Schenectady County

Mayor names Clifford as new Schenectady police chief

Mayor Gary McCarthy on Tuesday named Lieutenant Eric Clifford as the city’s new police chief.
Schenectady Police officer Eric Clifford was appointed the new police chief for the department onSeptember 13, 2016 in the GE Theater at Proctors.
Schenectady Police officer Eric Clifford was appointed the new police chief for the department onSeptember 13, 2016 in the GE Theater at Proctors.

Mayor Gary McCarthy Tuesday named Lt. Eric Clifford as the city’s next police chief.

McCarthy did so at a ceremony inside the GE Black Box Theater at Proctors, citing Clifford’s experience both as a patrol officer and in investigations, as well as Clifford’s commitment and vision going forward.

“Under Chief Clifford’s leadership, we’re going to continue to be more engaged in the community and strengthen the partnerships within the community,” McCarthy said.

Clifford is a 14-year veteran of the department, becoming an officer in 2002. He made lieutenant in May 2010. He served as department spokesman for a time. He followed his older brother Sean Clifford onto the force.

McCarthy chose Clifford from a pool of four city lieutenants. Clifford takes over a department that has been without a chief since October, when the previous chief Brian Kilcullen moved on. Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett has continued to lead the department in the interim.

Clifford laid out his vision for the department to those gathered. He intends to focus on officers engaging with the community, departmental operations, collaborating with external partners and technology.

“My challenge is going to be, with all officers, how do we get better?” Clifford said. “How do we get better at doing what we’re already doing right now? The old philosophy, how do you go from good to great?

“That’s going to be my challenge to everybody.”

One way to improve, Clifford said, is continue to increase officer interaction with the public, both on patrol and off the job.

In one example, Cilfford said he wants to give officers more of an opportunity to get out of their cars and interact with residents.

Video showing officers talking with children and participating in a dunk tank downtown played during a portion of Clifford’s remarks.

“I want to challenge them to go to events even when they’re not working and engage with the community in regular street clothes,” Clifford said later, “so that everybody out in the community gets to know us better.”

Continuing to find ways to best use data to drive police response and find ways to get the most out of the street cameras is another priority. He showed video of a street drug deal caught on the cameras. Addressing that activity can head off larger problems, including shootings and robberies.

He wants to devote more resources to fighting drug crimes, including the heroin epidemic.

Regarding officers and the community, he said he intends to encourage officers who don’t live in the city to move to the city. That is something Clifford will do himself, a requirement placed by McCarthy. His plan is to have that completed in six months.

Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney praised Clifford as an excellent choice in remarks. Carney’s office worked closely with Clifford as a lieutenant in several high-profile cases.

Carney recalled seeing Clifford go the extra distance for victims, touched on a human level by their plight.

“That really sets him apart,” Carney said. “And, at the same time, I see that he is a leader who commands the respect of those he works with. I see great things for him as a young chief in this department.”

The Schenectady police chief is budgeted to receive a salary of $133,943, according to the 2016 budget. Lieutenants make a base salary of $84,121 and are eligible for overtime pay as well.

Clifford became a police officer in 2002 after having worked in the insurance industry as a claims adjuster. He investigated car accident claims.

He cited the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as a turning point. He began to reevaluate his career and ultimately chose to follow his brother into policing.

He ultimately received his police officer’s badge from his wife Jennifer at a December 2002 ceremony.

Tuesday’s ceremony was also rich in family symbolism. Clifford’s brother, Sean Clifford, carried the new chief’s badge into the auditorium. Family members then passed the badge down to Clifford’s parents Edward and Linda Clifford, his wife Jennifer and ultimately to sons, Andrew, 21, and Daniel, 17.

Andrew and Daniel then pinned the chief’s badge on their father.

Edward and Linda Clifford expressed their happiness afterward.

“I still can’t believe it’s happened,” Edward Clifford said. “I’m still in a little bit of shock and awe, but I’m very proud.”

“Very proud of him,” Linda Clifford echoed.

For himself, the new chief called the morning a little overwhelming. But he’s looking forward to starting work.

“I know it’s a tremendous responsibility, but I’m ready for it,” Clifford said. “I’ve prepared for this for the last 14 years and really for the past 21 years of my professional career. I’m ready to get going.”

Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122, [email protected] or @ByStevenCook on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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