SCHENECTADY — City police are preparing to welcome a new class of recruits that includes the police chief’s son.
On Monday, the Schenectady Police Department hosted a special ceremony to recognize officers who were recently promoted, as well as honor a group of recent police academy graduates.
Four officers were recognized for their recent promotions, including Assistant Police Chief Brian Whipple, who was promoted last summer. Seven officers that began mandatory field training last year were also recognized during the brief ceremony at City Hall, which Police Chief Eric Clifford said was delayed due to the pandemic.
In addition to the recent hires, the department is preparing to greet a new class of five recruits who are expected to begin academy training Jan. 24. Among those recruits is Daniel Clifford, the police chief’s youngest son.
Chief Clifford said he abstained during his son’s hiring process, saying his son was hired “entirely on his own.”
“He interviewed for the job and was hired independent of my input,” he said. “He got in on his own merit, and of course he has my full support.”
Clifford noted that his son completed interviews with the department’s Office for Professional Standards, the city’s commissioner of public safety and a community advisory panel that is tasked with vetting police recruits before they are hired.
Asked who Daniel Clifford would report to once he graduated from the academy, the chief said he is ultimately tasked with overseeing the entire department but noted there are multiple members of command staff below him that his son would report to directly.
“I think it’s fair to say that — for anybody that questions it — I think he will be held to a higher standard than anybody else,” Clifford said.
Carl Williams, chair of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee, said he doesn’t have any concerns about the chief’s son working for the department.
Williams used to be involved with the community advisory panel, which weighs in on all potential police hires. The panel was created in 2020 amid ongoing police reform efforts.
“I will reassure the community that this panel is 100% invested in [the community’s] interest,” he said.
Williams, who resigned from the panel to focus on his City Council role, called the community panel a “step towards the right direction” but noted there is more work to be done to ensure all residents have a voice moving forward. The panel is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation and has recently garnered national attention.
“As we continue down the conversations and avenues of police reform in the city of Schenectady it’s important to acknowledge the victories and the accomplishments that we made so far, but make sure we remain steadfast on the goal of making sure that everyone in the community feels safe and protected,” he said.
Once the latest recruits graduate from the academy, the department will consist of 155 officers, below the 162 that Chief Clifford said he hopes to have.
Clifford said he is hoping to hire seven additional officers in the months ahead, though it’s unclear when that process will take place.
An injection of federal coronavirus-relief funds allocated through last year’s budget process allowed the department to hire the new officers.
Mayor Gary McCarthy implemented a hiring freeze when the pandemic first took root in the state in 2020 as a way of curtailing city spending amid concerns about tax revenue declining due to businesses having to temporarily shut down.
“Across the city, we’re down in a number of areas,” McCarthy said. “This just reflects the ongoing recruitment and hiring of individuals. Tonight it’s bringing the police department up, but then looking at the other positions as we go forward.”
Asked about the hiring of Daniel Clifford, McCarthy said he made the final decision, adding that all officers go through a thorough review process.
“I’ll match that review process and I’ll match the performance of any individual that I hired with any other department in the region or across the state,” he said. “If anything he was put under a higher level of scrutiny, and I expect him to perform under a higher level.”
Here are the officers that were promoted and recently hired.
- Asst. Chief Brian Whipple
- Sgt. Charles Rumfelt
- Sgt. Andrew Dannible
- Sgt. Patrick Irwin
- Gary Chyrs
- John Whalen
- Joseph Dalessandro
- Michael Burke
- Anthony McLea
- Justin Vachon
- Zachary Voris