Mark Chaires vows improvements for department
The Albany Times Union by LAUREN STANFORTH - September 18, 2008
SCHENECTADY -- The city's new police chief, Mark Chaires, jumped into his new postion at his swearing-in today, saying he'll begin programs that encourage community outreach preventative policing and faster response times. The 52-year-old city native also rejected the notion that his 19 years in the department mean he won't be able to tackle the corruption that has plagued the force. "The first message I want to tell citizens is we have the makings of an outstanding police department," he said, ``Trust me, I wouldn't lie to you." Mayor Brian U. Stratton administered the oath of office at an 11 a.m. ceremony attended by more than 100 people, including Chaires' mother Dorothy, wife Theresa and his extended family. Chaires' father, the late Arthur Chaires, was Schenectady's first black officer when he joined the department in 1952. The younger Chaires is the first African American to be chief. He served as an assistant chief since 2001. He was hired as a patrolman in 1988, after eight years in the Air Force. He graduated from the University at Albany, earned a master's degree from the Rockefeller College of Criminal Justice and is working toward a doctorate. When asked how he feels about being city's first black chief of police, Chaires, who is known for his dry wit, deadpanned it wasn't his first thought ``What hit me in the face,'' he said, "is that I have a budget due in a couple of weeks." Schenectady police protect a diverse city population, yet the department has struggled to recruit minorities and women.
Over the last 10 months of the candidate search, various community members have debated whether it would be a benefit to hire an outsider, considering the force's continued struggle with scandal. Chaires was up against another assistant chief, Michael Seber, and three outsiders for the job. One, a lieutenant from the Suffolk County Police Department, pulled himself out of contention this summer. The previous chief, Michael Geraci, was an outsider himself as a former Colonie police officer. Geraci, who started in 2002, retired in November, and moved on to a job with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Under Geraci's tenure former vice squad Detective Jeffrey Curtis was found stealing drug evidence. In the wake of Curtis' conviction, a Schenectady County grand jury report in November said the department had a culture of shrugging off supervision that encouraged internal corruption for years. Currently, three police officers are facing a misdemeanor official misconduct charge for not filing appropriate paperwork after being accused of beating a DWI suspect in December.