Since his childhood days in Queens, Robert Lenahan always knew he wanted a job in civil service. By the early age of 20, he already had a job as one of New York’s finest.
Lenahan, 47, is the chief of police at Stony Brook University. Lenahan comes from a family of five, including three brothers and one sister. When appointed Oct. 30, 2008, Lenahan officially took the place of former Police Chief Richard Young, who retired. “The position became open, and naturally I had the background to be eligible for it,” said Lenahan, who served as director of emergency management for the university before becoming chief of police. “So I saw it was a nice job and decided to apply.” Lenahan received a Catholic education and attended Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in East Elmont.
Describing the transition process as being a “whirlwind tour,” Lenahan, sat confidently, yet relaxed, on a leather office chair, and said he plans to focus on community outreach and improving internal training within the department serving as the director for emergency management. “If I set out to do something, it’s going to be done,” Lenahan said. “I’d be tireless and relentless in terms of pushing people to get things done.” Students agree with Lenahan’s priorities. “I think his focus should be to build a relationship of trust with the students so that they feel comfortable to report crimes on campus and offer any information they may have on a crime to police,” said Stony Brook freshman Warren Porter, 19.
After having worked at Dewey Valentine Law Firm during high school and having passed his police exam, Lenahan became a police officer for the NYPD at the age of 20. “A lot of people really wanted to become firemen, but it wasn’t anything I really wanted to do,” Lenahan said, cracking a smile. “Burning buildings is not my cup of tea.”
Lenahan’s travels include a stop at the 30th Precinct after being promoted to captain. He then was a commanding officer at the 25th Precinct. He moved up to deputy inspector at the 25th Precinct to only be moved to the 32nd Precinct a short time after – the same precinct where he began his police career 26 years earlier.
“At times it was the greatest show on earth because you would go to work and see something different every day,” he said.
Other times the show was not so great, according to Lenahan. He recalled his most traumatic day on the job – Sept. 11, 2001. Lenahan said it was clear that it was no accident once the second plane hit, just a short time after the first. “I think 9-11 taught a lot of people a lot of lessons,” said Lenahan. “There are probably a lot of things they could’ve done better and a lot of things since then they’ve improved on. In terms of communications between agencies, everybody responded, but nobody knew what each other was doing. I think the training was there, but I don’t think enough emphasis was placed on it.”
Realizing he wanted a college degree, which he did not obtain after high school, Lenahan went back to school at Empire State College. In early 2005, he completed a police management program at Columbia University which delved into crisis management, advanced leadership and business management skills.
Lenahan first noticed Stony Brook in 2006. “I have a daughter who got very sick in 2006. So I came here and she went into emergency surgery and then the ICU for a week,” Lenahan said. “It was my first exposure to Stony Brook. I was quite impressed with the layout and they treated me fantastically. I could never thank Stony Brook enough for that.”
Having worked 26 years in the NYPD, Lenahan decided it was time he looked for something new. Since coming to Stony Brook, Lenahan said active shooting drills and exercises with upper level administration to help them understand emergency management efforts are taking place. Also, a new SB Alert page, campus siren and an inter-building communications system are being implemented.
“It’s been a whirlwind tour because although I was here on campus for ten months it’s different getting to work within the police department,” Lenahan said. “All in all I think we’re getting a lot accomplished in the 3 months that I’ve been here as chief.” Lenahan is an avid sports fan and lives in Commack with his wife Maureen and their two daughters the ages of 14 and 12.