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New police chief man of his word~ RH October 5, 2015

New police chief man of his word
By Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli
Staff Writer | October 05, 2015

Anthony Edwards / Staff Photo Schenectady Police Chief Brian Kilcullen sorts through paperwork in his New York office on Wednesday afternoon.
SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — It’s just after 3:30 p.m. Wednesday when Schenectady Police Chief Brian A. Kilcullen stops at The Newest Lunch, home of the “Best Hot Dogs.”

The vintage diner-like restaurant is on Albany Street in the city’s Hamilton Hill neighborhood. It sits in the same block as a recent shooting.

“They call this place Switzerland,” Rutland’s soon-to-be police chief said, smiling. “Judges, cops and those on the other side of the law, all come here.”

On this day, it takes a bit of time for the uniformed chief to walk 20 or so feet to the only open booth near the back.

A man sitting at the counter shakes Kilcullen’s hand in a one-armed hug and back pat. “How’ve you been?”

“Great. Didn’t I see you last week…?

The two men beam, each genuinely pleased to see the other.

A man sitting in a booth behind Kilcullen calls over, “Hey Chief!”

Kilcullen turns and walks over, leaning his large, six-foot-plus frame into the back of the wooden booth.

“You don’t remember me?” the man asks.

“Remember that Christmas?” he prompts.

And Kilcullen shakes his head up and down, recalling their encounter.

“Yeah, you were about 16?” he said.

They both smile and chuckle a bit about the time Kilcullen was called, several years earlier, to a disturbance with the man.

“We all grow up,” Kilcullen said.

“Yeah,” the man said, nodding his head up and down, his respect and care for the chief evident.

“I’ve really turned my life around,” the man shared.

And so goes the chief’s encounters in a community he has always called home.

“I love him, he is my heart,” said Marva Isaacs, president of the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association. “You can call him anytime, any hour. I cried when I heard he was leaving.”

Kilcullen is slated to take over as Rutland City police chief on Nov. 2. But for now, he is still on the job in Schenectady, a post he has held since 2013. A Schenectady native, Kilcullen has been with the police department since 1994.

“He’s a man of his word and he has integrity. He’s a man of discipline and self control. He holds everybody to a high standard,” said Angelica Morris, executive director of the Schenectady Human Rights Commission. “He holds his composure; he’s emotionally stable in all situations. And he always gives everyone 100 percent of the utmost respect. His shoes will be hard to fill.”

Kilcullen said he loves his job. “There was never a day I dreaded coming to work.”

Nonetheless, he said it’s time to move on to something new and once everything is approved in Rutland, he will retire from the Schenectady Police Department.

His reaction when he heard from the search committee that they were offering him the position?

“Sheer excitement,” he said. “Rutland has a strong sense of community. There is a good core group of individuals.”

The Rutland City Police Department has been without a permanent chief since Jim Baker left Rutland in December 2014 for a position with the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Washington, D.C.

David Covell, a former Vermont State Police trooper, was appointed acting chief at the time and Covell said he will remain on the job until the end of the year to help with the transition.

The Police Chief Search Committee selected Kilcullen after in-depth interviews with five candidates. They presented his contract to the Board of Aldermen on Sept. 21 and it was referred to the Public Safety Committee for review. On Wednesday, the Public Safety Committee recommended that the full Board of Aldermen approve his five-year, $110,000 contract in a 4-to-1 vote. The dissenting vote, cast by Alderman Gary Donahue, was tied to residency requirements. According to the contract, Kilcullen must live in the city within nine months of starting the job.

Donahue said the language of the contract — “The Appointee agrees failure to do either will constitute failure to render efficient service to the City and shall serve as just cause for termination of his appointment, unless the Police Commission, in its sole discretion, waives the requirement” — could create a precedent making residency requirements impossible to enforce.

Still, Kilcullen said he’s already looking for a “dog-friendly, two-bedroom apartment in the city.”

His contract goes before the full board for approval tonight.

