On Monday, the city of Schenectady will have its very own full-time affirmative action officer.
Ron Gardner is being hired to help increase the number of women and minorities who work for the city.
Gardner has indicated that municipalities across the country have struggled to diversify public safety departments such as police and fire.
City Mayor Gary McCarthy has added that public safety jobs are often high profile, well-paid positions, but they include educational and physical requisites, and require a certain score on a civil service test, but it’s a process that’s well worth it for those who spend multiple years preparing.
This hiring initiative by the city of Schenectady is especially noteworthy since in mid-October 2016, U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced a $132,319 grant for the Albany Police Department to support its Youth Police Initiative (YPI), as well as expand it to three other police departments across upstate New York, including the city of Schenectady.
Albany Police Department’s YPI has been in existence since 2014. The other two cities are Troy and Syracuse.
At the time of the announcement, Schenectady’s new police chief, Eric S. Clifford, exclaimed that he was “excited to have the Schenectady Police Department participate in the youth police initiative [because] building stronger relationships within the community, especially between youths in the community and the police, are of the highest priority. … As we expand our community policing efforts and our PAL program, and focus on youth initiatives, together we will see relationships evolve to where dignity, respect, and trust is shared by all.”
The YPI-funded programs are being undertaken in response to recommendations put forward by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
Probably, the best known type of YPI program is “Law Enforcement Exploring.”
It is a career orientation and experience program for young people contemplating a career in the field of criminal justice.
Its mission is to offer young adults, ages 14-21, a hands-on awareness of the criminal justice system through training and practical experiences.
Law Enforcement Explorer posts are sponsored by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies throughout the country.
They are endorsed by numerous professional organizations, such as the International Chiefs of Police Association (IACP) and the National Sheriffs Association (NSA).
Law Enforcement exploring is a well-established and highly respected program that has served as a platform from which countless young adults have launched a successful career with local, county, state and federal public safety agencies.
My recent book, American Volunteer Police, devotes two chapters to the organization and types of existing youth oriented police initiatives. The complete book can be downloaded without cost at:
The Albany County Sheriff’s Office has had a “Law Enforcement Deputy Explorer” program for a number of years.
Deputy Explorers assist regular deputy sheriffs by performing nonhazardous duties such as report writing, bicycle licensing, public fingerprinting, assist in “Operation Child Safe,” crowd assistance at parades and civic events, anti-crime campaigns, search missions, and statistical computations.
The deputy explorers usually work at the sheriff s station closest to their homes and may engage in special assignments, such as parades, air shows, conferences, and expositions.
The deputy explorers are non-compensated but completely insured while in training and on duty. New members are expected to furnish their own uniforms and equipment upon acceptance into the program.
The establishment of a Law Enforcement Explorer Post is an ideal way to help young people, especially women and minorities, prepare for a career in public safety
Thus far, the city of Schenectady has done a fine job in establishing its police/youth basketball league that meets for one month every summer and plays at Jerry Burrell Park, which is located in the heart of one of the city’s crime-prone areas.
The league has been highlighted as a success in terms of community-police engagement and was recognized by the City Council with a ceremonial resolution.
However, in 2016, according to Police Chief Clifford, the 146-member Schenectady Police Department is still struggling to gain minorities. It now has seven black, four Hispanic and seven women officers.
Two of these officers have achieved superior officer ranks.
These numbers can be increased, and the most effective way is to create a new year-round Law Enforcement Explorer Program.
Community resources, such as the Schenectady County Community College’s Criminal Justice and the county’s Zone 5 Police Academy, are just waiting to be asked to lend their support.
Martin Alan Greenberg is a retired SUNY Ulster professor of criminal justice and the author of a number of books dealing with volunteers in public safety. He is currently the director of research and education for the New York State Association of Auxiliary Police, Inc.