SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Mayor Ben Walsh said state law allows him to keep police Chief Kenton Buckner on the job, even if Buckner doesn’t get certified as a cop in New York.
In a statement released Tuesday evening, Walsh commended the chief for continuing to seek state certification, even though he said it’s not necessary. Buckner had announced earlier in the day that the state granted him an extra year to complete the certification process.
“While New York State law allows me to maintain Chief Buckner as chief of police regardless of whether he achieves certification, I respect Chief Buckner’s determination to maintain his status as a sworn officer, and I am pleased he received the extension,” Walsh said.
Walsh also praised Buckner for improving police-community relations and for working to build stronger relationships with his officers.
Buckner came to Syracuse from Little Rock, Arkansas, late last year. As an out-of-state transfer, he was hired by Walsh on a provisional basis until he’s able to meet the requirements to get certified as a New York officer. In the meantime, he’s afforded all the rights of a standard cop, including carrying a gun and badge, according to a city spokesman.
The state’s Department of Criminal Justice Services allows one year for an out-of-state transfer to get certified here. That certification, for Buckner, included 386 hours of training as well as a physical fitness exam.
The Syracuse police union has made an issue of Buckner’s certification, anticipating he could be off the job by the end of this year if he didn’t pass the physical examination. The union clashed with Buckner earlier this year over public comments the chief made about officer behavior, among other things. Many officers refused to march in the annual St. Patrick’s Parade in a public display of discord with the chief.
In May, a spokesman for the chief, Sgt. Matthew Malinowski, said Buckner planned to complete the training on time.
According to DCJS, Buckner, 50, must meet the standards established by the Syracuse Police Department’s academy for recruits in order to get certified. His training and evaluation will be done as part of the Syracuse police academy.
The physical standards for a male recruit between 40 and 49 include running a mile-and-a-half in 13 minutes 50 seconds, and doing 18 push-ups and 29 sit-ups, according to police recruiting material. The recruiting material does not include standards for recruits older than 49.
Buckner said yesterday he’s completed the classroom training, but he’s not yet ready for the run.
“The 1.5 miles run is my primary challenge,” he said. “I’m confident that, with additional time, I can complete the physical training requirements.”
Read Walsh’s full statement here:
“Chief Buckner has made major improvements in the management and operation of the police department, including the new patrol division structure and updates to the Use of Force policy and other policies. In partnership with his officers, the Department has improved police-community relations, and he is working hard and making progress on building stronger relationships with police officers.”
“While New York State law allows me to maintain Chief Buckner as chief of police regardless of whether he achieves certification, I respect Chief Buckner’s determination to maintain his status as a sworn officer, and I am pleased he received the extension.”