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Former Greenwich Police Chief Called a 'Cop's Cop'

GREENWICH, Conn. – Colleagues of retired Greenwich Chief of Police Peter J. Robbins, who died Monday at his home in Delaware at the age of 66, remembered him as a “cop’s cop” who cared passionately about the department.

Nancy Aurelia, Robbins’ secretary, said they had a good working rapport and were close as boss and assistant. “I have nothing but fond memories of him. He hired me. I had come over from Parks and Recreation, and I remember coming into the room for interviews where everyone was in uniform. I almost turned around and walked out, but he was very obliging and very congenial,” said Aurelia.

Jud Van Ingen, an officer with the department’s Special Police unit, met Robbins when he was 21 and credits him as the reason he joined the police department. “For a town to have a guy like Pete in charge of a public safety operation, is something I think the town never fully appreciated,” said Van Ingen. “I figured if there was any chance that he would someday be chief; he would certainly be someone I would follow anywhere.”

Robbins graduated from St. Mary High School and Iona College with a degree in criminal justice. He served in the U.S. Army with the 272nd Military Police Company. He received the Good Conduct Medal and Army Commendation for his service in Vietnam.

Robbins joined the Greenwich Police Department in July 1970 and was appointed detective in September 1976, promoted to sergeant in May 1977, lieutenant in November 1980, captain in November 1984 and deputy chief in November 1990. “He came from the rank-and-file,” said Van Ingen. “He had done every job in that department that you could do. He was good administrator because he would never ask you to do something he would not personally do.” In September 1997, Robbins was appointed chief of police. He concluded more than 32 years of service to the department upon his retirement in December 2002.

“His success in life was based upon the success of the police department,” said Lt. Kraig Gray, who was also hired by Robbins. “Many a night you could see him burning the midnight oil upstairs. He was definitely a guy who would do whatever it takes in the interest of public safety. He was an old school officer transitioning to the new school, and professionalism was of upmost importance to him.”

Robbins was a graduate of the FBI National Academy’s 121st Session. He was a recipient of the Lyons Club Award for police officer of the year in 1990 for his creation and leadership of the department’s elite Special Response Unit. Robbins was also responsible for the creation of the department’s Honor Guard.

Van Ingen said Robbins fought to make sure the town’s communication system was properly funded in the early 2000s, and during salary negotiations he publicly said his men were underpaid and deserved more. “He was a very honest guy and you pretty much always knew where you stood with him,” said Van Ingen. “He definitely cared a lot about his men and the people around him.”

At the time of Robbins’ death, he was the chief of uniformed services for the Delaware State Court System. He had lived in Lewes, Del.

Aurelia said Robbins was professional and expected much from everyone in the department — but no more than he expected from himself. “He could be serious, but he was jokester, too. We had some good laughs,” said Aurelia. “The first time he did an evaluation on me, he left it on my desk to type and it was terrible. He let me be upset for a little while about it, before he came out and told me he had the real one in his office. He was just kidding.”

A wake will be held Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Fred D. Knapp and Son Funeral Home, at 267 Greenwich Ave. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at St. Mary’s Church, 178 Greenwich Ave. Burial will follow at St. Mary’s Cemetery. Greenwich Avenue from Lewis Street to Elm Street will be closed to traffic from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. during the funeral procession and services.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the GPD Scholarship Fund, c/o Chief’s Office, 11 Bruce Place, Greenwich, CT 06830.

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