Pleasantville mourns former Mayor Ralph Peterson

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PLEASANTVILLE ­– A pioneer in law enforcement and city politics has died.

Former Mayor Ralph Peterson, the city’s first African-American police chief and mayor, died late Thursday, June 12. He was 81.

“In his heart he was still a police officer,” said Pleasantville Police Chief Jose Ruiz.

“He was a pioneer. He wasn’t afraid of anything.”

Peterson was mayor for four terms after serving 32 years in the city’s police department, the last 11 as police chief.

While an officer, Peterson formed “Pete’s Boys,” a group similar to today’s PAL organization, Ruiz said.

“His goal was to keep kids off the streets,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz he feels a great loss because Peterson was more than just the man who first hired him to the department in 1983.

“He was a great person,” Ruiz said. “He was my mentor for the 30 years I’ve been here.”

Peterson was known across the state and the country, Ruiz said.

Still, Peterson had a big heart for anyone who needed help, had a question or sought advice.

“He was that type of person,” Ruiz said. “He didn’t care who he was or who you were. He would do anything in his power to help people. He never turned anybody away.”

Ruiz said Peterson’s death is “a very big loss to the police department, city government and to the Pleasantville community as whole.”

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