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Schenectady officers honored at ceremony

 Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford
Image capture by WAMC
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Open Stage Media/YouTube
Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford speaks during Monday's ceremony

The City of Schenectady recognized several police officers in a promotion ceremony Monday evening, including a welcome to seven new members of the force. The new recruits were vetted by a community panel as part of the hiring process.

The Promotion and Badge Ceremony at Schenectady City Hall Monday evening honored a dozen officers. Five officers were formally promoted, and seven new officers who have already begun their field training were recognized.

Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford…

“This is a very important evening, not only for the officers involved but for the police department. These types of ceremonies, I believe, are important. It’s important to honor the officers that are being promoted. It’s also important to honor the officers who are receiving their badge,” said Clifford.

Democratic Mayor Gary McCarthy also spoke at the ceremony in council chambers.

“Tonight we have that opportunity to, again, recognize some people who are starting off their career – they’ve actually had a little bit of time in the field so that they’re a little bit better prepared than some of them when we have these ceremonies – and then, some of the promotions that we’re going to do, again, to recognize the command staff of individuals who are really doing a great job on behalf of the men, women, and residents of this city,” said McCarthy.

For the seven recruits receiving their badges, Chief Clifford recognized their acceptance by not only the police department but also a citizen panel begun in late 2020 to review potential hires.

“I think it’s important for everybody to know that each of these officers, the new officers – the seven to the left of me – went before this panel and was able to speak to the panel, and the panel was able to speak to them. And I think this an important step with the public knowing that these officers passed their test,” said Clifford.

The idea for the citizen advisory panel for police hires was pitched by community advocate William Rivas, who also serves as Executive Director of the nonprofit COCOA House, which provides afterschool programs and mentorship for kids and teens.

Clifford thanked Rivas during the ceremony and the officers for meeting with the panel.

Rivas tells WAMC the panel has met with about 20 new officers over the last year as part of the hiring process. The panel received recognition during former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State speech last year, and Rivas was invited to appear on national television to discuss the program in December.

“When I had the opportunity to interview with Soledad O’Brien, and she kind of kept saying, talking about the history aspect of it, it never occurred to me that that’s what we were doing, because we weren’t in it for that.”

Rivas said he and others who advocated for the panel simply sought to create something new and meet a community need. The overwhelming majority of the Schenectady Police Department is white, while the panel, says Rivas, intends to accurately reflect the diversity of the city.

“This process has been great to be a part of,” said Rivas. “And just being there last night to see seven new officers hired that you interviewed, that you sat with, that you and the community had conversations about, and you and the community members – the panel members – agreed that these seven officers were the ones that we chose…we want to be able to inspire more people of color to sign up to be officers, and we believe that that’s going to be an eventual outcome of this process.”

Additionally, Schenectady has announced the hiring of five new officers. Four, including Chief Clifford’s son, will begin six months of training on January 24th. A fifth new hire is a transfer from the Albany Police Department and will begin field training the same day.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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