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Newburgh hires Lt. Brandon Rola as new police chief

Newburgh Police Chief Brandon Rola
City of Newburgh
Newburgh Police Chief Brandon Rola

The city of Newburgh, New York has a new police chief, who was hired internally.

Chief Brandon Rola took over Friday from Anthony Geraci, who resigned last month. Rola is a 16-year veteran of the city police force and a graduate of Wallkill High School and Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh. Speaking at a press conference Monday, Rola says that background is exactly what makes him the right person for the job. 

“It’s so much easier to transition when you grew up here, essentially," he explains. "I know every person, I know all the business owners. I know all the streets — I could drive them with my eyes closed. I know every person in this department and how they tick and how they think. I know other departments heads. With all that behind me, that’s how we move forward seamlessly and successfully.” 

The 38-year-old says he is the first internal police chief hired by the city in roughly a decade. In a statement, City Manager Todd Venning, who made the hire, described Rola as “the very best of the City of Newburgh Police Department.”

Rola joined the department as a patrol officer in 2008, working his way up the ranks to lieutenant by 2020 and then operations commander. City Spokesman Mike Neppl says Rola is one of the most decorated members on the force, with more than 30 merit awards, and he has also worked as an instructor for both his colleagues and students at the Orange County Police Academy. Rola made national headlines in November 2014 for rescuing two boys who were trapped under a snow pile created by an evening snow plow.

“I’ve seen so many things in my career that I’ve been able to put together and learn from," he adds.

Rola says he doesn’t plans to make any immediate policy changes. Long-term, he says he would like to clarify officers’ job assignments and have more officers on foot patrol in the community, and he believes the city has set him up well for that. For the first time in years — and at a time when many police forces are struggling with retention and recruitment — Rola says the Newburgh Police Department is nearly, if not fully staffed, with more than 70 sworn officers.

“It’s so important to have police officers walking around, interacting with people in the city," he notes. "Our officers have been, and will continue to in the future, not just respond to calls, right? We’re public servants, we’re here to serve a community. And that means just going to an event, hanging out, walking on the sidewalk, going to a business, popping in, and saying, ‘Hi.’”  

Former Chief Geraci stepped down at the end of last month to take a job as director of safety and security for the Newburgh Enlarged City School District. In a recent interview with WAMC, Mayor Torrance Harvey thanked Geraci for his three years of service.

“I’ve always gotten along with Chief Geraci, he’s done really great work in our city," says Harvey. "I have nothing but best wishes to him and his future endeavors.” 

Harvey says he looks forward to swearing in Rola at the city council’s next meeting on May 13.

Jesse King is the host of WAMC's national program on women's issues, "51%," and the station's bureau chief in the Hudson Valley. She has also produced episodes of the WAMC podcast "A New York Minute In History."