State Police Major Eric L. Laughton takes over for Richard Allen, who was promoted to inspector

FARMINGTON — State Police Maj. Eric L. Laughton remembers a time when he walked into a school, and everyone turned and looked at him.

Because many of the students and staff were not used to seeing troopers walk into class, they thought he was there to make an arrest, said Laughton, who noted a son attended the school.

But the more he visited, the more familiar his face became.

“Now, I was no longer viewed as someone coming into make an arrest, but someone coming in just to say ‘Hi,’” Laughton said. “That’s when you get the 10- or 11-year-old who comes to you and says, ‘Hey, can I talk to you about something?’ That could be serious, but you have created that relationship.”

Building community relationships is something Laughton hopes to instill in troopers.

Laughton, who began service with the New York State Police in March 1989, is the new commander of Troop E on Route 332.

Obviously, troopers are not geared to do a full-on community policing effort like, for example, the Canandaigua Police Department can do.

But they can, and will, try, Laughton said.

“Let’s get the troopers out of their cars and let’s get them to communicate with the public,” Laughton said. “Stop in a shop, grab a cup of coffee but then sit down and have a talk with the owner.”

Laughton, who started in the new role July 5, takes over for Maj. Richard Allen, who was promoted to inspector. Laughton will command more than 430 troopers and civilians in Troop E, which encompasses 10 counties including Ontario County.

Originally from the Buffalo area, Laughton lives in the Lockport area with his wife and children.

A recipient of the Theodore Roosevelt Police Award, Laughton also is a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Air National Guard, and commander of the 107th Medical Group.

“I love my job because I get to serve something bigger than I am,” Laughton said. “I wake up excited to do the job.”

Because of his police and military background — and perhaps because he is a retired professional bodybuilder — Laughton said he is big into leadership training and self-improvement for himself and others.

“I push training hard,” Laughton said.

And it’s worked for him, as he has worked in various capacities in various troops throughout New York in the State Police organization, including with the Community Narcotics Enforcement Team, or CNET, and Special Investigations Unit.

Laughton was promoted to the permanent rank of lieutenant in 2005 and to captain in 2014.

Laughton said troopers are “fantastic” at what they do, but he expects complete and total professionalism in those he leads.

“I hold standards high,” Laughton said. “It’s how we get better.”