By Kristin Schultz
NISKAYUNA — The Niskayuna Police Department is adding two more boys in blue, who, upon successful completion of the police academy and field training, will bring the total department roster to 29.
In the past four years, the department has hired nine new officers — a significant uptick over previous years. Deputy Police Chief Michael Stevens said the wave of new hires corresponds to a wave of officers retiring from the department.
“We have a couple of officers who have been here more than 30 years and a couple more who have been here 24 or 25 years,” said Stevens.
To keep the department adequately staffed, Niskayuna hires new recruits, rather than seeking veterans from other area law enforcement agencies.
“It’s the department’s tradition to hire new people rather than make lateral hires,” said Stevens.
Those new hires must enroll and graduate from the police academy. They attend classes at the Zone 5 Regional Law Enforcement Training Academy in Schenectady, which has also seen a swell in class sizes.
“Class sizes ebb and flow,” said academy director Rocco Fragomeni. “We had big classes 20 to 25 years ago and we have big classes now because of retirement.”
Fragomeni said in the past four years, he has seen classes with as few as 36 enrollees and as many as 70. The current class has 41 officer-hopefuls.
The average graduation rate is 90 percent but Fragomeni pointed out that of the 10 percent that do not complete training, most remove themselves from the program.
“Sometimes people come in and then realize it’s not for them,” said Fragomeni. “Policing is a hard occupation to get into if your heart’s not in it.”
When Niskayuna police officials interview potential candidates, they too are looking for heart — and people skills.
“We want someone who has the ability to talk to people,” said Stevens. “We’ve been able to find those people who can communicate, listen are willing to learn and take criticism.”
Those qualities have led to a more proactive police force, according to Stevens. The new officers, he said, are making an effort to be present in the community, meet people and stop cars.
Of the two new officers hired this year, Officer Leonard Chase is scheduled to graduate from the academy on July 21. Following graduation, he will begin 12 weeks of field training in town.
Officer Anthony Comanzo reported for his first day at the academy on July 11. He is expected to complete classroom and field training by January 2017.