Schenectady County

10 approved to take chief’s exam

A total of 10 candidates to be Schenectady’s next police chief have been approved to take the civil

A total of 10 candidates to be Schenectady’s next police chief have been approved to take the civil service exam next month, civil service officials confirmed Wednesday.

Three of the candidates are to take the promotional exam. They are believed to be the department’s three current assistant chiefs, Mark Chaires, Michael Seber and Jack Falvo.

The seven other candidates are to take the open exam. They all hail from around the state. None currently hold positions outside New York, Schenectady County Personnel Administrator Kathleen Heap said.

Heap said she could not release the identities of any of the candidates, citing civil service rules. A total of 15 applications were received for the open exam. Of those, seven were approved.

One of the seven is believed to be Amsterdam Police Department Detective Lt. Thomas DiMezza, a 30-year veteran of law enforcement.

DiMezza confirmed his interest Wednesday, and his resume appears to pass experience requirements that Heap said tripped up the applicants who were rejected.

However, none of the applicants have been officially notified that they were accepted or rejected, Heap said. Rejection letters were expected to go out today with acceptance letters to go out later. The deadline to file was Tuesday.

Other potential applicants could not be determined Wednesday.

The chief’s exams have been slated for March 8. The location of the exams has yet to be determined. The tests are expected to take two months to score, with a new chief appointment not expected until summer.

The open exam would only come into play if one or more of the department’s assistant chiefs failed the exam, officials have said.

The applicants are vying to help run a department that has been wracked by scandal in recent years.

Five officers remain suspended with pay while an alleged December beating of a suspect is being investigated. A detective was also sent to prison last year after admitting to taking drug evidence.

The department has been without a chief since October. That’s when Michael N. Geraci Sr. left to take a job with the federal government.

Since then, Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett has been running the department with the three assistant chiefs.

The position is advertised at a salary of $115,000, an increase from the $109,000 Geraci was to make this year.

All three of the current assistant chiefs have vied for the top spot before. In the 2002 search that ended with Geraci’s selection, Falvo served as interim chief, while Chaires made the short list of three top candidates selected by then-Commissioner Daniel Boyle.

Bennett has said he wanted to cast a wide net, sending the civil service posting to the state sheriff’s associations, to state troopers throughout the state, and to the state chiefs of police, including retired chiefs.

He’s hoping to find someone with extensive experience in an urban setting — not a rural or suburban environment like Geraci’s background.

While Heap could not identify the applicants by name, she did release some demographic information that does not appear to reflect some of Bennett’s preferences.

Each of the seven candidates comes from a police department. Though the Schenectady department is currently headed by a commissioner who had been a lifelong member of the state police, none of the seven applicants currently hold positions with the state police, Heap said.

Also, none of them come from large departments in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse or Albany, Heap said.

“It was pretty much all over the state,” she said. “Some were from downstate, some local and some came from the middle of the state.”

Several of the rejected applicants did not have the required years of experience in “third line” supervisory positions. (First-line supervisors are those who oversee officers directly.) Those rejected on that ground included sergeants and even officers, Heap said.

The secrecy behind the candidate names appears to extend to Bennett himself. Bennett said Wednesday even he had not been informed who they were.

He said he had heard some rumors, but he declined to say what.

“I’m anxious for the process to continue,” he said.

DiMezza has been with the Amsterdam Police Department for nearly all his law enforcement career, starting as a patrol officer. He has been a detective lieutenant since 1998, appearing to satisfy the supervisory requirement.

DiMezza, 52, noted that he already knows many of those at the department, working on investigations and as an instructor at the local police academy.

He said he believed knowing the inner workings of the department would be an advantage.

“I believe I could provide the leadership necessary to bring that department up to being a respected department in the community,” DiMezza said.

DiMezza has also been the elected supervisor of the Town of Amsterdam since 1999, a position that he said would go by the wayside were he to became Schenectady’s chief.

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