State Police Centennial: First state troopers trained in Manlius in June 1917

NYSP Anniversary story

Many Central New Yorkers may not know that the first cohort of New York State Troopers trained in their own back yard 100 years ago this month. WAER News caught up with a pair of retired troopers to find out why 232 recruits trained at what is now the Cavalry Club in Manlius in 1917.  Ted Palmer and Kenneth Kotwas say the push for a state-wide police force came from two prominent women from Westchester County, Moyka Newell and Katherine Mayo, following an acquaintance’s murder.  "It goes back to 1913.  There was a murder of a carpenter foreman.  But the local law enforcement agency wasn't too prompt in responding or paying attention to it.  So the two ladies started a campaign to start the state police."   Kotwas says it was significant that the women were taken seriously. "These two women didn't even have a right to vote at the time."  Remember that didn’t happen until 1920.  Palmer says the bill to form the state police failed in 1916, but finally passed in 1917 by one vote.  "I find it fascinating that the original state police bill is four pages long.  That's all.  I've given a few presentations on the history, and I like to unfold that, and you see this was all the work that was needed that day.  Nowadays, it would take volumes and volumes of paperwork."   It was signed into law that April, jump-starting the second state police force in the United States.  Pennsylvania was the first.  That June, training began at Camp Newayo, named after the women who spear-headed the bill.  Kotwas says it was the site of a National Guard unit called the Troop D Cavalry.  "They were trained in some of the basics that the military was, like, at the time, horsemanship, and use of firearms.  But they were also taught the law, how to affect arrests, and how to follow through on investigations."  Major Fletcher Chandler was appointed by the National Guard to be the first superintendent of the state police…even though he was a physician with no formal military training.  Palmer says he was probably the reason the first troopers trained at Camp Newayo.  "His wife was from Syracuse.  She taught German at Syracuse University.  He went to school in Ithaca, attended Syracuse, got his medical degree in New York City...but quite a connection to the area.  And, as a member of the national guard, was well aware of this facility."  That September, the first newly-trained troopers had their first assignment: policing the New York State Fair.  Today, 100 years later, more than 5,600 officers in 11 different troops patrol the state.  Later this month, a blue state historical marker will be erected at the site of the former Camp Newayo to mark the centennial milestone.  The New York State Fair will also feature a new state police exhibit.