Syracuse Police Department

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As budget season nears for the city of Syracuse, councilors are asking where the police and fire departments stand with overtime and staffing. Both departments are understaffed, but are also making efforts to reduce overtime pay.

Syracuse is spending around $10 million a year in overtime for police and fire. Fire Chief Michael Monds said staffing is at the bare minimum and overtime is the lowest it’s been in recent years.

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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.

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The city of Syracuse could be expanding a program that provides body cameras to all uniformed police officers. The pilot program ends in July, and the city will have to pay for it going forward.

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Law enforcement officials are describing a deadly car accident involving Syracuse men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim as a horrible, sad tragedy. Boeheim hit and killed a man who was fleeing a disabled vehicle on Interstate 690 in Syracuse.

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Updated at 12:30 p.m. Thursday

Syracuse police say Syracuse University men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim struck and killed a man while driving on Interstate 690 East near Thompson Road late Wednesday. 

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For the first time in nearly 20 years, Oswego County has a new sheriff. Don Hilton, a former detective and SWAT team supervisor with the Syracuse Police Department, was elected to fill the job last year after longtime Sheriff Reuel Todd retired.  

Hilton took over at the start of the year. It's a new job for him, but in familiar territory. He started his career in law enforcement as a corrections officer at the Oswego County's Sheriff's Office about 30 years ago.

"I'm actually back home," Hilton said. "It feels great to be here. It's rewarding."

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Syracuse's new police chief said Monday that he's ready to get to work. Kenton Buckner, who previously served as chief of police in Little Rock, Arkansas, was sworn in as Syracuse's chief Monday morning.

Buckner was visibly emotional as he spoke to a packed lobby in the Public Safety Building downtown Syracuse.

"I’m very thankful for the city of Syracuse for selecting me," Buckner said. "As you can see, law enforcement, if I were to give you something that you would be able to qualify what it means to me, I would liken it to your wife and kids.”

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media

Today is Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler’s last day on the job and with the new chief, Kenton Buckner, being sworn in Monday, some advocacy groups see it as an opportunity to start a conversation about the police department’s use of force policy with a new administration. 

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The search for the next chief of police in Syracuse has been narrowed down to three candidates. One has extensive experience in the Syracuse Police Department and the other two come from outside New York State.

Syracuse Common Councilor-at-Large Steven Thompson, who was also a former police chief, was a member of the search committee that asked the candidates questions as to how they would decrease the shootings and violence occurring in the city, as well as how they would structure the police department and interact with other agencies.

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Thirty police officers in Onondaga County completed a crisis intervention team training last week that helps them recognize and respond to people with mental illnesses. The goal, when possible, is to divert those with mental illness from the criminal justice system towards treatment services.

The training is a combination of police officers understanding what people with mental issues go through and how to steer them towards receiving the proper care at a psychiatric center, mental health clinic or detox program.

Governor Andrew Cuomo's office

A 14-year-old was shot in Syracuse last weekend and it is part of a recent increase in youth violence in the city. Syracuse’s mayor said while the issue of gun violence is not new to the city, the age of the victims and perpetrators of recent crimes has given everyone in the community additional cause for concern.

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The Syracuse City School District is entering into a three-year agreement with the city of Syracuse, in which the district will pay for any additional school resource officers. But having police officers in the schools is still a contentious issue among some of the stakeholders.

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The service that allows police to detect where gunshots are being fired in the city of Syracuse, is up for renewal. ShotSpotter is assisting police with investigations, but also driving up the statistics in one area of crime.

First Deputy Chief of Police Joe Cecile said in almost every category, most calls for crime in the city of Syracuse are down except for shots fired.

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Syracuse Common Councilors Monday approved the latest contract between the city and police department, but it was not without some concerns.

Lawmakers voted 7-2 to approve a contract for 2016 and 2017 that include two-percent raises each year. But while they agreed on this pact, many lawmakers have eyes on the next contract, which is being negotiated now. 

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The number of police officers in the city of Syracuse that wear body cameras will jump significantly by the end of the year, thanks to a $300,000 state grant. 

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The Syracuse City School District and the Syracuse Police Department will work together to make sure students who suffer trauma outside the classroom get the support they need when they go to school.

A program called SOS will launch when school starts Thursday. Syracuse Common Councilor Susan Boyle says it’s essentially a communication program, that lets the police alert school officials when a child is a victim of violence or is a witness to a crime.

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The city of Syracuse has released the results of the community’s input on what criteria they want from the next chief of police. Residents said they want the next chief to bring more transparency and public engagement.

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Bike-sharing could soon be coming to the city of Syracuse. The Syracuse Common Council is expected to vote Monday on allowing Gotcha Bike to run the city’s bike-share program for a two-year period.

Neil Burke, a transportation planner with the city’s Department of Public Works, said Gotcha Bike was selected from a lengthy process to design and operate the program at no cost to the city. Burke said there will also be a revenue sharing agreement with the city.

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Syracuse hospitals had 10-15 overdoses coming in almost every day last week, believed to be from synthetic cannabinoids or “spike.” The number of overdoses from spike are up significantly and health officials worry about another potential threat.

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The Syracuse Police Department is going from 16 to 100 body cameras for its uniformed officers. But some of the policies related to body cameras remain unclear.

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More cameras, both on the bodies of police officers and on the streets, could be coming to Syracuse soon. A new trial could put body cameras on 100 police officers for a year at no cost.

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Monday is the last chance for Syracuse residents to attend a public meeting where they can offer their input on what criteria they want for a new chief of police. Some at the meetings said they hope the next chief will bring change to the department.

A group of women sit around a table at the Southwest Community Center in Syracuse. There are surveys with questions asking what experiences and qualifications should a new police chief have in order to be successful. Anna Morris said she wants to know the person’s character.

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Emotions ran high at a “Stop the Violence” prayer rally on Syracuse’s south side yesterday, where in the past three days, three people have been killed in separate incidents in the area. Caroline Battle said her niece was one of the people murdered.

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A $12 million lawsuit has been filed against the city of Syracuse, Police Chief Frank Fowler, and a Syracuse police officer accused of using excessive force while arresting a 14-year-old special needs student at Nottingham High School. The incident took place more than a year ago, and started when the student was suspended and told to leave the school.

Liza Acquah, the mother of the student, Jabari Boykins, said her son suffered from a fractured arm and busted lip after the incident. She said a surveillance video shows her son being assaulted by Officer Vallon Smith.

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Parents and teachers shared concerns on school safety at a forum held this week by the Syracuse City School District and Syracuse Police Department. Several recurring issues were raised to administrators and law enforcement. The forum was held in response to the high school shooting in Florida last month. 

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Smartphone users can download a new app to receive public safety alerts from the Syracuse Police Department. The app has more features than a previous version.

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Syracuse Mayor-elect Ben Walsh said he will authorize a new class of 25-30 police officers this spring. Walsh also announced he is holding a nationwide search for the city’s next police chief.

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Earlier this year, the Syracuse Common Council allocated funding for the city to hire more police officers. But Mayor Stephanie Miner’s administration said it has no intention of training a new class of officers.

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The Republican candidate running for mayor of Syracuse says if elected, she would hire 50 additional police officers for the city. Laura Lavine blasted the city’s violent crime rate, calling it a bigger sign of Syracuse’s decline.

Standing in front of a bullet-ridden, Skiddy Park police substation, renovated after a deadly riot on Father’s Day last year, Lavine said the station is staffed so sporadically that shooters fire upon it with little fear of getting caught.

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There have been some bumps in the road since ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft started operating in upstate New York more than a month ago. One concern has been traffic congestion in a small, popular area of downtown Syracuse.

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