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Suffolk’s former chief of patrol to become Brookhaven’s safety boss

A former high-ranking Suffolk County police official is expected to become Brookhaven Town’s new public safety chief.

John Meehan, a retired Suffolk chief of patrol who once led the police department’s Seventh Precinct in Shirley, will succeed current public safety Commissioner Pete O’Leary, who plans to retire on March 31, town officials announced Friday.

Meehan will start working for the town Tuesday as deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, then will succeed O’Leary when he retires, Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said. Meehan’s appointment was approved 5-0 Friday by the town board. His annual salary will be about $104,000.

“He had a varied career” in the police department, said Romaine, adding he knew Meehan when Romaine was county clerk and a county legislator. “I think he’s going to be a great commissioner.”

The public safety department includes the town’s public safety officers, fire marshals, harbormasters, bay constables and dispatchers, and it issues taxi licenses.

Meehan, 67, who lives in Stony Brook, retired from the Suffolk Police Department last July after a 43-year career there. He began his career with the MTA police, where he was an officer for two years.

For Suffolk police, he commanded the highway patrol and narcotics/organized crime bureaus, and he was the Seventh Precinct’s first commander when it opened in 2003.

He was promoted to deputy chief of patrol in November 2010 and became chief of patrol in February 2012. He is married and has four children and four grandchildren.

In an interview, Meehan said the public safety department appears to be well run and probably doesn’t need major changes.

“This became something I became aware of and something I was very interested in,” Meehan said. “When presented with an opportunity, I was very anxious to take the role.

“My plan right away is to listen and talk to as many people as I can. Commissioner O’Leary is still there and I intend to pick his brain as much as I can. . . . I have no reason to believe it’s not being run properly. Maybe there’s some things we can do, maybe with technology.”

Romaine said town officials plan to step up public safety in town parks, among other initiatives. Meehan will be a key part of that effort, he said.

O’Leary, who is about 73, was hired by Brookhaven as deputy public safety commissioner about 10 years ago and served under three town supervisors. He had been commissioner for the past four years, Romaine said.

“He did a very good job,” Romaine said. “We’re going to miss him.”

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