Syracuse Police Union President: ‘Right now it seems like us against the world’

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The City of Syracuse Police Department could be even more short-handed this summer.

According to Jeff Piedmonte, Syracuse Police Benevolent Association President, “15 to 20” Syracuse Police Officers have expressed interest in leaving the department for another agency outside of Syracuse. This month alone, at least four senior officers are retiring that weren’t expected to end their careers, according to Piedmonte.

“It is not a good time for the police, It is not a good time for the community and I don’t know how it gets any better when [police] are being told we are all horrendous people and we are all horrible and we don’t know how to do our job.”

The death of George Floyd and the actions that have followed have made it difficult for city police, according to Piedmonte. There are also other factors that have the officers he represents upset and uneasy.

You can watch his full interview here:

Lack of Contract

The City of Syracuse and the Syracuse Police Benevolent Association agreed upon a contract last November. It included several items that have become important issues after the death of George Floyd. Earlier this year, the Syracuse Common Council voted down the deal.

Protesters who have been marching throughout the city for 12 straight days have said one of their biggest requests was to have officers live in the City of Syracuse. That was set to happen.

We want police officers to live in the City of Syracuse and we were able to successfully negotiate a five-year residency requirement for police officers. We also know our community values officers that can speak multiple languages and officers that have continued their education. So, we built in incentives into that contract to incentivize officers to speak multiple languages to further their education and ensure they are fully informed of the best practices in a position where they can guide a professional police department.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh

Those were some of the things agreed upon, but in March the Common Council voted against the contract by a margin of eight to one.

City Councilor At-large Timothy Rudd voted against the contract and posted this on Facebook Tuesday.

As we continue into 2020, the city and police union will go to arbitration, where there is less certainty for the agreed-upon items.

When the decision making authority is out of the City of Syracuse’s hands and put in the hands of an arbiter, it limits our ability to change or renegotiate. Again, I think we have a lot of things in there that we will be able to maintain during the arbitration process. But, it is a bit of an unknown. I am sure that current events will influence those discussions and perhaps the outcomes. But again, it is a contract that we believe in and that we believe helps get us to the progress that a lot of people are looking for.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh

The Police Union President believes reaching an contract in years to come will be difficult.

“We know we will have to go to arbitration with any more cases because of the Common Council and the anti-police feeling that they have,” Piedmonte said.

Violence in Syracuse

The recent stretch of violence in the city is another factor Piedmonte believes is driving officers out of the city. Two people were killed Tuesday in two separate incidents

“With everything going on the last two weeks, more and more younger officers are saying they are looking into other agencies,” he said. “To work in different environments and not have the violence we have day in and day out. Not have the complaints made against them. Not have the whole community against them. I mean right now it seems like us against the world and it is not fair.”

Those who have been the most vocal about police in our area, the protesters marching in Syracuse have been calling for police reform while also taking time to thank the officers that have been escorting them around the city.

Including officers in the Police Academy, there are 418 on staff. Piedmonte says there should be at least 465 to perform the job and says a few years ago there were 500 on staff.

The Syracuse Police Department declined to comment for this story.

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