With the retirement in 1983 of Supt. Connelie, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo appointed Donald O. Chesworth to be the ninth Superintendent of State Police. Like Supt. Cornelius, Supt. Chesworth was a former FBI agent; he also had served with distinction as Monroe County District Attorney.
Born Sept. 15, 1941 in Independence, MO, he graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. from Graceland College in 1963, and earned a J.D. from Yale Law School in 1966. As a special agent for the FBI, he functioned as a legal advisor, criminal investigator and legal instructor to other law enforcement agencies. For several years he directed all federal organized crime investigations in Monroe County.
When NYSP personnel hired during the major expansions of the early 60s began retiring in numbers after 20 years service in the early 1980s, the state police found itself chronically below its authorized strength for some years. One of the first actions Supt. Chesworth undertook was a concerted effort to recruit and hire sufficient new members to bring the NYSP up to authorized strength. With a mandate from the governor to expand the New York State Police, he immediately sought and received legislative approval for two classes each of 155 recruit troopers in 1983.
Supt. Chesworth also introduced new services to address the state's serious crime problems, and improved the assistance and services the Division of State Police provides to local law enforcement agencies. A major modernization of the division's aviation fleet also was undertaken. The division purchased two Bell Long Ranger jet helicopters in 1983, and added two others in 1984 to replace its three 15-year-old Bell Jet Ranger helicopters and two 20-year-old Army-surplus Hueys.
In 1984, the state police and the Division of Criminal Justice Services began the State's "12 Most Wanted" Program, a highly successful initiative that publicizes essential information and pictures of notorious criminals wanted for violent crimes committed in New York State and solicits public help in locating them.
The rising number of accidents resulting in hazardous materials spills on the state's highways prompted formation of the HAZMAT Unit. Troopers assigned to HAZMAT duty received special training and equipment to respond to incidents involving the release of hazardous materials anywhere in the state. Equally importantly, they also began identifying and targeting shippers who used unsafe or inferior equipment, unsafe handling procedures and unqualified drivers.
Other programs aimed at improving highway safety included the initiation of Sobriety Road Checks to deter driving while intoxicated, Saturation Speed Patrols to enforce speed limits, major education programs aimed at ensuring compliance with the mandatory seat belt use law that went into effect in 1984 and a new law that raised the minimum purchase age for alcohol from 19 to 21 in 1985.
Crime prevention efforts became a priority, with the reactivation of the Crime Prevention Program. One of its first initiatives was the Print-A-Kid Program, which provided parents with fingerprints of their children for identification purposes in the event of an accident or abduction.
Support services also were revamped to provide additional assistance to patrol and investigative activities. Seventy communications specialists were hired to relieve troopers for additional patrol duty. The Planning and Research Section was expanded to evaluate and make recommendations on adoption of new technology, maximize federal funding and coordinate policies and procedures. And a Crime Analysis Unit was created to assist field investigators in identifying patterns of criminal operations and possible case linkages.
In 1985, the agency established its Forensic Sciences Unit. Through this unit, subsequently re-named the Medicolegal Investigations Unit, leading experts in forensic sciences such as pathology, odontology, anthropology and psychology became available upon request and at no cost to help local authorities investigate major cases, identify a cause of death or provide expert testimony in court. Over the years, the services of this unit have played a prominent role in the investigation and prosecution of numerous major crimes across the state.
Supt. Chesworth resigned from the State Police on November 30, 1986, to return to private law practice.