First, Community Engagement.

Download the Community Input Report

When Mayor Walsh released the findings of a two-month study to determine what Syracuse wanted in its next police chief, he had taken the first step in letting applicants for the job that this would be a community-led process. They were essentially being interviewed by the residents of the city of Syracuse. In fact, the residents wrote much of the job description.

The 74-page report collected survey responses, feedback from 10 community input meetings with residents, and interviews from stakeholders such as cops, elected officials, and nonprofits. It outlines the characteristics residents and stakeholders were looking for in the next chief.

“We’re not trying to draw out personal qualities, but [rather] the experience and philosophy of a candidate,” Deputy Mayor Owens told in an interview. “We’re drawing from the public to set our baseline criteria for a new chief.”

The leading characteristics:

  • Has a record of setting high standards and holding officers accountable
  • Has a record of commitment to community, problem-solving, and policing
  • Has a record of reducing crime and making neighborhoods safer
  • Has experience working with diverse communities

While community meetings ran for 4 weeks, stakeholder interviews occurred concurrently for 6 weeks while the Mayor’s Office conducted an online input survey which ran for 30 days. Online participation contributed to 47 percent of total survey responses with most residents opting to attend one of 10 community input meetings to engage in dialogue with the administration.

“This was important to residents. They wanted to be there in person to discuss how they felt about public safety. This level of public engagement was unprecedented for the Syracuse Police Department and the volume of engagement shows that there is a strong desire for public input,” said Ruthnie Angrand, Director of Communications and Marketing.

Feedback did not focus on any one side of town or demographic. According to analytics and the input report, respondents accessed the online survey from 37 unique zip codes. Some residents even contributed as they traveled abroad, 3 percent to be exact. Community agencies also helped to drive participants to in-person input forums and the online survey. They were also credited with 1/4 of the referrals to the online survey via their own communications channels (e-newsletters, social media, and their websites).

Community Search Committee

Once the City’s selected search firm chose 6 candidates to narrow the search to, the Deputy Mayor assembled a community search committee included representatives of nonprofit organizations, stakeholders with law enforcement backgrounds and members of city government.

“The process we’ve followed and input from the community has narrowed the field to three highly-qualified candidates,” said Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens said to in an interview. “The Mayor will continue to listen to input from stakeholders and members of the community in selecting our next chief. He has an outstanding field from which to choose.”

The Selection

Following an eight month search process and extensive input from the community and key stakeholders, Mayor Ben Walsh named Kenton Buckner as the next chief of police of the city of Syracuse. Buckner, who was the police chief in Little Rock, Arkansas, to take leadership of the Syracuse Police Department.

Mayor Walsh selected Buckner after consulting with a search committee and group of community stakeholders consisting of nearly 20 people who all met with the finalist candidates. Participants included two former police chiefs, the president of the Police Benevolent Association, and representatives of business, clergy, as well as neighborhood and advocacy groups.

“Chief Buckner will be new to Syracuse, but he meets the criteria we heard people in our community want in a chief. He has a record of setting very high standards and demands accountability for his officers and for himself,” Walsh said. “Chief Buckner has a clear vision for how to reduce crime, and he has direct experience leading urban police departments and working with diverse communities. His reputation with law enforcement agencies with whom his department works is outstanding.”

The City was invited to a “Meet the Chief Forum” on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 11 a.m. at the Atrium at City Hall Commons to have the opportunity to meet and hear from Chief Buckner on his views on policing, his policing philosophy, and to hear from the community. 


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