OPD Chief Brenner put on leave ahead of retirement

Brenner

Oneonta Police Chief Douglas Brenner has been placed on administrative leave pending his retirement next month, according to Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig.

Herzig did not give a reason for the leave of absence, noting that the city’s Common Council members “all agreed that it was a reasonable request on (Brenner’s) part.”

Brenner officially announced his retirement Thursday, Jan. 14. Herzig said he was notified of the chief’s decision the day prior.

“He felt it was a good time,” Herzig said. “He’s had a good career here.”

Brenner, who has served as chief since 2017, will retire in February after 22 years with the Oneonta Police Department. He served previously as a patrol officer, patrol sergeant and lieutenant and prior to his tenure with the city, with the Village of Cooperstown Police Department and the Otsego County Sheriff’s Office.

“My time here with the city of Oneonta has been amazing,” Brenner said. “I’m a very lucky person to know that I have been able to help and make a difference, even in small ways.”

During his tenure, Brenner said, he oversaw the launch of the city’s police community advisory board and helped maintain the department’s New York state accreditation.

Herzig praised Brenner’s effectiveness at reducing crime and creating “strong connections and relationships with different sectors of our community,” highlighting in particular the chief’s work to ensure that “people in (addiction) recovery aren’t treated like criminals.”

The Commission on Community Relations and Human Rights presented Brenner with a certificate of commendation in 2018 for his work with minority communities, something Brenner described as a targeted effort.

The decision to retire did not come suddenly, Brenner said, and was not influenced by city officials or other outside parties.

“I’ve had the paperwork on my desk since fall,” he said. “I’ve been sitting on it for a while — I kept it quiet, kept it to myself — but I truly feel it’s time.”

Lt. Christopher Witzenburg will take leadership of the department throughout Brenner’s administrative leave, Herzig said, and an official interim chief is expected to be appointed in February following Brenner’s official retirement.

“We have a good police department,” Herzig said. “I have great confidence in Lt. Witzenburg continuing that tradition.”

The position of police chief is a civil service role. The next state civil service exam is scheduled for March, but results likely won’t be available until at least April, Herzig said.

Brenner said he has no plans for retirement except to “try to relax and stay healthy.”

“Retirement is not an easy decision, but I feel as though I’ve done a lot of good,” Brenner said. “It’s a big change.”

Describing himself as an “avid fisherman,” Brenner said, “Come summer, I’ll probably be somewhere out on the water.”

Brenner said he plans to stay local to be close to his parents, his sister and his hometown.

“I grew up in Oneonta,” he said. “It’s home.”

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.

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