“I think he is a good fit for Rutland,” said William Notte, president of the Board of Aldermen. Notte was on the Police Chief Search Committee. “We need a candidate who understands Rutland’s issues and it seems as though he’s been doing very similar things.”

Schenectady is 11 square miles, with a force of 149 officers serving a population of 66,135 — 61 percent white, 20 percent black and 11 percent Latino. Rutland is 7.5 square miles with 40 officers serving 16,495 citizens — 95 percent white, 1.5 percent Latino and less than 1 percent black.

Much like Rutland, Schenectady battles blighted properties, poverty, heroin and drug crimes, housing problems, domestic violence and food insecurity, Morris said.

Unlike Rutland, gun violence and gangs are also a challenge for the community and police. But Kilcullen and the Police Department have been using data and video surveillance to target crime hot spots in the city.

And according to the Albany Crime Analysis Center, as of Sept. 29, Schenectady’s violent crime rate dropped 18 percent from last year. Kilcullen attributes the drop to the Police Department’s 160 surveillance cameras and sophisticated data mapping of crimes.

Isaacs recalls when her grandson was shot in a robbery.

“When I went to the scene, I saw the chief leaving. I asked, ‘was that the chief?’ I went over to the station and he hugged me, ‘I was just going to call you,’ he said,” Isaacs said, a tear staining her cheek. “My grandson was taken to the hospital in Albany. The chief called the hospital ahead and when I got there, everything was available to me because of him. I appreciate him so much. He’s one in a million.”

Every year on her birthday, Isaacs cooks and brings food to the police department. Before Kilcullen leaves, she’s cooking for him. The menu?

“Rice and peas, curry chicken and mac ’n’ cheese.”

Isaacs said she knew Kilcullen before he was chief.

“He never showed me a bad face. This is a man who treats people with respect,” she said. “Every year our neighborhood association has an awards dinner. He was on our list this year for an award. Other chiefs come and go, but Brian … he brings trust.”

Being on the job for 20 years means there have been good and bad times. One of Kilcullen’s biggest challenges came in the late 1990s and early 2000s when a number of issues in the department led to the arrest of several police officers, he said.

“Four officers were charged and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office,” he said. “Then in the mid-2000s another series of events unrelated to each other — one officer was taking drugs from evidence — we eventually got through it all.”

Kilcullen said in addition to the arrests there were terminations.

“We sent a clear message we would not tolerate misconduct,” he said. “And the culture has changed. Now things are starting to trickle up from other officers who might witness questionable behavior … We’ve got to be responsive to those legitimate concerns.”

Schenectady Police Department detective Sgt. Sean Solomon, who works in crime scene investigations, said Kilcullen is a good chief.

“He’s not afraid to discipline somebody,” he said. “He won’t rush to judgment, but if you mess up and there’s a sustained complaint, you have to take your lumps … we’ll miss him.”

Union president Peter J. Mullen agrees.

“I’ve been the Union Board president for six years and I deal with him on a day-to-day basis about policing concerns,” said Patrolman Mullen, president of the Schenectady Police Benevolent Association. “Out of all the chiefs, he’s the most approachable. You can voice concerns and he’ll help figure it out. He comes down and talks to the guys. He’s a normal guy and you can talk to him. “

Mullen said Kilcullen will talk about issues so they — union and administration — can come to an agreement.

“Chief Kilcullen is available and he has a true concern for everyone,” Mullen said.

Nonetheless, Kilcullen has demonstrated that when necessary he will do what has to be done.

What’s Kilcullen’s plan when he arrives?

“I’ll spend some time meeting with the Police Commission, the mayor, those in the department and the community,” he said. “I want to learn what the issues are that still need attention and assess where the city is with these issues.”

How does Schenectady feel about losing Kilcullen?

On Thursday, a woman who lives in Schenectady called and left him a message. “I heard you were leaving. I am so sad,” she said, crying. “You always made me feel safe.”



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