Mercy Alumnus Police Chief on Community, COVID-19, 2020 Struggles


Mercy College alumnus, Robert M. Noble, now the new chief of the Yorktown Heights Police Department, has had a lot on his plate in the recent months. Noble is a concise and direct man who many in the community feel is easy to speak to and communicates well. He has been an officer for 27 years and the Chief of Police since 2016.

He has a lot of power and responsibility, but he handles his department with grace and ease. 

Police departments around the country have been under a microscope due to compromising videos that have been released and accusations by community members. Since Noble has taken over the position, he has focused heavily on the community as well as all other matters that are involved with policing. As an officer, he does believe it’s important to nurture relationships with the community.

“Yes, we focus a great deal on community policing. It’s a ‘win/win situation.’ It’s been great for morale at YPD to see the community think so highly of their police department, and great for the community to have engaged officers who want to make a positive difference in their community.”

Noble definitely enjoys the perks of community policing as YPD tends to have activities and events for locals to come and meet the officers and to get to know one another in the town they all call home.

“It reaffirmed my belief that if you treat your officers well, they treat the community well. It has worked flawlessly for us for the past 4 and a half years. Very proud to work with the men and women of YPD.”

YPD also has a Facebook page. Social media has become common, especially for larger agencies. Being that YPD only has 59 officers, it definitely helps to promote conversation between the town and officers.

“Our Facebook page has been the impetus behind this positive relationship. It allows us to communicate in a positive and engaging way with our community. It aids in transparency and shows that we’re human.”

COVID-19 has directly impacted many first responders, including YPD. Policing has become difficult, and for such a small but mighty department, each encounter that the officers have with a citizen is for a reason.

“Our work is very unpredictable. That’s the draw for many of us to pursue a career in law enforcement. With COVID, it’s a big detriment. Our profession demands in-person encounters, whether it’s interviewing, car accidents, assisting those who need physical assistance, or by making arrests. While in many careers, you may have the option to work remotely or greatly limit your contact with people, we do not enjoy that luxury on many occasions. Police officers just want to make it home safely at the end of their tours. Now, add healthy to that list, with the hope that they don’t bring COVID to their private households.”

Noble also brings up a good point about how what one does in their private life most definitely can affect many others, health-wise. It is something to be cognizant of.

Though COVID-19 has impacted the department, they are still able to do their jobs and make an impact on the community. YPD is unique in that they have multiple facets of policing in the departments that either have specific specialties or help out in various ways.

“K-9, motorcycle officers, school resource officers, domestic violence officers, traffic safety officers, accident investigators, field training officers, law enforcement instructor, and there are more. The importance is having skilled people, the right people, in these positions – officers that have the skill level to perform in such capacities make us that much better as a collective agency.”

A big perk for the community when they attend events with the department is getting to meet some of the SROs, motorcycle officers, and also the K-9s and their human officer counterparts. YPD now has two K9 units, K9 Dallas is a beautiful, small but mighty black lab. Spar is the fiercely cool German Shepherd. Both pups are an incredibly important part of YPD, while also being incredibly adorable.

With so much help from talented, diverse officers, YPD does a great job taking care of its citizens all the while keeping the focus on their mission to serve and protect.

“Primary mission is to protect life and property. That’s where it begins and ends. That will never change. The primary change that took place when I became chief was that we engaged and communicated more with the community we serve. I’ve long believed that effective communication is vital between the police and the public.”

Because of such effective communication, both Lakeland High School and Yorktown High School have a Law Enforcement club run by their respective SROs.

“I’m very proud of the law enforcement clubs at Lakeland and Yorktown High Schools. I don’t believe any other high schools in Westchester County have ‘law enforcement clubs.’”

The young people of Yorktown and many other places have all become very politically aware these last few months in light of tragic incidents between the police and citizens in other areas. There have been marches in support of Black Lives Matter across the country and Yorktown had a few of their own. YPD worked alongside the event planners and were dispersed throughout to keep everyone safe.

“At the protests, we were thanked by far more people attending than we were cursed at. I personally maintained an excellent dialogue with the event organizers. My command staff devised an excellent plan to keep everyone safe. My officers at the event executed the plan flawlessly. People were able to peacefully assemble to express their point of view and I am proud that my agency demonstrated professionalism and courtesy while keeping everyone safe.”

Noble was happy with the outcome of the protests and the positives that came from them. He was hopeful that it only strengthened the line of communication with his community. He was very proud of how things were handled and felt it showed officers in a more positive light.

“I think the community is less apt to paint us with the same broad brush that many politicians and the national media use to portray members of law enforcement. It shows that your local police officer is your partner, not your enemy. If you watch national news or read many print editions of larger newspapers, you will see police being painted with a negative broad brush. Very few police officers are ‘bad apples.’  Those that are have no business wearing the badge.”

Noble does feel it has become difficult for officers in recent months dealing with COVID-19 and political backlash. 

“How do you think a young police officer feels about their career choice watching the national news each night regarding the civil unrest portrayal of police officers? It can have a significant impact on morale in the police department.”

He also points out it can have negative effects on the families of officers as well. He also feels he has spent too much time thinking about all the negative issues at the moment rather than being able to plan for the future.

“I want the best for my town and for members of my agency. It can be mentally draining at times.”

Noble didn’t necessarily plan this for himself, as he said he didn’t see his life heading in this direction. Noble is a Mercy College alumnus whose law enforcement journey actually has direct ties to his Maverick days.

“I was a Mercy College student. I was either going to seek employment with OSHA or in the insurance field. A Mercy College professor, Prof. Burke, who was a former police officer, said to me ‘Noble, you’d be a good police officer, you should take the test.'”

The rest is history. He took the test, was in great physical shape, and interviewed well.

“Best decision I ever made.”

Noble has worked for YPD for 26 out of his 27 years as an officer. He has a deep love for Yorktown and feels he has grown a lot there. He was working in White Plains when he received the opportunity to work in Yorktown.

“I thought I could make more of a difference and help people in Yorktown than I could in a larger city like White Plains.”

Being an officer and being the Police Chief, Noble feels has greatly changed his life.

“The responsibilities associated with being the Chief of Police, primarily the accountability for the preservation of life and property in a 40 square mile town with 38,000 residents, is no small task. Being chosen to lead a professional police department with 59 employees is a blessing and a challenge at times. I am easily recognizable in town and am cognizant of that in my conversations with people.”

His family is also in the public eye with him.

“Having had three children graduate from the Lakeland Central School District, it was not always easy for them to be the daughters and son of the Yorktown Chief of Police. I’d have to say, the biggest change in my life is having the courage to lead and challenging myself each day to do the best that I can for our community and for the members of the Yorktown Police Department.”

Noble wants to leave his mark and hopes he has left a positive impact on his community. He has worked tirelessly to make it the best it can be, that his agency has made a positive difference in the community and that the residents of Yorktown and the Yorktown Police Department develop a strong partnership.

“We police much better when we have the support and assistance of our community. I believe we’ve done this during my tenure and I’d like to see us continue on this journey.”

As he hopes the world heals from COVID-19 and the strain between officers and citizens becomes less, Noble sees a bright future ahead.

“We rely less on politics and more on our developed relationships. With COVID-19, no matter your position on politics, we all have to look out for each other. The political climate is just ugly and pathetic on both sides. We gain nothing by finding out who can yell the loudest or attempt to bully their narrative. We gain everything by listening, finding common ground, and treating others with respect.” 

Always the optimist, he’s hoping that young people can find ways to get this message across to the masses. 

“As a wise older woman once told me, ‘It’s nice to be nice.'”