SCHENECTADY -- The Schenectady Police Department welcomed eight new recruits, all of whom Police Chief Eric Clifford said have the potential to be “future leaders.”
“This is the future of Schenectady policing,” Clifford said. “A future chief might be among these eight.”
The eight recruits were sworn in at the Zone 5 Law Enforcement Training Academy in Schenectady. They will go through six months of training at the academy and then will have to complete three months of training at the department.
Mayor Gary McCarthy praised the recruits, calling it a significant day for not only them but for their families and the community at large.
McCarthy said the recruits will face struggles at the training academy, but added they will learn a lot. It will be an experience that prepares them for the job.
“You should all be proud that they’re here as they go through this process,” McCarthy said.
The recruitment class features two men who were born and raised in Schenectady, one of them the first practicing Muslim officer on the department.
Clifford said they were somewhat limited by the applicant pool that was available to them this time around. But he said the department will be making more efforts to bring more diversity to the force through its recruitment efforts.
That includes visiting schools and talking to students about becoming police officers, having public information officers promote the department’s recruitment efforts and pushing it out more on social media.
“We’re taking every step that we can to push the message out to have people take the [civil service] test,” Clifford said.
The recruits will bring the department back up to its 161 person budgeted staffing level. It covers officers who have either retired, resigned or transferred, Clifford said.
One of those recruits was Elijah Washington, 22, a transfer from the Zone 7 Training Academy in Little Falls. He was sponsored by the St. Johnsville Police Department.
Washington actually has completed most of his academy training and will finish the last month at the Schenectady Police Department. He’ll then go back to the Zone 7 academy to graduate, and then come back to Schenectady to complete three months of departmental training before becoming a patrol officer, Clifford said.
Growing up in Schenectady, Washington, who is biracial, said he always wanted to be a police officer in the city in which he grew up. His goal was to always protect and serve his community.
“It’s my place, you know what I mean?” Washington said. “This is where I live and this is the community I want to protect.”
Washington said he converted to Islam six years ago. He said it's a religion that focuses on helping people out and on self improvement. It’s something he hopes he can pass along as a police officer.
“It’s about improving yourself and bringing that back out into the community,” Washington said, “That’s where it’s really at.”
Clifford also emphasized the importance of Washington being from Schenectady. It’s an attribute that always catches the department’s interest, he said.
“I think by being born and raised, and living in this community, it’s going to be a big impact,” Clifford said.
Another recruit who was born and raised in Schenectady was Brendan Maloney. He’s actually a third generation police officer; his father, Kevin Maloney, is a detective in the Schenectady Police Department.
After living in Schenectady for the past 21 years, Maloney said he was excited to join the force and serve his community.
“It’s an honor,” Maloney said. “Giving back to the community after living here for 21 years is something I always wanted to do.”
Speaking about the class of recruits, Clifford remarked: “These are really solid people. And I’m happy to have them.”
The recruitment class:
Zachary G. Aviles-Presley, 28, graduated from Sandy Creek Central School in 2008. He attended Hudson Valley Community College from 2008 until 2010 and SUNY Plattsburgh from 2010 until 2012. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in ccology while minoring in biology.
Robert J. DeCarlo, 24, graduated from Schalmont High School in 2012. He attended SUNY Schenectady County Community College where he earned 31 credits.
Nicholas A. Georgelas, 23, got his advanced regents diploma at Scotia-Glenville High School in 2013. He attended SUNY Schenectady County Community College in 2013. He then went to Paul Smith College from 2014 until 2017 and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in natural resources management and policy.
Raymond T. Klopchin, 33, graduated from Warwick Valley High School in 2004. He then went on to attend SUNY Orange County Community College from 2010 until 2012 and received his associate's degree for criminal justice.
John Larkin, 26, graduated from Niskayuna High School in 2010. He went on to attend SUNY Schenectady County Community College from 2011 until 2012 before transferring to SUNY Oswego. He graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
Brendan Maloney, 21, graduated from Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School in 2015. He later attended Pace University from 2015 until 2017. He is currently enrolled at SUNY Cortland where he is majoring in sociology with a concentration in criminology.
Kevin R. Poltorak, 27, graduated from Mohonasen High School in 2010. He attended SUNY Schenectady County Community College from 2010 until 2013. He received his associate’s degree in humanities and social science.
Elijah M. Washington, 22, graduated from Schenectady High School in 2015. He also went to Capital Region BOCES from 2014 until 2015 and received a certificate in criminal justice. He went on to attend SUNY Delhi and received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He also got his associate’s degree in criminal justice from SUNY Schenectady County Community College.
Weekes back at work
Officer Mark Weekes has returned to work at the Schenectady Police Department, according to Sgt. Matt Dearing.
Weekes had been on voluntary unpaid leave while being investigated by the state Attorney General’s Office for his involvement in the death of Andrew Kearse in May 2017.
Kearse died while in the custody of the Schenectady Police Department. An autopsy revealed he died due to heart failure.
In-car video of the incident showed Kearse after his arrest collapsing in the back of the police car, driven by Weekes, less than a minute before reaching the police station.
Video footage also recorded Kearse stating he could not breathe 29 times during the ride.
Kearse was found unconscious when they arrived at the station and never regained consciousness.
A grand jury declined to file charges against Weekes.
Weekes spoke for the first time publicly about the incident with The Daily Gazette in December. He said he voluntarily went on leave because he kept second guessing himself while on patrol.
Weekes said he would act differently if a situation like Kearse’s were to occur again. However, he said he believed he did everything as he was supposed to at the time of the incident.
“I did everything the way I believed it was supposed to be done at the time,” Kearse said.
Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford had previously said the department would work with Weekes to get him back on the street. That included getting him re-acquainted with the job.
Weekes previously told The Gazette getting back to work was something he needed to do.
“I like being out in the community, and I like doing what I can to help people,” Weekes said. “It’s also what I know.”