by Maximilian Eyle
If crime is an indicator of the health of a city, then Syracuse has seen better days. Chief of Police Frank Fowler was appointed by Mayor Stephanie Miner in 2009, and now – nearly ten years later, he is making his exit. As we reflect on his legacy, there is not a lot to celebrate. While crime did drop by about 15% during his term, this is in line with the national crime rate and does not suggest any special change in our community. Furthermore, 2016 made headlines as the deadliest year in Syracuse history, with a record 30 homicides taking place. Gang violence continues to be a problem, and the relationship between the community and the police remains tense.
I am a native of Syracuse and have chosen to return and make it my home after leaving to earn my degree. Our city has a lot to be proud of. We boast a rich history, a thriving music community, a number of museums and theaters, great restaurants, and a growing downtown. All this nestled within the gorgeous landscape of Central New York. Yet public safety continues to burden our community and tarnish our reputation. Scandals with police brutality have cost the city millions of dollars in the past few years, with Chief Fowler showing little remorse or interest in departmental change. In a recent court testimony, he was asked if it is acceptable for police officers to beat someone who is already handcuffed. “It might be,” Chief Fowler responded. This attitude from our law enforcement leadership is atrocious and unforgivable.
Finally, change is upon us. On November 2nd, Mayor Ben Walsh announced that Kenton Buckner will be the new Chief of Police in Syracuse. Prior to this appointment, Buckner has been the chief in Little Rock, Arkansas – a similarly sized city to Syracuse. In his recent press conferences, he has affirmed his commitment to improving the diversity of our police force, and to focusing on rehabilitation and second chances rather than just punishment. Much about his history, character, and rhetoric gives us hope. Only time will tell if his approach will be successful. In the meantime, we as a community must do our best to hold our leadership accountable to their promises.
Maximilian Eyle is a native of Syracuse, NY and a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He works as a media consultant and writes each month about a variety of issues for Spanish-language papers across New York State. Maximilian has a love of Hispanic culture and learned Spanish while living in Spain where he studied and worked as an English teacher. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.