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Lockport police union objects to hiring plans for new police chief

The incoming president of the City of Lockport's police union says the city's plans for using a civil service examination to find candidates for police chief will exclude at least two veteran officers who otherwise would have been considered for the post.

Patrolman Kevin Lucinski said Thursday the city Civil Service Commission should reject the Police Board's recommendation that the hiring list for chief should result from an open, competitive exam to be given March 2.

Lucinski said the union would prefer a promotional exam, which would be open only to current Lockport officers. An open test would allow members of other police agencies to sign up.

The rules for an open exam would require the applicants to have college degrees in criminal justice or a related field. Two or three of the nine otherwise eligible Lockport officers don't have that degree, Lucinski said.

The rules also say in-house candidates for chief must either be captains with two years in that rank or lieutenants with four years in that rank.

"We don't have a problem with them bringing in a police chief from outside if there are no qualified candidates inside. We have nine," Lucinski said.

The commission is to meet on New Year's Eve, and Mayor David R. Wohleben said he wants the panel to order an open exam.

"To me, that's a bigger pool than nine people," Wohleben said. "The commission has every right to do that."

The alternative could be to hold two tests, which would be an advantage to in-house candidates.

In that case, the results from the promotional exam would take precedence, city civil service secretary Mary Pat Holz said.

The high scorers on the open exam wouldn't be given a chance for the job unless everyone on the promotional list turned it down, or if fewer than three Lockport officers passed the test.

Lucinski is concerned about officers who didn't major in criminal justice but decided on law enforcement careers after college.

"These guys and girls have invaluable knowledge that some other candidate doesn't have," Lucinski said. "They've lived, worked, been promoted in the city. The city's paid for their training. The city's sent them to school after school after school. Why now are you going to step outside that?"

The chief's position opened when Michael F. Niethe retired in June. The Police Board chose Steven C. Preisch, retired chief deputy of the Niagara County Sheriff's Office, as interim chief.

Preisch, after at first saying he didn't want the job permanently, changed his mind and obtained an interview from the Police Board.

On Dec. 13, the board decided not to make an appointment. Preisch has said he won't take the exam.

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