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Syracuse police chief stands by comments amid tension with union

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner, center.

Tensions between Syracuse’s new police chief and the head of the police union have spilled out into the public discourse in recent days. But Chief Kenton Buckner isn’t backing down from previous comments he’s made or his desire to bring change to the department.

Buckner said he is aware of people uncomfortable with change that is happening.

“You have a new voice, you have a new vision, you have a new leadership who is doing things differently," Buckner said. "Different and change sometimes, is not always met with open arms. There is always going to be anxiety, resistance, turbulence, when you're talking about change. I anticipated that. None of which is new to me.” 

Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media
WRVO Public Media
Jeff Piedmonte, right, president of the Syracuse Police Benevolent Association.

Jeff Piedmonte, president of the Syracuse Police Benevolent Association, wouldn’t comment for this story, but he told another radio station this week that Buckner has beenkilling the department from day one. Piedmonte said Buckner wouldn't retract comments he made at a round table meeting last month, saying while the vast majority of the police department is good, some are rotten to the core. Buckner stands by what he said.

“There is always people in every profession, law enforcement included, that have either misstepped, mistaked, or shouldn’t be in our profession," Buckner said. "My job is to make sure that I either modify their behavior, or get them out of our department.”

Overall, Piedmonte described an extremely sour relationship with Buckner, who he said doesn’t have a relationship with anyone, and doesn’t want to get to know his officers. He said the first email Buckner sent out to the department said 20 percent of the officers are doing 80 percent of the work, something Buckner said was meant as a basic business principle.

Piedmonte said the lack of police officers marching in Syracuse’s St. Patrick’s parade was a protest from officers who don't feel respected.

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.