Webster Police Department

First Responders | Webster Police Department
1000 Ridge Rd, Webster, NY 14580 | www.websterpolice.org

The Webster Police Department began on the initiative of one man who believed so strongly in local law enforcement that he worked for free for half a year to prove to the town fathers that a constable was necessary.  It did not take long for Webster citizens to take that faith as their own.  To this day, the Webster Police Department holds the fiercely protective respect and affection of most Webster citizens.  Historian Esther Dunn documented the law-enforcement history of Webster before 1970.  Post-1970, Webster residents continue to provide their PD with stories and situations as interesting, outlandish, and downright creative as in the early days: then chicken-stealing, today internet crimes.

In 1970, the Elks held their first annual Policemen-Firemen Recognition dinner, a tradition that continues today.  That same year, the Webster Police Department found itself asking for help from the public to address changing needs of the community: drugs, vandalism, shoplifting, and snowmobile use.  As the problems associated with these and other changes grew (in 1974, three teenagers were kidnapped and a gas station attendant attacked while taking receipts to the bank), suggestions were made that the Webster Police seek law enforcement help from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.  This suggestion was acted upon in 1978 when citizens paid $300,000 in taxes to have sheriffs patrol the southwest part of town, with Webster PD back-up. While continuing to investigate all manner of crimes, the department began its campaign against drunk driving with bumper stickers and maximized the use of its staff by using the Webster Auxiliary Force for carnivals, funerals, meetings, and other such functions.

The 1980s were marked by intensified DWI and DWAI initiatives in recognition of New York’s tough laws.  The town passed the first drug paraphernalia ordinance which required police attention to illegal sales and purchases.  William Spengler was sentenced to 25 years for beating his grandmother to death with a hammer.  He would make a deadly and devastating reappearance in 2012.  WPD addressed property theft in cooperation with the NYS Office of Crime Prevention by conducting free home surveys and lending an electric engraver to Webster citizens free of charge.  In 1983, the Metro Police Plan included the merging of the Sheriff’s Road Patrol with the city.  Webster had, and still has, the option of merging at a later date, although the public continues to voice its preference for maintaining its own local Webster Police Department.

Some notable crimes were reported in the 1990s.  Officer Robert Barton jumped inside and stopped a runaway car as the driver ran from passing a bad check, closing three lanes of route 590.  A murder-suicide on Hard Road and Kelly Gaffield’s murder (still an open case in 2017) required much time and manpower.  Some equally notable initiatives came from the PD. The Webster Police 1000 Club published a Business Directory and Safety Journal and set up the first roadside “Watch Your Speed” monitor.  At the encouragement of Chief Alex Kirstein, the Town Board instituted a policy of warning residents about convicted sex offenders, the first such policy in the Rochester area.  Webster police officers welcomed this additional tool for monitoring sexual predators, as abuse, particularly child abuse, is one of their saddest and most difficult challenges.   PAC/TAC (Police And Citizens Together Against Crime) was established in 1997.  Such cooperation would reappear 20 years later with the use of new technology and communications systems.

In 1998, Chief Scott Parsons reinstated the publication of a year-end report which was to summarize annually the business, services, accomplishments, and commendations of the Webster Police Department.  That year saw the first sobriety checkpoints and the beginning of the multi-agency task force and over 32,000 calls for service.  The clearance rate for crimes exceeded the national average and continues to do so annually. There were some 15 different community services provided to diverse groups.  Among the more unique anecdotes that year was Lt. Joe Rieger’s physical restraint of a moose-on-the-loose who clearly did not want to be captured and relocated! 1999 saw over a thousand additional calls for service, the establishment of the first Citizens’ Police academy, and WPD’s accreditation having met 144 standards for policies and procedures.  Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and STOP DWI programs continued to make Webster roads safer to travel, and six new Community Services were added to the PD offerings.

Despite Webster’s rapid development of its 32 square miles and citizen increase (fastest in Monroe County) to 38,000, road patrol staffing remained at 26/27 in the new millennium until 2008 when it was reduced.  The WPD continued to exceed national averages for crime solution and to increase its own solution rate year after year. Community Service offerings grew year-to-year as new needs arose.  The department actively pursued grants to pay for special initiatives, DWI and sobriety checkpoints, seatbelt and child safety seat use, underage alcohol, tobacco use, and drug use.  In 2001, WPD joined the NYS Coalition of Law Enforcement Agencies, headed by Homeland Security, to share intelligence, prevent terrorism and ensure citizen safety. Laptop mobile computer terminals in patrol vehicles allowed more efficient reporting; Automated Electronic  Defibrillator (AED) purchases sped up treatment for heart issues.  The 2003 Xerox Credit Union armed robbery and murders were investigated by WPD and a multi-agency task force before solution and arrest in 2016. Community Services growth continued; especially notable was the Webster Business Registry Program, updating all Webster business contact info.  The following year, technology updates were planned for the county radio system and for a scanner to capture identities and evidence.  The WPD began to mentor Webster High School seniors with Criminal Justice class projects.  Highlights of 2005 included the consideration of stun-gun purchases and the fundraiser where several officers shaved heads to raise money for chronically ill children.  In 2006, the department acquired its first tasers, connected the theft of a Ramon Santiago painting to a similar theft in Brighton, arrested and charged the two art felons, and solved the 1991 murder of Charles Grande.  The killer confessed to multiple murders and it was discovered that his brother had a similar record of murders.  The 2007 chief’s report noted that with the explosive growth of Webster, and a fairly steady number of officers, they’d all have to work smarter.  The accomplishments that year included the roll-out of a dedicated Traffic Enforcement Unit, considerable growth in Neighborhood Watch programs, and the PD break-up of a local criminal business selling drugs and guns, including assault weapons. The 1995 Kelly Gaffield murder and 2003 Xerox robbery and murder investigations continue through this decade.

