Schenectady — Four new recruits for the Schenectady Police Department were some of the first candidates of the department to experience a hiring process which now includes conversations with a Community Advisory Panel.
“For the first time the community has insight into this process,” said Ron Gardner, the city’s Affirmative Action Officer, who heads the panel.
The Police Department announced Wednesday in a news release it hired four recruits who will head to the academy Monday for six months of basic training, followed by 12 weeks of department supervised field training.
“It’s just another step in the process that the candidate has to get through,” said Chief Eric Clifford Friday.
The first officer to go before the panel was Michael Czub, a lateral transfer from the Albany County Sheriff’s Department.
The recruits are Nolan Carrol, Renaldo McFarlane, Josh Clifford and Michael Lisky,
Three of the officers hired are white men and one is a Hispanic man, who can speak some Spanish, although not fluently.
Clifford said the panel isn’t meant to be an interview, but more of a conversation with community members. Gardner said panel members want to try “to get a feel for the person.”
“We’re looking for things like their sensitivity to the community,” he said.
Carroll said he spoke to the panel about his involvement with St. Anthony’s Church, noting he got on the force to be more involved with the community and carry on his grandfather Frank Ranucci’s legacy. Ranucci is a retired lieutenant with the department.
Josh Clifford said he told the panel his goal is to help the community have a more positive outlook on the Police Department, so people know the officers a little more personally. He also talked to the panel on how his time spent de-escalating situations at a casino he worked for could be beneficial to the force.
McFarlane said he’s looking to get more involved with the community as well, by doing things like supporting small businesses.
He also said his mico-credential in understanding diversity will help him show peers how others see the Police Department and why they portray them the way they do.
Lisky said he talked to the panel about growing up in the city, and his time spent as a corrections officer. He said he’s looking forward to seeing whether more cops can walk the beat so they are out on foot in neighborhoods interacting with people more, “so they can see you as a person.”
Clifford said he wants the panel, which is made up of all volunteers, to be independent from the department so the community members who make up the panel feel comfortable bringing up any concerns about potential hires.
However, the panel isn’t the deciding factor on whether someone will be hired.
“Their feedback is weighed equally — just as much as any part of the process,” Clifford said.
Clifford said the panel has five members currently, but he is looking to add two more and backup members should someone be unavailable to talk to a candidate.
The new officers will put the force at 154. Each officer will make about $44,000. Clifford said he is hoping to get the force back to 160 officers, which was the plan before the coronavirus pandemic.
Of the officers in the department, including the recruits, only six are female, six are Hispanic, seven are Black and one is Guyanese.
Clifford said he knows his department does not adequately represent the makeup of the city it serves, which is something he’s looking to fix.
However, he said the list of officers they get who have taken the civil service exam makes it harder to find officers who may represent the community more. State standards require he take the people who score the highest on the civil cervice exam, he said. Clifford said he doesn’t even get to see the full list. Rather, if he has one spot to fill he may only get the names of the three highest scoring people from the exam.
“Every time you set a standard you shrink the pool,” Clifford said.
Clifford said he would rather have the exam be pass/fail and the whole list be available for viewing.
Gardner, who is also helping the department on police reform policies, said he is drafting a two-pronged policy around hiring and sensitivity to the community. The policy would show what the job is like and explain what the community can do to be better engaged.
He’s hoping it will “bridge the gap between the community and police” and maybe even be used as a tool to recruit people from within the community to become officers.
“It’s about building that pipeline,” Gardner said.
Schenectady police new recruits
- Nolan Carroll, 23: Graduated from Schalmont High school in 2016 and LeMoyne College in 2020 with a Bachelor’s Degree in political science and pre-law. His grandfather Frank Ranucci was a lieutenant with the department, but has since retired.
- Josh Clifford, 23: Graduated from Schalmont High School in 2015 He attended Hudson Valley Community College from 2015 to 2017 and Schenectady County Community College from 2018 to 2019. He is the nephew of Chief Eric Clifford. His father Sean Clifford is a retired K-9 handler with the department, his grandfather James Bradshaw was a detective sergeant and his great uncle James Bradshaw is a retired detective and a Rotterdam town justice.
- Renaldo McFarlane, 22: Graduated from Canajoharie High School in 2016 and the University of Buffalo in 2019 where he received a Bachelor’s Degree in sociology with a minor in criminology. He also has a micro-credential in understanding diversity.
- Michael Lisky, 34: He graduated Schenectady High School in 2005.He attended Hudson Valley Community College from 2005 to 2006 and Schenectady Community College in 2008 where he received an Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice.