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Port Chester Police Chief, A Former Rye HS Star Athlete, Now Wrestles With Parkinson's Disease

Port Chester Police Chief Richard Conway behind his desk. Conway apologized it was messy, but he is a busy man. His phone kept ringing with requests that he speak to various public and school groups. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Port Chester Police Chief Richard Conway stands in front of a mural in the department's radio room. It was designed by one of his patrol officers and has helped boost morale (and the appearance) of their 82-year-old headquarters. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Jim Isenberg, executive director of the North American Family Institute, speaks to a group of Port Chester teenagers. Port Chester Police Chief Richard Conway, at right, also spoke to the high school students. Photo Credit: Jon Craig

Courage, commitment and quiet leadership are common themes in this lifelong Westchester resident's life.

In 1974, as a sophomore at Rye High School, Richard Conway qualified for the state championships in a sport that relies on stamina, teamwork and tons of training.

What he learned in wrestling carried over to Manhattan College, where Conway played football and eventually became an assistant wrestling coach.

Conway initially thought he'd like to be a teacher, but while taking a walk during his lunch break from a Bronx Catholic school, he crossed paths with a state park policeman. The officer asked Conway if he wanted a part-time job, where he quickly learned he'd be happier as a cop.

It wasn't long after Conway took his civil service exam that he got called by the Port Chester Police Department. While there, he was loaned out to the Westchester County Police Department during the crack epidemic of the 1980s. Working undercover, Conway was involved in more than 125 major felony narcotics cases in one year. "It was very dangerous, but we made it out in one piece," Conway said.

His police career included walking a foot beat in housing projects and working as a lieutenant for 15 years before his appointment as Port Chester police chief on July 1, 2015.

Today, Conway oversees 63 police officers but chooses to maintain a low-key profile while delegating duties to officers he deems are more skilled in various management tasks.

He apologizes for all the paperwork on his desk, but it's clear his 24-hour seven-days-a-week job never ends. His office phone rings continuously, prompting him to take numerous breaks from his Daily Voice interview. He still teaches history, in a way. His shelves are packed with police and village memorabilia including a porcelain Keystone cop.

The soft-spoken 61-year-old police chief didn't ask for this interview. He rarely seeks publicity unless his officers make a high-profile bust or there is a community event he thinks is worth showcasing. Conway makes it a point to appear at as many public functions as possible.

For the first time, Conway detailed how he has been battling to stay ahead of an often-debilitating Parkinson's Disease.

"I've worked out like crazy all of my life, but I've amped that up since the diagnosis," Conway said of the 2015 medical discovery.

Conway says regular exercise and a full night's sleep "'really keeps it at bay."

"It's a challenge,'' Conway said, saying he initially was self-conscious of a the tremor in his right hand. Otherwise it's impossible to discern that Conway is suffering any ailment. In addition to working out relentlessly. Conway says he goes on Upstate cross-country ski trips with friends to relax and remain fit.

Conway, a Navy veteran, credited his high school sports experience as a wrestler and cross country runner at Rye High School as shaping his competitive instincts later in life. Conway enlisted in the Naval Reserve in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War. He served briefly in the Middle East with a coastal surveillance unit, operating a 24-foot Boston Whaler. One of his two sons followed in his military footsteps and is serving as an U.S. Army ranger in the Middle East.

Despite increases in unemployment and immigration issues, Port Chester's crime rate has fallen. Conway attributes that, in part, to raised awareness by its residents to report criminal activity -- even anonymously. He also said restaurant-goers trying out the city's trendy restaurants do not shy away from calling police when they spot shady activities.

"As for the village staff and our command staff here, I would say that I've been blessed to be part of two great teams. The village manager Chris Steers is one of the greatest leaders Ive ever had the privilege of working with," Conway said.

Within the Police Department, Captain Chris Rosabella "is without doubt the best administrator I've ever worked with," Conway said. The police chief called Lt. Charles Nielsen "the logistical whiz behind most of our projects." Rounding out the command staff is Lt. Mark Braccio, who oversees the Detective Bureau.

"What's truly inspiring about this job is the work ethic and idealism of some of the younger officers. Many of the ideas that have fueled our progress have come from our newest members," Conway said.

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