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Colonie Names New Police Chief

A photo of Colonie Police Chief Mike Woods
Colonie Police Department
Colonie Police Chief Mike Woods

The Colonie Police Department’s acting chief has been promoted to the role on a permanent basis. Mike Woods has been with the department for 30 years and is a lifelong Colonie resident. He’s been deputy chief since 2015 and acting chief since Jonathan Teale retired after more than three decades with the department in July. WAMC’s Jim Levulis spoke with Woods about his goals for the department – which has roughly 110 officers and an annual budget of about $16 million.

Woods: Well, it's just ever since I was a young boy growing up in Latham, and I just, it was just always something that I really wanted to do. I always wanted to be a police officer. You know, it was just one of those things, you know, certain people that when they're younger, they want to get into law enforcement, they want to help their community, serve a community. And it's just something that I've always wanted to do since I was a young boy.

Levulis: And now you've been with the Colonie Police Department for 30 years. And for the past, roughly two months, you've been acting chief. What made you want to take on the role full-time?

Woods: I felt it was just it was time. You know, we have great people here at Colonie, I always use the example it's a team effort. We had one of our deputy chiefs retire just before the pandemic started last year. So I was actually due to COVID. We weren't hiring anybody. So I was kind of doing the roles of both the deputy chief on the admin side, Administrative Services side, as well as the operation side. So I kind of had my hands in all parts of the police department and it was just time. I had confidence. I think I have great personnel, my lieutenants, and my command staff are outstanding. And I keep going back: it's a team effort. It's not one person that does this job. Police work is totally about team effort and I got great people here.

Levulis: And to that point, what are some of the biggest challenges in your mind facing your department and the staff of it?

Woods: Well, right now, it would probably be the recruitment of officers, and then the retention of officers. You know, fortunately for us, we have, we get great support from our town government. The supervisor, Supervisor Mahan, town government really support us. So, you know, we don't have a lot of those issues that maybe some other municipalities have, we get great support from our community. That being said, due to COVID, we lost some officers that had retired, they were planning to retire. So, we got to be down about four or five officers. We're planning to backfill them at the end of the year. But obviously, nationwide, and statewide law enforcement agencies are having a problem with the number of people that don't want to be police officers now and you see a lot more people retiring. And that's probably the biggest thing right now for not only us, but most law enforcement, is the recruitment of qualified candidates and the retention of officers. And we have it like I said, we have it a little bit better than others. We're in the planning stages of, of backfilling some of those positions later in the year.

Levulis: And you mentioned maybe this feeling of not wanting to be a police officer, why do you think that's happening?

Woods: Well, I think, obviously, the, you know, the narrative, the negative narrative, you know, probably the last year so. I think that is turning around, I think that the vast majority of the public. The unsilent majority, as I say, really respect the police, like the police, want police there. And again, this this goes back to, you know, our job and Colonie, our community, our business members, our school districts, everybody we work with and deal with have always been very supportive of us. So, that's why I actually, you know, if you if you want to be a police officer, Colonie’s a great place to start your career. But, I think that the tide is turning. I think people are really seeing and I think law enforcement is actually saying that there is support out there for us by the vast majority of people and communities and business owners.

Levulis: And part of this conversation around law enforcement policing over the past year plus, in New York State has included some state mandated police reforms. How is the Colonie Police Department implementing changes brought about by those reforms?

Woods: Well, one thing that kind of worked to our advantage is a lot of the recommendations in the reform package we had already been doing. We've been a state accredited agency for the last 25 years. So a lot of those recommendations we were already doing. So, it really did not affect us as far as us changing how we do our business on a daily day-to-day basis.

Levulis: And then, obviously, you mentioned recruitment retention. Some of your main focuses, some of the main challenges that the department is facing any other changes or adjustments that you'd like to see at the department?

Woods: No, not really. We've always worked really well here and we've always probably done things the right way. Maybe as I get into this position for a little while there's some changes we can make here and there. But, like I said, we get great support from our town government, we get great support from our community. We have a very robust training unit here. So, we are training our officers a lot of the training that is was recommended in the police reform package we've been doing for years, the implicit bias training, the de-escalation training, the use-of-force training, these are things that we have been doing a Colonie for probably the last half-dozen to 10 years. So, we just keep doing what we're doing. Like I said, we have great people here we stay up-to-date with the current trends. Any type of policy changes that we need that come from the state, we're usually right on top of that. And again, being an accredited agency. A lot of these things were already in place that we do.