Computer Crime Research Center


Computer crime: a new breed of police

Date: December 16, 2005

Tracy Dwyer majored in sociology at the University at Albany. Jason Bach spent nine years in the Air Force, many of them working with intelligence. They took a break from weapons training Wednesday to talk about their future with the Colonie police.

They are among the newest faces of a department in the middle of its largest turnover in years, depleted by 19 retirements over the last 24 months -- about 17 percent of its authorized strength of 109.

It's long way from a 5-year stretch in the 1990s during which no one was hired because no one retired, said Chief Steven Heider. The Glenville police have seen a similar trend.

As Deputy Chief Richard Villa put it: "A lot of knowledge is walking out the door."

But department leaders like Villa and Heider aren't dwelling on the collective decades of street experience they're losing, and instead tout the pedigrees of their newest additions.

Dwyer and Bach -- along with seven other new Colonie officers -- will graduate from the Zone 5 Law Enforcement Academy tonight while the Town Board simultaneously appoints eight more candidates.

White collar crime, fraud, and computer crime continue to consume more of the department's time, even while the most serious kinds of crime are down this year from last, Heider said.

Meanwhile, the chief said, it's also essential to maintain a visible presence in the town's suburban neighborhoods to control quality-of-life issues. To do that, he said, you need bodies.

"We're setting ourselves up for the future," the chief said. "Our hiring requirements are very stringent. People ask why we're like that. The reason is that one day those people are going to have to take over this police department."

Dwyer, 25, said she's looking forward to using her lifelong interest in sociology as she encounters different kinds of people she'll meet across town.

"It's always different, changing," Dwyer said of why police work interested her. "It keeps you on your toes."

Bach, 27, says he's looking forward to the peculiar demands of the midnight shift.

After graduating today, all nine officers will embark on about 12 weeks of on-the-job training, cycling through the different departments and shifts to give real-life perspective to what they learned during five months at the academy.

They are replacing a generation of officers who joined in the 1970s and 1980s, when the department grew with the town.

The starting salary for a patrol officer in Colonie is just over $40,000, Heider said.

"Somebody who knew about computers in my day had a pocket protector and was a geek," joked Villa, who joined the department in 1977. Now, he said, it's essential.

The training has become more rigorous, too, he said, recalling his first shift without direct supervision.

"One night there wasn't enough cops to go out and they just told me, "Hey, there you go,' " Villa said.

Bach said he's eager to do the same.

"I'm looking forward to the first day alone out on the streets," he said.
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