APD chief: Less brass, more cops on street

ALBANY -- To make the Albany Police Department a top-notch organization its chief has a plan.

Faced with 43 openings in what should be a 212-staff force, police Chief John Proctor restructured the recruiting staff, cut mediocre staff and plans to add officers as soon as April.

At least 25 officers plan to take their place among Albany's finest in April, Proctor said.

"I think we'll meet our goals by the end of this year," Proctor said. "There is not a day that I don't work on (recruitment) and our staff does not work on this."

When Proctor took over the department in May, he said he found staff openings, a structure that was top heavy with higher ups and some officers who were not of the quality he wanted on his force.

"Since I've been here, we've terminated some," Proctor said at news conference in the Law Enforcement Center Thursday. "From January '09 until this date, we've had 13 terminations. There have been nine since I came on as chief (in May 2009)."

A number of those terminations have been officers who have violated policies or were officers who could not meet the standards of the force he is building, Proctor said.

Albany City Manager Alfred Lott said he fully supports Proctor and his efforts in terminating those not up to standards. As city manager he has to sign off on termination recommendations he said.

Other slots have emptied because of resignations in lieu of termination or because of other reasons such as marriage or a move to another state, he added.

Besides restructuring the recruiting staff with two additional staff and Lt. Catherine Gervin, as coordinator, Proctor plans to cut brass and concentrate on street police.

Of the 43 slots, there are 15 that, under the old structure would have been filled by sergeants or lieutenants, Proctor said. With his new plan the slots would not be supervisory, but street police.

Proctor plans to work with the city manager to put the plan into action. No pay-scale details were available, but filling a slot budgeted for a lieutenant with a patrol officer could mean saving money.

A $3,000 signing incentive for experienced officers is part of the plan to hire staff that could match the chief's expectations of service to the community.

There would still be room for advancement in the department, Proctor said. There will always be officers who retire or move on.

The plan to restructure the department also includes acquiring technology that other police are already using. As an example Proctor said there is software available for use on laptops that would greatly streamline report writing that is now all done by hand.

That all sat well with at least one Albany city commissioner.

"I think what he is doing is great," said Roger Marietta, Ward 4 commissioner. "Putting more officers on the street and using technology is what we should be doing."