James Plowden has been a police officer before, from 2006-12, in the city of Atlanta.
Now, though, he’s returning to Schenectady — the city where he grew up — and continuing his law-enforcement career.
“It’s a dream come true,” Plowden said after being one of three new Schenectady recruits to be sworn in Monday at City Hall. “It’s a wonderful feeling. I’m just very excited.”
“It will be great to serve and protect the city in which I’m from,” Plowden said a short time later, surrounded by family, “and the city I love.”
Plowden, 33, is joined in the summer class of city recruits by 29-year-old Cole Merryman and 23-year-old Nicholas Ottati. The three will enter the Zone 5 Law Enforcement Training Academy on Wednesday for six months of training, then go through three months of field training.
The three were sworn in Monday by Mayor Gary McCarthy. In remarks to the recruits’ families and friends, McCarthy called it an exciting day and a proud day.
“These individuals are enthusiastic, they’re well-educated and they are now joining a department whose transition is becoming more apparent,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy referenced the department’s “challenging past,” but also its transition to more results-oriented policing. Results-oriented policing, McCarthy said, involves individuals throughout the department — noting how crime in the city has continued on a downward trend.
“These individuals are three people who represent the future of the department,” McCarthy said, “and I’m proud to be able to administer the oath to them today to make them part of this department.”
Both Plowden and Ottati are Schenectady High School graduates, while Merryman is from Salem and previously worked in security at Union College.
Holding his nephew Zeph after the ceremony, Merryman said he’s wanted to be a police officer “pretty much my whole life.” He earned degrees in criminal justice from Hudson Valley Community College and, later, the University at Albany.
“I love the whole atmosphere of law enforcement,” Merryman said. “I’ve always been excited and focused on that.”
Merryman’s parents, Jim and Priscilla, confirmed their son’s interest in the profession “since he was knee high to a grasshopper,” as his mother said.
His parents understand that law enforcement can be a dangerous job, but “we pray for his safety and we really believe that he is in God’s hands,” his mother said.
“I’m very proud of him,” his father added. “We are confident that the Lord’s blessing is on him.”
Ottati was supported by a large contingent, as well, including his parents. After graduating from Schenectady High in 2009, Ottati went on to earn a degree from SUNY Cortland.
“It’s just great to work in a place where I grew up,” Ottati said. “I’ve always wanted to help people, and to do it here is a great opportunity.”
Plowden attended SUNY Morrisville and Schenectady County Community College before going on to earn a degree from East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania.
The hiring of Plowden, who is black, brings the number of blacks or Hispanics in the department to 12. The department has 145 total members, and city officials have been pushing in recent years to make the department — and the city workforce as a whole — more diverse.
Plowden said he moved to Atlanta because it was something new, and he returned to be closer to his family. With him Monday were several members of his family, including his wife, Kaiulani, and their three daughters, Aleecia, 6, Aily, 3, and Amylah, 4 months.
Also there for Plowden was his sister, Damonica, one of many to take pictures during the ceremony.
“I’m so happy for him,” the sister said. “I’m very proud of him. He’s my little brother.”