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First deputy chief Joe Cecile tapped to lead Syracuse Police Department

New Syracuse Police Chief Joe Cecile speaks at a news conference while Mayor Ben Walsh looks on, April 22, 2022.
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New Syracuse Police Chief Joe Cecile speaks at a news conference while Mayor Ben Walsh looks on, April 22, 2022.

*THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED*

Joe Cecile, the first deputy chief of the Syracuse Police Department, is settling into his new role as agency's top cop following the former chief's resignation Friday.

Mayor Ben Walsh named Cecile as the new chief during an afternoon news conference. The announcement came shortly after the mayor's office revealed Kenton Buckner was stepping down.

Buckner had submitted his resignation after three years on the job.

The former chief was previously under consideration for the top post in Olympia, Washington, but said he withdrew his name for personal reasons, and decided it was also time to retire from his current role.

"The time is right for Syracuse and for me," Buckner said in a statement.

Cecile's tenure will begin immediately. The 37-year veteran rises from roles as deputy chief since 2010. He says Buckner’s vision set the stage for the next leader.

"He was able to give us a deep bench. He immediately came in and started sending us to training, some training we never even heard of. Deep command level training, to get us prepared for this. And beyond that, he began sending captains to other training so he could give us a deep bench."

Cecile says any number of department veterans was qualified to take over as chief. He says he and Mayor Ben Walsh will be discussing plans on moving the department forward in the weeks ahead. But he says for now, he has to address two major challenges: gun violence and a serious staff shortage.

"Gun violence is troubling. That's what keeps me up at night. And, the number of officers we have right now. Because, they're in danger, as well. If we can't put the number officers out there that keeps them safe, that keeps me up as well."

Cecile says having enough officers on the force translates to a larger, preventive, collaborative presence in neighborhoods.

"They have to be able to get out of their car, engage with the public. Try to fix chronic problems instead of just coming back again and again and again. Engage with people. There's no bigger power for police than when they can get out in their territory and engage with people about a problem, bring stakeholders in and try to fix it there so it doesn't come back again. Every one of these cops would love to do that."

But he says officers have been running from call to call for years and just don’t have time to do the proactive work.

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Tarryn Mento is an award-winning digital, audio and video journalist with experience reporting from Arizona, Southern California, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. Tarryn produces in-depth and investigative content for WAER while overseeing the station's student reporter experience. She is also an adjunct professor at Syracuse University.
Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at srwillis@syr.edu.