were on duty.

In 1942, the town board had purchased two radio-equipped cars that, while they were unable to transmit, could receive state police broadcasts. In 1946, two-way radios were upgrades for both vehicles. And in late 1947, two more radio cars were on the way.

Lt. Leonard C. White was the commanding officer in 1947. White and his men worked six eight-hour days each week, received two weeks vacation and 14 sick days. Patrolmen earned $2,800 annually.

Joseph S. Dominelli was appointed a patrolman in October 1947. He moved up the ranks, become police chief in December 1963 and retired in 1983. The Rotterdam Police Department’s current headquarters on Princetown Road is named the Joseph S. Dominelli Public Safety Building in his honor.

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