The Schenectady Police Department welcomed 11 new officers Monday, the most recruits in the past 15 years, Police Chief Brian Kilcullen said.
Add the number of transfers to the department this year and that total jumps to 14, bringing the department to 148 police officers, still low compared to previous years, the chief said.
“We were budgeted for 166 at one time,” Kilcullen said after the swearing-in ceremony at City Hall Monday afternoon. “We lost about 23 officers to retirement several years ago.”
The average number of new officers each year is about three, Kilcullen said. Of the 11 new recruits, one is a minority and one is female.
Kilcullen said there are about a dozen black and Hispanic officers in the department and about seven female officers. He said recruiting minorities has always been a challenge.
“We can’t just hire someone. They have to be qualified,” he said. “One of the things that was discussed during one of the community forums is to make the department better represent the community at large. We’re working toward that goal.”
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy also said the department strives to recruit more minorities, but that it’s difficult to do so.
“We want the best candidates,” he said. “You find sometimes that the individuals might be ones that other people want. The long-term solution though is interaction with the community.”
City Councilwoman Marion Porterfield said she believes the key to attracting qualified minorities is educating them about being a police officer at an early age.
“If we’re not attracting minorities from other places, obviously not from here, I would suggest classes or extracurricular activities in high school or even middle school. A limited number of minorities in the past stands to reason that that will continue.”
McCarthy said he would also like to hire more police officers to boost the department but cannot due to budget constraints.
He said the department has had a decrease in violent crime of more than 12 percent and property crime has dropped more than 50 percent this year compared with the city’s five-year average.
“The department is building a reputation both regionally and statewide as a leader in proactive policing that is data-information based,” McCarthy said. “We are seeing great police work every day with the closure of major cases.”
Brothers Ross and Steven Flood of Colonie are joining the department after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. Both said the Schenectady Police Department was their first choice.
“I always wanted to be an officer,” said Steven Flood, 27, surrounded by his family after the ceremony. “I’m excited and honored to have this opportunity.”
Ross Flood, 32, said he expects a challenge entering the Zone 5 Law Enforcement Training Academy today, but is looking forward to a long career with the department.
“It seemed like a good opportunity,” he said. “I’m ready and I’m excited.”
Flood said he’s happy to be an officer alongside his brother. His brother agreed.
“It’s great,” Ross Flood said. “I couldn’t imagine it without him. He’s been beside me my whole life. We were in the Marines together.”
Dianne Flood said she’s proud of her sons. She smiled as she watched her family take photos of them together in City Hall, adding “I raised them well.”
“I’m excited for them,” she said. “They worked hard toward this. They have been overseas and they have seen a lot. They will do well.”
After six months of basic training at the academy, the new recruits will have 12 weeks of department-supervised field training.
To be an officer, Kilcullen said, the recruits had to score high enough on a civil service exam and pass a physical agility exam. They were also asked questions about their personal history in addition to reference interviews, a psychological evaluation and a polygraph test.
Kilcullen said the department is focused on community relations by participating in activities with local residents, like the Community and Police Basketball League, which is in its second year.
The league kicked off this year’s season on Saturday at Jerry Burrell Park. The games are from noon to 5 p.m. every Saturday for four weeks. There are eight officers signed up to play. Playoffs are on Aug. 1.
“A lot has to do with our public service,” Kilcullen said. “We are part of the community. Police at all times should maintain a relationship with the public and be involved.”
Kilcullen said the basketball league would also help get kids interested in becoming police officers at an early age, and maybe help to introduce more minorities to the department.
Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett said the academy is high-pressure.
“We appreciate you putting them on loan to us,” Bennett said to the recruits’ family members at the ceremony. “They may not come back in the same physical condition, but they will all come back in one piece.”
Matthew LaPointe, 24, of Schenectady, said he’s happy to be joining the department because he always wanted to be a police officer.
“I’m excited, and a little nervous,” he said. “This is what I want to do with my life.”
In addition to LaPointe and the Floods, other new recruits include Michael Cook, 26; Daniel Coppola, 21; Justin Kupinski, 28; Takeo Mosher, 24; Christopher Palmer, 26; Donald Pitts, 33; Charles Rumfelt, 24; and Molly Winch, 24.
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Categories: News, Schenectady County