Peekskill Chief of Police Eric Johansen

After spending more than five years as chief of police in his hometown department, Eric Johansen will retire next month in order to pursue an opportunity elsewhere. Johansen’s decision caps a 24-year career with the Peekskill Police.

“My last day will be March 2,” Johansen told The Peekskill Post Wednesday. “It is a retirement. I was eligible to retire after 20 years, so it is technically a retirement. However, that retirement will be short lived as I do have another opportunity that I am excited about, but I am not at liberty to make that public at this time. Timing is everything, and I would like everyone to know that it is an opportunity I am very excited about.”

He continued:

“Being chief has been an amazing experience. It has been an honor and privilege to serve my hometown for 24 years. There were so many positive experiences and great people that made my job easy. The city should be proud of its police force, as I am. This is bittersweet. I am sorry to be leaving but, again, this opportunity that came along is one that I could not pass up.”

Johansen said he informed City Manager Richard Leins of his decision late last week and informed members of the Common Council in person Monday night. Leins will be tasked with finding a replacement, who will have to be approved by the city council. While he will not be part of the process, Johansen said that there are already capable candidates within the department.

“The department is well positioned to have a seamless transition,” Johansen said. “We have been preparing people to assume command here in the city just by virtue of the fact we have added lieutenants and increased their responsibilities. There will be a different face as it pertains to the chief, but the service will continue to be excellent, professional and efficient. The residents will continue to benefit. There is a good solid structure in place.”

Chief Johansen, at right, with Bill Maher and Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Deb Milone, says he will continue to be visible in the Peekskill community after he retires.
Photo courtesy of Howard Copeland/Scott Camera and Photography

‘I am very proud of the progress we made’
Johansen said he is proud of what the department was able to accomplish during his time as chief.

“I am proud of the progress we made towards making the department more efficient, he said. “We leveraged technology in ways that allowed our officers to do their jobs in a safer and more efficient manner. The crime statistics in the city have continued to decrease over the last five years, which is especially amazing due to the fact that the population has increased significantly over the past five years. That trend, in my mind, is attributable to the members of this police department. I am also proud that we have been able to reintroduce the K-9 program with the recent acquisition of an explosive ordinance detection dog and the training of a police officer as its handler.

He continued:

“I am equally proud of the fact that we put lieutenants on the 4 to 12 and midnight tours as watch commanders, which helped with supervision and improved effectiveness. I think we have served residents well and were able to instill a sense of justice and sometimes comfort to crime victims, and we enjoyed a tremendous reputation among our partners in law enforcement and in the community. In the last five years, I have hired 13 or 14 people and one has been better than the other. The ranks have become more diversified and more accurately reflect the make up of the community, which is important. Our relationships with the school district and other stakeholders in the community have also improved.”

‘Politics means nothing to a police department’
In the current political climate, anytime a high profile official such as Johansen makes a move such as this, there is a tendency by some to assume politics played a role. The chief stressed that politics has nothing to do with it.

“Politics means nothing to a police department,” he said. “Police and politics should always be separate and in my career it always has been. The politicians are equally as passionate about Peekskill as I am and political changes had no effect on my decision. I have worked with probably dozens and dozens of council people and mayors over the years, and that has always been separate and did not influence my decision. This has to do with an opportunity that was put in front of me that I couldn’t pass up and I look forward to my new career.”

‘I love this city’
The fact that Johansen won’t be chief of police much longer doesn’t mean he is leaving Peekskill.

“I love Peekskill and you will see me here,” he said. “Maybe not as much as you usually do because I’ll be spending 40 hours a week somewhere else, but my leisure time will be spent here in Peekskill. Make no mistake about that. My face will be very prominent around here and I love this city and think it is going to do fine. This is my city, it always will be. You will see me around. Guarantee it.”