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Proposed program would give Onondaga County youth opportunity for law enforcement career

Tom Magnarelli
DA William Fitzpatrick being sworn into office in December.

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick wants to give the youth in the county the opportunity to join law enforcement in a new four-year program. The program is designed to be a deterrent from young people joining a gang.

At his seventh swearing-in ceremony in December, Fitzpatrick acknowledged it is a tough time to be a law enforcement officer in the country. But throughout his time, he said Onondaga County has been a leader with diversionary programs for nonviolent offenders. Now a new program he wants to start called Law Enforcement Education and Development will be directed at young people.

“You want to join a gang?" Fitzpatrick asked. "We can’t stop you. But we’d like to offer you an opportunity to join another gang. Gangs that wear badges and carry guns and protect people: law enforcement. We want you to come over and work on our side.”

The age group has not been selected yet, but if the four-year program is successfully completed, Fitzpatrick said it will guarantee two years of free education at Onondaga Community College for a criminal justice degree. He said he has the support of County Executive Joanie Mahoney for the education portion of the program and the support of the county's law enforcement officers to hire students who finish the program as cops, sheriffs and prison guards. Fitzpatrick said he wants the program to start in the fall of 2016 and he does admit it is an experiment.

"It may be a colossal failure, it may change America," Fitzpatrick said. 

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.