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Port Washington police chief William Kilfoil retiring


PORT WASHINGTON, NY. MONDAY APRIL 15, 2013. Port Washington Police Chief, William Kilfoil photographed at his office. Credit: Alejandra Villa

William Kilfoil was on his way to his grandmother's house in Manhattan one day in 1961 when a man rushed past him, "running like the devil."

A policeman ran after him, shouting "stop" and pulling his gun to fire a warning shot in the air before commandeering a car to chase the suspect.

To the 10-year-old Kilfoil, it was one of the most exciting things he had seen -- and one of the reasons that Kilfoil, now 61, became a police officer himself. But after nearly 39 years on the job, during which Kilfoil went from a beat cop to the Port Washington Police District chief, he is retiring.

Becoming a cop "was just something I wanted to do," Kilfoil said. "I think it was an impetus that just stuck in my mind that a police officer is the hero in defending people who need defending or protecting."

This month marks the last that Kilfoil will serve as chief of the district, which provides police protection for Port Washington and the villages of Baxter Estates and Port Washington North. Assistant Chief James Salerno will step into the role.

"You'll know when it's time, and it's time," Kilfoil said of retiring. "You get a little tired, you're not as patient as you should be."

Kilfoil began as a 22-year-old beat cop walking along Main Street checking doors, directing traffic and talking with shop owners.

"A couple of them called me 'the cop with the smiling face,' " Kilfoil said. "I enjoyed interacting."

Kilfoil moved on to become the district's school-resource officer, where he counseled youngsters in Port Washington schools -- including one student who joined the force and became the district's current school-resource officer.

Kilfoil rose in the ranks, becoming acting chief in 1992 and chief in 1993 -- right as the department faced a series of discrimination lawsuits over hiring and promotions, sparked by the actions of a former police commissioner, he said.

"That first year, 1993 to '94, was very, very hard," he said. "You're learning your job and I was trying to appease both sides."

He said he later persuaded the two other police commissioners to make the necessary promotions, and the suits were settled.

In 1996, a money-laundering investigation that began in the district and stretched to Miami netted the department almost $2.5 million in seized cash -- an investigation Kilfoil remembers fondly.

Kilfoil said he plans to take it easy. Golf, travel with his wife Janet, and continuing to follow his three favorite teams -- the Mets, the Jets and the Islanders -- are high on the list.

North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman issued a statement lauding Kilfoil for his "years of dedication and service," while Catherine O'Neill, manager of Sullivan's Quay on Main Street, said Kilfoil always cared deeply about the community he served.

"It's going to be a big loss, and we're really going to miss him," she said.About the Port Washington Police District

Created by the New York State Legislature in 1921

Has 61 officers

Covers Port Washington and the incorporated villages of Baxter Estates and Port Washington North

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