Officer Patrick McKeever receives his badge from Muttontown Mayor Julianne...

Officer Patrick McKeever receives his badge from Muttontown Mayor Julianne Beckerman during the swearing-in ceremony for the new Muttontown Police Department at the Hoffman Center Preserve in East Norwich. (May 31, 2011) Credit: Chris Ware

The first Muttontown police officers, having left the vast jurisdictions of New York City and New York State Parks police, glimpsed their new reality the moment they entered the banquet room Tuesday night.

Nearly 200 people, on their feet in applause, welcomed the officers to the 6-square-mile village. The crowd represented 5 percent of the village population.

"I think of it as a small community where everybody knows each other," said Jennifer N. Irving, 25, one of 10 officers sworn-in to the newly formed Muttontown Police Department Tuesday night. "Hopefully we get to know them all."

Hours later, Irving, an ex-NYPD officer from Queens, and her colleagues got to work.

Barely two months after village trustees, citing the cost, voted to leave the seven-village consortium that funded Old Brookville police, Muttontown's own force was patrolling the streets.

Seven patrol officers with four to nine years of experience will fill three daily eight-hour shifts. The three others sworn in at the Hoffman Center ceremony will go to Nassau County's police training academy.

Village leaders will hire two more officers, for a full force of 12 officers and a chief. Nassau County police provide dispatchers, detectives and other special units when needed.

The 2011-12 department budget, including five vehicles and other start-up equipment, is $2.85 million.

Street-ready officers (six men and one woman) will be paid between $75,000 and $90,000 annually, officials said. They were chosen, using Nassau County Civil Service Commission guidelines, from a pool of nearly 80 applicants.

"It's been a very busy two months," Police Chief William McHale, an ex-Nassau County chief of patrol, said of creating the department from scratch.

Aside from Woodsburgh village, which started, then disbanded, a force in the 1980s, McHale said he wasn't aware of another Nassau police agency launched in the past 60 years.

Muttontown's path wasn't always clear. Trustees faced a faction of residents opposed to leaving Old Brookville police, and a legal challenge from that department's police union.

"There were turbulent times," said Carl Juul-Nielsen, village police commissioner. "I'm just so happy that we can determine our own destiny from now on."

Patrick McKeever, a seven-year state parks police veteran, talked to one resident who opposed the creation of a new department, but now supported its staff. The officer said he wasn't worried about the problems of the past -- only the future.

"I feel very lucky to be a part of this," said McKeever, 29, noting the uniqueness of joining a new operation. "This is something that doesn't happen every day."

Old Brookville lays off officers

While Muttontown swore in police officers Tuesday, its former department finalized layoffs.

Three Old Brookville police officers lost their jobs as part of a reorganization to cover six instead of seven villages. Chris Sweeney, the police union president, said that five other officers transferred to other agencies, while four will retire.

Old Brookville will now employ a sworn staff of 26 -- 18 officers, six sergeants, a lieutenant and a chief. Its detective bureau has been disbanded to ensure at least three officers remain on most patrol shifts, Sweeney said.

The 61-year-old department covers Old Brookville, Brookville, Upper Brookville, Mill Neck, Cove Neck and Matinecock. Muttontown had contributed more than a quarter of its budget, which last year was just under $12 million.

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