State Police Maj. Eric L. Laughton remembers a time when he walked into a school, and everyone turned and looked at him.
Because many of the students and staff were not used to seeing troopers walk into class, they thought he was there to make an arrest, said Laughton, who noted a son attended the school.
But the more he visited, the more familiar his face became.
“Now, I was no longer viewed as someone coming into make an arrest, but someone coming in just to say ‘Hi,’” Laughton said. “That’s when you get the 10- or 11-year-old who comes to you and says, ‘Hey, can I talk to you about something?’ That could be serious, but you have created that relationship.”
Building community relationships is something Laughton hopes to instill in troopers.
Laughton, who began service with the New York State Police in March 1989, is the new commander of Troop E on Route 332.
Obviously, troopers are not geared to do a full-on community policing effort like, for example, the Canandaigua Police Department can do.
But they can, and will, try, Laughton said.
“Let’s get the troopers out of their cars and let’s get them to communicate with the public,” Laughton said. “Stop in a shop, grab a cup of coffee but then sit down and have a talk with the owner.”
Laughton, who started in the new role July 5, takes over for Maj. Richard Allen, who was promoted to inspector. Laughton will command more than 430 troopers and civilians in Troop E, which encompasses 10 counties including Ontario County.