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 is currently the police chief in Little Rock, Arkansas, will officially take over leadership of the Syracuse Police Department at the end of this year.
“When we began looking for our next police chief, our goal was to find the very best candidate available. In hiring Chief Buckner, we have achieved that objective,” Walsh said. “Chief Buckner brings effective crime reduction strategies and a track record for increasing the diversity of his force. He understands the importance of having strong partnerships with law enforcement and the community to make our neighborhoods safer. Syracuse has an outstanding police department. I believe Chief Buckner will make it even better.”
Buckner has been the chief of police in Little Rock since June 2014. The department has 600 sworn officers and an annual operating budget of $76 million, about 50 percent larger than the Syracuse Police Department. Under his leadership this year, the department has experienced a 15 percent decrease in overall crime through August 2018. Prior to Little Rock, he spent 21 years with the Louisville Metro Police Department in Louisville, Kentucky. His career experience includes leadership in patrol operations, investigations, special operations, and administration.
“Syracuse is a great city facing hardened challenges with poverty and crime, very similar to the situation we confronted in Little Rock. It’s why I believe I’m the right person to be the next Syracuse police chief,” Buckner said. “I’ve faced these challenges before, and working together with the community and law enforcement at the local, state, and federal levels, we had significant success. We really began to get traction when the coalition became strong, and the same thing can happen in Syracuse.”
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. Prior to seeking candidates, the City conducted an extensive public engagement process that included 10 community and neighborhood meetings, over 700 individual survey responses, and meetings with 36 stakeholders in law enforcement, government, and non-profit organizations.
“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 will conduct a “Meet the Chief Forum” on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 11 a.m. at the Atrium at City Hall Commons for members of the community to have the opportunity to meet and hear from Chief Buckner.
During the search process, Buckner presented an approach to improving community safety that is based on what he calls the “five layers of crime control”:
1. Intelligence led policing informed by data
2. Hotspot driven
3. Known offender focused
4. Effective law enforcement partnerships (local, state, federal, prosecutors, probation, and parole)
5. Community involvement (families, schools, clergy, business, non-profit)
Diversity on the police force in Little Rock has improved under Buckner’s leadership. The breakdown of the department’s current recruit class, which began at 27 candidates, was 15 percent Hispanic, 41 percent African American, and 44 percent white. Under Buckner’s tenure, 40 percent of hires, promotions, and transfers have been people of color.
Buckner earned both Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from Eastern Kentucky University. He is a graduate of the National Executive Institute, sponsored by the FBI; Chief Executive Officer Mentoring Program at Cedarville College, sponsored by the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives; and the Senior Executives in State and Local Government, sponsored by the Harvard Kennedy School.
Buckner has already been in contact with current Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler, and the two will begin working on the transition immediately. Buckner’s start date in Syracuse will be set soon.
“I want to thank Chief Fowler for leading our department this year and throughout his distinguished career,” said Mayor Walsh. “His dedication to our force and to the people of Syracuse is exemplary. His genuine love for our city and his commitment to our neighborhoods has improved people’s lives and made our community better.”
“I also want to recognize and thank First Deputy Chief Joe Cecile for his work for our city,” Walsh said. “As we considered who would next lead our department, it became even clearer how widely respected Chief Cecile is in Syracuse and Central New York. As I told him this week, his impact on our city and our police force will last long into the future and I appreciate his continued commitment to the force. ”
The Syracuse Police Department is staffed by 382 sworn officers and 74 civilian personnel, as well as a spring/summer 2018 recruit class of 36 cadets. The department’s annual operating budget for the most recent fiscal year is approximately $48 million.