ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – The first flag in the 147-year history of the Elmira Police Department has been scrapped, just over a year after it was first unveiled. The City Council voted to approve a request from the Police Benevolent Association Monday night to withdraw the City’s endorsement of the flag that was made on March 28, 2022. City Manager Michael Collins told 18 News the police union raised objections to the flag, saying it was designed by former Police Chief Anthony Alvernaz without proper input from department employees. The police union also cited concerns with the design being too similar to the flag used by the NYPD. You can read the resolution below:
MOTION: Approve SPONSORED BY: Joseph H Duffy VOTE: 5- 0
AYES: Corey Cooke, Joseph H Duffy, Mark A Franchi, Tory Kitching,
Nannette M Moss TOTAL: 5
NAYS: TOTAL: 0
ABSTAIN: TOTAL: 0
ABSENT: Daniel Mandell, Nick Grasso TOTAL: 2
Sponsored By: Deputy Mayor Duffy – Mayor Mandell Absent
On April 1, 2022, former Elmira Police Chief Anthony Alvernaz unveiled the department’s first flag in honor of its then 146th anniversary. In a memo, Alvernaz explained the design was modeled after the American flag and the NYPD flag. Alvernaz said the six green and white stripes represent the City Council Districts. The green is a nod to the “New Amsterdam Night Watchmen,” New York City’s first form of police. In 1685, they patrolled the streets while carrying lanterns made of green glass. The white signifies the “moral, ethical, and spiritual purity each officer strives to foster. The middle stripe mirrors police mourning bands that are typically worn over badges following a line of duty death.” You can read the original memo from Mr. Alvernaz below:
After the flag ceremony on April 1, 2022, Alvernaz told 18 News he played an April Fool’s joke on his officers, before revealing the final design. “So the two flags that the officers were requested to vote on were simply a setup for an April Fool’s joke, and today’s flag was the true flag that was voted on by the city council. Itt was kind of a play with the car, because some of the officers are still having trouble with the new car design, but unfortunately the cars are still real and they are not a joke, so this will stay the same.”
Former Chief Alvernaz unveiled the new checker pattern design for police cruisers in February of 2022. The police department later changed the design again.
In a phone conversation Tuesday with 18 News, Mr. Alvernaz said: “This is the first time I’ve been made aware by anybody, including the union, of having any negative thoughts on the flag. Input was requested at the time of design and several versions were reviewed. The similarity with the NYPD flag is intentional. It represents the history of New York Law Enforcement. I was very proud of the design and I felt the officers at the time were too.”
The City of Elmira forced Alvernaz out in January. The City launched an investigation after Alvernaz was involved in a suspect chase on the Southside. The City says the incident was not the reason he was fired, but that Alvernaz became “unprofessional and insubordinate” after learning he was under investigation. City Manager Michael Collins gave Alvernaz the option to resign or be fired. Alvernaz chose the termination.
Tuesday, Alvernaz told 18 News he could still not comment on why he was forced out, due to pending litigation. 18 News also reached out to Brooks Shaw, the President of the Police Benevolent Association. Mr. Shaw did not answer us before publication. Elmira Police Chief Kris Thorne says there are currently no plans to design a new flag. Chief Thorne and Deputy Chief Scott Packard said because the request to withdraw the flag was made by the Police Benevolent Association, they could not comment.