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Amityville police honor 50-year tradition

The patch that members of the Amityville Police

The patch that members of the Amityville Police Department wear on each shoulder of their uniform turned 50 this year and has not been changed at all since it was designed in 1961. Photo Credit: Handout

No gold will be exchanged nor lavish party thrown, but there is a 50th anniversary being quietly recognized in Amityville this year.

The patch that members of the Amityville Police Department wear on each shoulder of their uniform turned 50 this year and has not been changed at all since it was designed in 1961.

Sgt. Brian Scott, the unofficial historian of the department, said the patch was initiated as a way for Amityville officers to stand out after the Suffolk County Police Department was formed in 1960.

At the time, police departments from each municipality had the option of joining Suffolk County Police but Amityville declined, except for seven members who transferred, Scott said.

“The department was relatively small back then,” said Scott, 51, who joined the department in 1985.

He said the patch gave the remaining 17 officers a sense of pride.

“It was just a nice thing to have,” he said.

William Kay, the chief at the time, designed the patch, which features the New York State insignia in gray over a blue background and the words “Amityville Police” in gold.

“It was very distinguishable for public appearances,” said William D. Smith, a retired Amityville police lieutenant. “If 10 officers from anywhere were standing around, you could say, ‘You’re from Amityville, you’re from Riverhead.’”

Smith, 78, said the patch was not actually all that big of a deal. Not until 1974, at least, which is much the case for Amityville as a whole.

After Ronald DeFeo murdered six members of his family at his home in Amityville that year - which is the basis of the movie “The Amityville Horror” - Smith said the department began receiving requests from other police departments all over the country, and even the world, asking for an Amityville Police Department patch.

“That put Amityville on the map. We got all sorts of letters from police officers saying, ‘I collect patches, can I have an Amitvyille patch?” he said. “I’d say we sent out a couple hundred a year.”

Smith retired from the department in 1989. Shortly after that, the patch was the topic of discussion once more, Scott said. Someone in the department suggested updating the patch, but members of the department - both new and old - dismissed it.

“A groundswell came up,” he said. “Everyone thought, we’ve always had it and we don’t want to change it. It was nice to see the guys back in the day fight to keep it.”

The patch stayed the same, and in 1998, officers requested and were granted permission to wear the patch on both shoulders rather than just the left shoulder.

Scott said the patch has become an honored tradition and a relic passed down through families with multiple members that serve in the department.

Smith, who still lives in the Amityville home he built in 1958, said he keeps in touch with about half of the current police force - those that were still there when he retired.

The other half - “all those new, young fellows” - Smith doesn’t know, “but they still wear that same patch.”

Photo: The patch that members of the Amityville Police Department wear on each shoulder of their uniform turned 50 this year and has not been changed at all since it was designed in 1961.

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