Community Forum with Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner

Chief of Police: Officer Buckner
Image by Markayla Madill

First Step In Strengthening The Relationship With Syracuse Housing Authority Residents

Syracuse Police Chief Kenton Buckner spoke to a crowd of over 50 SHA residents and staff at Toomey Abbot Towers. His first visit with SHA community members comes six months into his new role as top cop. 

Chief Buckner came prepared with local crime data and spoke about the challenges his department faces. He specifically addressed police response times, a major source of frustration for SHA residents. He explained that when calls come in, they are triaged into high, medium and low priority calls, based on the level of risk associated with the complaint. Chief Buckner acknowledged the frustration of callers 
reporting issues such as trespassers, but stated calls involving bodily injury must be cleared before officers can respond nonviolent offenses.  

He acknowledged that a long wait is frustrating for both the callers and the officers alike. If it takes two hours to respond, there is often not much the officers on duty can do if the subject is no longer in the area. The answer is evident; more officers are needed that what the department currently has available. The Chief then described the efforts his team is taking to recruit and train new officers. 

Buckner also described how to make anonymous reports by calling the SPD criminal investigations division at (315) 442-5222. All calls will remain confidential. To avoid retaliation by individuals committing crime on housing property, you can ask that SPD not come to your apartment.  You can also report crime anonymously using the “SPD Tips” app on smartphones. 

Several members of the audience asked questions about a recent video clip posted on social media which showed an officer using what many viewers interpreted as excessive force. Buckner has publicly supported the officer involved. Several others in the crowd asked questions about their personal rights during traffic stops or when being approached by an officer in a public space. 

“Always comply with the officer instructions,” Buckner says. “If you don’t feel you were treated lawfully or with respect you should report to it to the office of internal affairs. “I cannot investigate what I do not know about.” Chief Buckner stated he was proud of his department work ethic but also acknowledged that not every officer is cut out for community policing. A moment of levity came  when he said “The police department is just like your family and mine, we all have at least one relative that cannot use the upstairs bathroom.” 

“When we find a bad apple I will remove it,”  pledged Buckner, he did however warn the audience not to put all their stock in what you see and read on social media. “You may see a 40 second clip, and it looks real bad. But we get to see the full 6 minute video and that often put more actions into context. Just understand that what you see and read on social media it’s not always the full story.”

Overall, Chief Buckner acknowledged that his department needs to strengthen relationships with much of the community and he pledged transparency as his department works to do so. “You may not always like to hear what I have to say, but I promise you that I will always speak the truth.” Buckner went on to say, “Change is difficult and not every decision I make will make me popular but I’m okay with not being the most popular guy in the room.” 

Chief Buckner will speak to residents again on August 21st at the Salt Space building at 103 Wyoming St. at 5:30PM.