SARATOGA SPRINGS – Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino has asked the Civil Service Commission to allow external candidates for police and fire chief the next time those posts become available.
The current in-house rules make it impossible for a person of color to test for either chief position for at least the next decade, Montagnino told the commission this week.
The city doesn’t allow for open competitive exams. Under the city’s Civil Service rules, all police and firefighter promotions are made internally.
In an interview, Montagnino said Lloyd Davis is the only police officer of color, and he has 20-plus years on the force. There’s no indication he intends to apply for police chief.
Davis aside, the only way someone could get to be police chief who’s not white is that they’d have to start out as a recruit, the commissioner said. Then the officer would have to work his way up to sergeant.
The sergeant would then have to serve at that rank for seven years before he could become eligible to take the police chief’s test.
“Practically speaking, nobody ever goes from sergeant directly to a police chief without being lieutenant in the intervening period,” Montagnino said.
“So when you count it all out, there’s an absolute minimum of about nine or 10 years under the best of circumstances before we would ever see the chance of someone even being able to sit for the test, much less get the promotion,” he said.
Other New York communities have recently appointed police chiefs from other communities, include Newburgh, Watervliet and Albany. Albany Chief Eric Hawkins worked in Michigan before he became Albany’s top cop in 2018.
“In fact, in Albany, it’s beyond open competitive; it’s an at-will appointment for police chief,” Montagnino said.
Rather than move for the change himself, Montagnino said “the better way of doing this is for the commission to make the decision to do the right thing.”
Civil Service Coordinator Corissa Salvo couldn’t be reached for comment. Police Chief Shane Crooks was not in the office Friday. Fire Chief Joseph Dolan didn’t return a phone call Friday.
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected]et or 518-419-9766.