Schenectady police will get a new chief

Posted at: 01/04/2013 5:56 PM
By: Dan Bazile

SCHENECTADY -- Top brass in the Schenectady Police Department is glad to be leaving the last decade behind

"Having this behind us speaks volumes," said Assistant Chief Brian Kilcullen.

It's a big deal because back in 2002, after a long FBI investigation, officers Michael Siler and Richard Barnett were convicted of corruption and bribing informants with drugs.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division came in to investigate. They made recommendations. But the problems continued. In 2004 officer Ken Hill pleaded guilty to giving a stolen handgun to a drug dealer. And Officer John Lewis was arrested numerous times, fired and sent to jail.

"There were some issues, some issues that we've addressed through repeated conversations with the Department of Justice, putting policies in place to make sure these things don't happen," Kilcullen said.

Public Safety Commissioner Wayne Bennett came in specifically to help with the department's image.

"Everybody realized we weren't kidding. And we're not kidding. And we continue not to be kidding," Bennett said.

He was not kidding about making officers accountable for their actions. Now, 10 years after it all started, the U.S. Department of Justice has closed the investigation it said in a letter, "without finding a pattern or practice of violations of the constitution or federal law." Bennett said it's basically saying the police force itself is not to blame for the actions of a few bad apples.

"It's an agency back then of at least 165 people and was limited to less than 20 people counting the ones the FBI took action against in federal court," Bennett said.

The police department will also get a new chief on Monday. Chief Mark Chaires recently retired.

"The department is a better department because of his service to this community. Mayor Gary McCarthy said about Chaires. "The next chief will take that department to the next level."

Sources said Kilcullen will take over as the next chief. He had no comment about the job. But he said the new chief will inherit a department no longer under a cloud of suspicion from a federal investigation.