Schenectady County

New police recruits welcomed to city

A former New York City police officer, a probation officer and a Lenscrafters lab technician are amo

A former New York City police officer, a probation officer and a Lenscrafters lab technician are among the Schenectady Police Department’s latest recruit class.

In all, eight new recruits were sworn in Monday, bringing the department’s total complement to 167.

Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said with the anticipated hiring of a new chief, the department will have a cushion of two extra officers to absorb anticipated retirements.

Seven of the recruits will head directly to the Zone 5 Law Enforcement Training Academy. Six months of classes begin there Wednesday.

The eighth, 24-year-old Anthony Savignano, is to head directly into the department’s three-month field training program. He served three years with the New York City Police Department.

The officers entering the academy follow eight more who graduated Friday. They received their guns and badges at a ceremony last week.

“We’re getting ahead of the curve with a front-loaded class,” Bennett said. “With anticipated retirements, it’s more cost-effective to replace them now.”

Bennett said he understands the department has never been at full strength. “This is welcome news by everybody, citizens as well,” Bennett said.

There is lag time. Those entering the academy this week won’t be full officers for another almost nine months. Those who graduated Friday still have three months of field training.

Department staffing has been cited in debates over officer response times and overtime. Bennett last year pulled three officers out of the public schools to put them on the streets.

The department also still has six officers out, five on paid leave and another out on unpaid suspension. The five on paid leave have been out since December.

Mayor Brian U. Stratton had the opportunity to meet with the recruits prior to the ceremony. He said he referenced the department’s troubles from recent years.

“I told them,” Stratton said, “with every new shift, with every new day, with every new officer, is an opportunity for us to rebuild the reputation of the Police Department.”

He said the city will work with them in every way possible to achieve that.

“It wasn’t doom and gloom, it was very positive,” Stratton said. “It was also realistic.”

The new officers are:

u Anthony Savignano, 24, of Schenectady, who is to go into field training. His father is Dave Savignano, a long-time streets superintendent in public works.

u Mark Weekes, 23, of Schenectady, served in the Air Force and was honorably discharged at the rank of staff sergeant. He is also a member of the New York State Air National Guard. Stratton noted that Weekes is African-American. The department has made an effort to recruit minorities.

u Andrew Dannible, 20, of Esperance, is a recent graduate of Schenectady County Community College. He has also been a certified lab technician for Lenscrafters.

u Michael Hudson, 24, of Scotia, graduated from Evangel College and worked for Wal-Mart.

u Derek Reilly, 21, of Rotterdam, is a recent graduate of SCCC. He has also worked for the state police and the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Department.

u Timothy Rizzo, 24, of Rotterdam, is a 2007 graduate of University at Albany. He previously worked for another blue organization with a shield, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

u Michael Schonewald, 23, of Schenectady, is a 2007 graduate of Hudson Valley Community College.

u Matthew Thorne, 26, of Schenectady, graduated from Utica College. He previously was a Schenectady County probation officer.

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