Settling in as chief, Cady seeks engagement, diversity for OPD

Oswego Police Chief Phillip Cady speaks from the podium as Mayor Billy Barlow, at right, looks on. Cady took his oath of office Jan. 27 after being announced in December by Barlow as his choice for the city’s top cop.

OSWEGO — The Port City’s top cop, a little more than two weeks into the job, is still meeting with staff and acclimating to his new role, but sat down with The Palladium-Times Friday to share his vision for the police department, which includes increased community engagement and outreach.

Phillip Cady, the 48-year-old who took over as the city’s 21st police chief in late January, started his two-decade career in law enforcement with the Fulton Police Department in 1997, spent several years with the Oswego Police Department from 1999 to 2002, and completed a 16-year career with New York State Police before serving in his most recent role as emergency communications manager for the Syracuse University Department of Public Safety.

Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow called the new chief “the most qualified and prepared” in the city’s history and someone who would bring a “fresh perspective and new ideas” to the department. Barlow said Cady brings a diverse skill set to the police department, and is committed to serving the community and ensuring Oswego police play an important role in improving the community.

“Cady will be an asset to my administration, the Oswego Police Department and our community,” Barlow said.  Outgoing chief Tory DeCaire retired in January after a three-decade career with the city force.

Cady, a 1990 Oswego High School graduate who grew up in the town of Minetto, recently said “never in (his) wildest dreams did (he) think (he) was going to be back working in (his) hometown” as the city’s top cop.

“It wasn’t on my radar at all,” Cady said of becoming Oswego’s police chief. “The mayor came to me with an opportunity to work for and manage the department in my hometown, and I couldn’t really say ‘no.’ I came here from Fulton (in 1999) because this is my hometown department — I love the city, I love the area. I had no intention of leaving, but it’s not very often that you get a chance to become a state trooper so I jumped at that.”

Though a return to OPD wasn’t on his radar, Cady said returning to the department was an easy choice.

“There’s so much going on in the city right now, it’s going in such a positive direction and I want to be part of that,” Cady said.

So far, Cady said he’s been meeting with two officers each day to familiarize himself with OPD staff, noting there are only three officers on the force that were with OPD when he was last with the department.

Cady, who has lived in the city of Oswego with his wife Elizabeth and three children since 1996, identified a number of objectives for the department moving forward.

Community engagement will be a major initiative, Cady said, noting he’d like to increase OPD’s social media presence and the department’s interaction with the public. Cady said quarterly meet-and-greet events, similar to coffee with a cop, would be rolled out later this year to give residents the ability to ask questions and bring concerns to police.

Neighborhood engagement teams will also be implemented, Cady said, noting two officers would be assigned to deal specifically with neighborhood issues.

“Everything from codes issues to disturbances or problems with rental properties and drug issues,” Cady said, adding under his watch the department would continue “quality of life” patrols started last year.

Cady said he’s also planning to have officers restart patrols on mountain bikes, something he said makes officers more approachable.

Asked about the major issues facing the city, Cady said neighborhood disturbances would always be one of OPD’s top priorities. Cady said those issues were a hot topic 20 years ago and continue to the present.

“We have neighborhoods that have rental properties integrated into them so it’s always going to be a battle to balance that out, but this neighborhood engagement team will look at problem residences, or residences that we respond to a lot, and speak with those people after the fact to explain to them what the Social Host Law is in the city, what disorderly conduct is and how their actions are affecting the neighborhood around them,” Cady said. “It’s a balance of enforcing the laws and also a community outreach portion of it.”

Drugs are a major issue in the city as well, Cady said, noting the department would seek to combine aggressive enforcement and neighborhood outreach to identify problem areas to minimize the impact of drugs in the city.

OPD will also seek a national accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), Cady said, noting the department is currently certified by New York State but the CALEA certification would “take the department to the next step.”

Another issue Cady said he’d like to address as chief is diversity within the department, calling it “one of (his) main focuses moving forward this year.” Cady said it’s important OPD is representative of the Oswego community and law enforcement officials can understand and relate to residents.

“The department has done a great job when talking about minority recruitment with women,” Cady said, pointing to a recent occurrence of an all-female OPD shift. “I want to have a big push on minority recruitment. The city has changed a lot over the years and we need to be more well representative of our population.”

Cady is also serving as the city’s director of homeland security, a role he said would identify ways to protect the city’s infrastructure and protect visitors and residents during city events.

“We are a port city, we are on the Canadian border, so that intensifies the need to look at different things,” Cady said. “It’s looking at critical infrastructure. It’s looking at the events and how we prepare for them and having a plan for them.”

Barlow said the homeland security role includes additional duties for Cady, such as conducting risk and vulnerability assessments related to the security needs of the city and developing long-term strategies to meet those needs.

Barlow said the new role would have Cady overseeing security for major events in the community, in addition to managing emergency communication systems and ensuring timely notification of security issues to city residents.

“We have unique threats in the City of Oswego and need to always be prepared to handle them,” the mayor told The Palladium-Times. “Chief Cady will work with (Fire) Chief (Randy) Griffin to prepare our community for anything, and they’ll make a great team.”  

Homeland security would be “a major portion” of his job, Cady said, noting in his first two weeks on the job he reached out to the federal homeland security officials to request an assessment of the city’s critical infrastructure. Cady said the emergency management role at Syracuse University involved the development of active shooter plans and working with the athletics department on response plans, experience that could be helpful in the homeland security role.

Entering his third week on the job, Cady said his main focus so far has been reading through the department’s policies and procedures, which due to the state’s recent criminal justice reforms are in need of changes.

“There’s going to have to be a lot of tweaks and changes with the new bail reform and discovery issues,” Cady said of the much-maligned reforms that have divided Albany since going into effect earlier this year.

On the bail reforms, Cady there could have been “thoughtful reform” if lawmakers worked with police, prosecutors and judges to identify improvements to the criminal justice system. Instead, Cady said “it’s just crazy that they pushed this through and it’s so far to the extreme,” and no funding has been made available to help comply with the policies.

Overall, Cady said his assessment of OPD was one of a well-managed department positioned to move forward successfully and tackle future challenges. There are a number of technological upgrades needed, Cady said, but no major concerns have surfaced in his two weeks on the job.

The Oswego Common Council unanimously approved a three-year contract with Cady that can be extended for up to four years following the initial three-year deal.

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