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April 1, 2013

Police chief aids in department upgrades

By Denise Richardson
The Daily Star

---- — Dennis Nayor continues a mission to promote training and professionalism within the Oneonta Police Department.

And some improvements are visible.

Since taking the helm as police chief last April, Nayor has monitored upgrades to the surveillance camera system, painted some walls and and reorganized spaces.

The “pride and joy’’ of improvements, Nayor said last week, has been the transformation of a fitness area into a 140-square-foot space dedicated to defensive tactics training.

Outdated equipment, including stationary bicycles and a treadmill, has been surplussed. Nayor said he repainted the room and drilled into concrete to install mats along two walls. Some carpeting is among pending finishing touches, he said.

Defensive tactics are key skills for police officers to effect safe arrests and avoid injuries, Nayor said. Officers learn the skills while studying at police academies, he said, but refresher courses and practice are necessary. Converting the room cost about $1,500, Nayor said, but by doing the labor himself, he saved on expenses.

Officers Phil Kraft and Stacey Ferris are state-certified defensive-tactics training instructors, providing another important in-house resource, Nayor said.

Patrol officers have taken a course this year, Nayor said, and sergeants are next in line for instruction. And instead making a trip to a gym, he said, officers can practice in the refurbished area on the second floor.

“It gets used,’’ Nayor said, “and it’s great.’’

Detective Eric Berger, president of the police officers union, said the training area provides a valuable space to practice scenarios, such as assisting other officers and responding safely when a suspect resists arrest. The added training resource and the spruced-up department have been positive for morale, Berger said.

Elsewhere in the police department, staff have helped with painting, including in the dispatchers’ area and lobby, Nayor said.

The city continues a project to seek accreditation of its police department by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, a program with 132 standards in categories such as administration, training and operations. And a city task force is studying personnel levels, resource and other matters spurred by questions about staffing levels, community policing needs and budgeting.

The department is authorized to have 27 sworn members from patrol officer to chief. Last year, the Common Council cut a 28th position to save money in the 2013 city budget. For a period after scandals in recent years of alleged police brutality and on-duty drinking and sex, the department had an interim chief.

Nayor, who has been with the Oneonta Police Department for 18 years, repeatedly has said he will hire only “quality’’ candidates to fill openings. Last week, Nayor said he has been working to turn limited spaces into an effective working environment. During a tour last week, he pointed out banners, posters and other displays geared toward boosting pride and professionalism.

“Honor.’’ “Courage.’’ “Loyalty.’’ These words, and others, appear in framed posters or in bold, capital letters on walls in well-trafficked hallways. “Integrity’’ is spelled out in bold blue letters above the door to the police-car garage, a strategic location, Nayor said, that officers will see every day — and every time — they leave the building to respond to a call. Nayor said if the messages aren’t seen directly he intends that be subliminal reminders of the core values of the department and profession.

“I want it to be very clear what I expect,’’ Nayor said.

Other improvements, Nayor said, include:

• Installation of electronic card passes, which increase security to department offices and access by officers entering and leaving. Equipment and installation cost less than $5,000, he said.

• Upgrading of the department’s surveillance camera system for about $130,000. The system has 16 cameras focused on downtown.

• An on-going project to turn a break room into an evidence room and establish a room for briefs, which are held in a squad room used for case interviews and to do reports at four computer terminals.