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Eggert chosen as Lockport police chief A 27-year veteran of the city's force, captain is board's unanimous pick to succeed Merritt

The city Police Board on Monday unanimously chose Capt. Lawrence M. Eggert as the new police chief.

Eggert will start work Dec. 28, the day after the current chief, Neil B. Merritt, retires after 32 years in the department and almost nine years as chief.

Eggert, 49, who has been a member of the Police Department for 27 years, said he wants to make sure he has the duties of his new job mastered before he tries to make any major changes in the department.

"I'm going to have a learning curve," Eggert said. "It'll take a little while to get the job itself under my belt. Then we'll look around and see if there are changes we need to make. We'll ask for input from the community as well as the people who work here."

According to the 2008 city budget, Eggert's current base pay of $69,942 a year will be raised to $82,308.

The choice was made after a five-hour, closed-door meeting of the four-member Police Board, according to the Common Council's representative on the board, Alderwoman Flora M. McKenzie, D-3rd Ward.

She said that it was tough to choose among the three candidates interviewed -- Eggert, Capt. Jeffrey Brodsky and Capt. Michael Niethe.

"[Monday] was one of my hardest days," McKenzie said. "All three candidates were excellent. Larry [Eggert] and Capt. Brodsky answered almost every question the same way."

She said Niethe was honest in saying that he did not have as long a leadership background as the others. "Nothing wrong with him trying out for the position so he can groom himself for the next time," McKenzie said.

Police Board President James Gugliuzza said Eggert's nine years as chief of detectives provided a big edge for him. He is the third consecutive chief of detectives to be promoted to chief. The chief of detectives serves as acting chief when the chief is absent.

Merritt said of Eggert, "He'll make an excellent chief. Excellent record here in every position he's held."

Mayor Michael W. Tucker also was pleased. "I think Larry's a great choice," he said. "He's got a lot of respect in the department."

Tucker said he intends to have a candid conversation with Eggert before he takes charge of the Police Department.

McKenzie said she and her Council colleagues want to see more efficiency.

"Ever since I've been here, the only solution to any problems in the Police Department has been, 'Add manpower, add manpower,' " she said. "It's OK to add manpower, but why? . . . I haven't been shown the way we're doing things is the right way. I haven't felt good about it."

Eggert was born in Buffalo and raised in Cheektowaga. He was working in the Erie County Highway Department when he and his new wife moved to Lockport and he took the police exam.

"Back in 1980, I had no grand illusions of becoming chief. I was just happy to get the job, because it was something I always wanted to do."

He said he tried to do his best at every assignment and said, "If people noticed and wanted to promote me to the next level, that was OK."

Gugliuzza said the Police Board needs to promote a couple of officers to captain because of Eggert's promotion and the impending retirement of Traffic Capt. Ronald Vogt. As for who will be the new chief of detectives, Gugliuzza said, "It actually will be Chief Eggert's pick, but he'll take input from the board."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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