2008 saw the grant-funded purchase and use of infrared search and surveillance equipment and portable digital radios to assist the road patrol (at 23 officers, WPD’s lowest staffing in many years) with their duties. A murder-suicide-arson case, as well as more than a few armed robberies, would challenge, but not defeat, this reduced staff. As the decade drew to a close in 2009, WPD was recognized for outstanding Tracking and Community Notification of Sexual Offenders and its Best Practices certification.  Grant funding purchased an automatic license plate reader, weapons lights, and security holsters.  WPD held two pharmaceutical collection/destruction drives, the precursor of the program that continues today. Several members of the department were commended for their use of various strategies and technologies to defuse dangerous situations, establish rapport and resolve incidents without the use of force.

The second decade of the new millennium saw many accomplishments for the Webster Police Department.  WPD’s 258% increase in DWI/DWAI efforts resulted in a 47% decrease in annual motor vehicle accidents.  Officers and investigators cleared a series of burglaries and armed robberies; the department crime clearance rate for all types of crimes continued to far exceed national averages in 2010-2015.  In 2011, there were an unprecedented four murders in two incidents and a notable general increase in domestic violence in Webster.  The department met its goal of informing the public of these and other crime trends. Armed operators of a marijuana farm and their crops were seized.  Also in that year calls for service fell below 30,000 for the first time since 1998 when such records were first reported. Three officer positions were eliminated, in addition to two retired positions not filled in the preliminary budget, so law WPD staffing was at its lowest since 1980.

WPD began 2012 with departmental restructuring for budgetary reasons and better coverage for Webster’s population, which had ballooned to 44,000.  Addressed were problems with overpass graffiti, female gunpoint robberies, and a major felony narcotics and weapons investigation spanning several states and as far as Asia.  The year ended on December 24 with a horrific ambush of first responders as they arrived at what was reported as a building fire.  Two firefighters (one of them, WPD Sergeant Mike Chiapperini) were killed and two others injured before the gunfight ended.  Many members of the Webster Police Department were commended for their actions that day, saving many lives by returning fire, evacuating citizens,  and by keeping other first responders out of firing range.  The outpouring of support came from Webster, the surrounding counties, across the nation, and around the world.

In 2013, four police officers were hired and five recruits were sent to the Monroe County Police Academy.  The department was once again at full strength.  Notable events included the sleeping truck driver who rolled off 104 through a fence into a Kircher Park yard, and the trial and conviction of the teenager who set fire to his home, killing several family members.  He was sentenced to 15-years-to-life.  Chief Rieger attended the FBI Academy in 2014 and Lieutenant Kohlmeier the following year. Over those two years, the WPD calls for service rose to over 37,000, and plans were made to replace the road patrol’s Crown Victorias with SUVs. Officer David Herrle was appointed the department’s first School Resource Officer (SRO).  The SRO teaches law enforcement and safety in Webster schools.

In 2016, Richard Leon Wilburn was arrested for the 2003 Xerox Federal Credit Union robbery and murders, ending over 13 years of a coordinated investigation by the WPD and Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies.  The department planned for a temporary move to the court building in 2017 to accommodate Town Hall renovations. In 2017, the WPD sought new avenues for the public to help report and solve crimes, using Facebook and Twitter, in addition to the local paper.  Photos and videos of suspicious people and actions are posted there by the PD; anyone with information is asked to call 911 to speak with a Webster Police Officer.

Chiefs of Police:

  • 1928-1944:  Homer Pulver, Village chief
  • 1945-1962:  James Stein, Village chief
  • 1951-1962:  Ralph Pinkney, Town (Paul Hill in charge until new chief appointed)
  • 1962-1963:  James E. Fraser, first combined Town/Village chief
  • 1963-1964:  Wilbur Yaeger 
  • 1964-1986:  Kenneth Hulburt
  • 1986-1999:  Alex Kirstein
  • 1999-2001:  Scott Parsons; Sal Simonetti, interim chief
  • 2001-2014:  Gerald Pickering
  • 2015-2021:  Joseph Rieger
  • 2021 –      :  Dennis Kohlmeier


  • WPD Annual Reports 1997-2016 and other documents courtesy of Chief Rieger and Lieutenant Kohlmeier
  • Webster Police Department Website
  • Esther A. Dunn, WEBSTER…Through the Years (Webster Town Board, 1971)
  • Webster Historian’s files, courtesy Lynn Barton
  • Expressions of Comfort from Around the World, Ed. Steven C. Small, 2013

Thanks to:

  • Bob Barton, retired officer and investigator for the Webster Police Department, interview
  • Joe Rieger, WPD chief, interview

February, 2019