Wednesday 30 November 2022
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On the Record with Syracuse’s Police Chief, Frank Fowler

By Rodney Brown


fowlerIn November, The Post-Standard reported Syracuse experienced its twenty-eighth homicide during Thanksgiving, which makes 2016 the city’s deadliest year on record.

Previously, records for the city’s highest number of homicides had peaked at 25 in both 2002, and 2008.

And, in one of Syracuse’s deadliest instances of violent crime earlier this year, a barrage of gunfire erupted into a crowd of more than 300 people during a community event that took place on Father’s Day, which left one person dead, and another person wounded.

The Minority Reporter spoke with Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler recently, an officer who’s been with the department for more than 28 years, including seven as chief, regarding why there’s been an increase in violent crimes lately, as well as an increase in illegal guns on the city’s streets.

“We have a lot of gun recovery and arrest, but they get right back out there,” Fowler stated. “It’s a direct correlation between violence and poverty. Gang-related issues have added to the high number of homicides this year. People leave our city to go to other places with lax gun laws like Virginia, Ohio, and Georgia to retrieve guns, and they bring them back to Syracuse. Plus homes and vehicles are burglarized for guns, and gun owners too often end up trading their guns to criminals to feed their drug habits.”

Fowler said the department doesn’t currently use the controversial ‘stop and frisk’ tactic, which had become common with New York City police officers recently, in order to get guns off the streets.

Instead, he said the SPD has taken the “community-policing” approach, which is the kind of policing that will hopefully enforce relationship-building between officers, and members of the community.

“Our citizen stops are based on behavior,” Fowler stated. “We do have proactive units that take the proactive approach in high crime neighborhoods, but it’s only when a person violates the law. It has been, and always will be, effective. The first component is community; the second is policing. Once that happens, it’s the recipe for success.”

According to Fowler, the department has attempted to put the community first when it comes to its policing efforts; however, order valium officers’ relationship with the minority community is still a work in progress, he stated.

“In every relationship you can make progress, but there can be setbacks,” Fowler said. “It’s a relationship you have to continue to work on.”

According to Fowler, he hopes more citizens will come forward, and speak to the department regarding people who may be committing crimes in their neighborhoods.

In addition, he also said he’s mindful of residents’ complaints regarding officers’ failure to report when their fellow officers have used unlawful tactics against law-abiding citizens.

“Both are wrong,” Fowler stated. “Police officers have an obligation to address illegal practices by fellow officers, just as society does, but we can no longer point the finger at each other. The community should demand that officers put forth the effort first. However, violent crimes happen more than officers not coming forward. But, I fully understand the problem.”

Fowler said he also realizes there should be more minority officers on SPD’s force, and that the department is currently in the process of creating several, ongoing outreach programs.

However, he said it’s also important for the city to focus on the fairness of the entrance exam.

“We’re in the process of looking at the entrance exam to see if there’s a better way to get them on board, but it’s an uphill battle,” Fowler stated. “The exam is challenging because of the way it’s structured.”

The department is also looking at revamping its promotional exam, he stated.

Previously, Fowler had accused the SPD of discrimination, before becoming head of the department, after being left to linger on a list of possible candidates for several years.

“I’m talking with others to make our promotional system straightforward,” he stated.

As for whether he intends to retire any time soon, Fowler said he doesn’t plan on it. Although, if he did, he said it might be near the end of Mayor Stephanie Miner’s final term, in 2017.

“I’m still on the job,” Fowler stated. “I’m not thinking about retirement, and I refuse to answer any questions regarding it. I have a job out there to do, and when that day comes, I promise I will have a lot to say.”

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