Schenectady County

Move slows police chief hiring

The highest scorer on the city police chief exam has bowed out, delaying the hiring process by anoth
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The highest scorer on the city police chief exam has bowed out, delaying the hiring process by another week.

City officials now must wait to see if Poughkeepsie police Capt. Steven W. Minard wants to be considered for the chief position. He was the fourth-highest scorer, pushing him off the list until one of the top three dropped out.

That scenario was generally expected because the top scorer confessed that he did no research into Schenectady and knew nothing about the city before taking the Civil Service exam.

Suffolk County Police Department Lt. William Hasper also said he didn’t study for the exam but wanted to see how well he could do.

His main concern, he said at the time, was to assure his superiors that his high score didn’t mean he would be leaving Suffolk County. Last week, he told Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett that he wasn’t interested in the Schenectady job.

Bennett immediately contacted Minard, who has 10 days to decide whether he wants to join the chief candidates.

Despite the delay, Bennett said, he still expects a chief to be named by the end of July — and the sooner the better, as far as he is concerned.

Some residents have suggested that Bennett take on the role of commissioner and chief, a role he has managed since Chief Michael N. Geraci left last November. But Bennett said that would force him to do the impossible: be both judge and prosecution in police discipline cases.

The chief is supposed to review all internal affairs investigations, checking Deputy Chief Mark Chaires’ analysis of what charges could be levied, based on the evidence. In the chief’s absence, Chaires is essentially working without anyone to check his investigations, Bennett said.

“We’re essentially having somebody confirm their own work. That’s never good,” he said. “It should go through another level of scrutiny.”

Bennett can’t provide that because officers who face disciplinary charges must plead guilty or plead their cases before him. If he is to decide whether they are guilty, he can’t be the person who decides to levy the charges against them. It would look like he’d already made his decision before holding a trial, he said.

“There’s a due process issue, in my opinion,” he added. “Because I do the disciplinary hearings, it makes it a bit awkward when you don’t have a police chief.”

Because the position is so important, he plans to quickly comes to a decision with Mayor Brian U. Stratton. The two men will conduct every interview jointly. That’s a change from the last chief promotion, when Commissioner Daniel Boyle and Mayor Albert P. Jurczynski met with the candidates separately.

Bennett said he’s happier to do the interviews with the mayor.

“The wise way to do it is to have everyone present at the interview so there’s no error as to what the person said,” Bennett said.

Interviews will start in about a week, after Minard accepts or declines an invitation to join the other candidates, Bennett said.

By order of their Civil Service test scores, the candidates are retired Albany police commander Steven E. Stella (80), city Deputy Chief Michael J. Seber (76), Troy Assistant Chief John F. Tedesco (72), Chaires (70) and Minard (70).

Both deputy chiefs also get four points for their city experience, pushing Seber into a first-place tie with Stella.

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