The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)
Lowell takes helm as city's 12th chief
Steven Lowell became Oneida’s police chief after the retirement of John Little on Feb. 20.
Lowell is the 12th chief in the force, which was founded in 1894, and at 36 is also the youngest chief in the department’s history. Now Lowell is seeking to maintain high standards in the department while finding his own personal vision for professional excellence.
“I always wanted to be a cop,” he said. “I grew up on Stone Street, and my dad was military and my mother was a nurse. I saw the value of service when I was young, and I always felt that was my calling. I am working towards that in my role as police chief.”
Lowell studied at SUNY Canton and received a four-year degree in criminal justice in 2009. After a brief stint with the Canastota police he transferred to Oneida. After his transfer Lowell said he saw a commitment to quality among officers exemplified by former Chief John Mcclellan.
“He wanted the force to be state accredited, and that’s something we’re working towards,” Lowell said. “Accreditation is being able to reach a standard of services and deliver it consistently.”
The Law Enforcement Agency Accreditation Program is voluntary and designed to improve an agency’s effectiveness, efficiency and professionalism. It will also promote training and foster public confidence in law enforcement. Agencies must meet a set of standards in administration, training and operations. In 1989 New York became the first state nationwide to sponsor an accreditation program.
Lowell said meeting
the accreditation criteria means the Oneida police will have to address issues including public relations, an increased crime rate, drug traffic and bail reform.
The Defund the Police and Black Lives Matter movements began in the summer of 2020 after police incidents involving black Americans led to accusations of police brutality against minorities and widespread riots. Police recruitment dropped 20 percent that year but has since rebounded.
“People were stuck inside during the pandemic, with too much time together and not enough to do,” Lowell said. “And now police have to reform their image. I could be at a barbeque and meet someone new and we would do alright. If I were to say I’m a cop they might not be so friendly. You should get to know me first before judging me by my profession.”
The department’s school resource officer program is part of that community outreach. In 2021 the Oneida Police Benevolent Association members agreed to negotiate part-time positions to assist in the allowance of an Oneida Police Officer at the schools within the City of Oneida.
Inv. Kip Bailey is the department’s Juvenile Aid Investigator. He oversees the Oneida City Youth Court and is the agency’s primary resource for investigations pertaining to juveniles. Additionally, he is a liaison between the school district and our agency.
Bailey frequents all schools within the district as he is able within the capacity of Juvenile Aid Investigator. He conducts presentations throughout the district, he however is not permanently assigned to any school. Over his time Bailey has developed a relationship with all schools within our district. The agency’s Juvenile Aid Investigator also has responsibilities to the entire Criminal Investigation Unit and assists with other agency investigations.
“A school resource officer position is of immense value to a police agency,” Lowell said. “In an era of fingertip communication there is no greater benefit than having a dedicated Oneida Police Officer assigned to schools within our city. The City police department is the primary response agency for calls to the schools within Oneida.
“The main thing is to have operational continuity between what’s happening within the schools and our agency,” Lowell continued. “Although the school day ends around three o’clock, the activity and potential police involvement may not. Our officers know the families and know the kids of our district. There is an essential rapport already established and trust built.”
Lowell said Oneida police are committed to long-term plans which are effective and sustainable. An officer within the schools can respond to immediate threats or acts of violence and the position allows for referrals to be made to address root causes and underlying issues; a holistic approach to preventing and responding to violence and bullying.
Lowell also said that some children are exposed to situations and city police officers beyond the school day, having an officer from the department at the school increases the ability to freely communicate offhours issues such as domestics or sexual abuse allegations directly and efficiently. Having a familiar Oneida City Police officer at the schools, Lowell said, allows familiarity, comfort and space for kids to seek help.
“We want to work with every stakeholder to help solve problems,” Lowell said. “The superintendent and I are in constant contact regarding the needs of the district. I would reach out to Superintendent Matt Carpenter for specifics on their safety people at the schools currently.
“I am resolved that as Oneida’s Police Chief we work together and in unison with all stakeholders to provide quality professional services,” he continued. “I’m hopeful that our agency can establish a school resource officer program eventually and in mutual respect of the wants and needs of the Oneida School District.”
Lowell also addressed the issue of drugs in Oneida.
“There’s a perception that Oneida is like a Mayberry, but it’s not,” Lowell said. “We are located between Syracuse and Utica, and there is a market here for drugs. It would be helpful for us at some point to obtain a second dedicated drug car to help with enforcement.”
The legalization of marijuana has led to a hidden danger, Lowell said. “The problem is in mixing marijuana with alcohol, and the increase in impaired driving accidents,” he said.
Lowell said part of becoming accredited includes not overworking staff. The Oneida police employ 25 officers and are looking to hire three more.
The department will be holding a ceremonial swearing in event on March 9 at 6 p.m. at common council chambers, city hall.
Officers sworn in will include Lowell, Assistant Chief Matthew Colella, Lt. Keith Hudson, Officers Alyssa Laperla, Nicholas Weber, Zachary Przybyla and two sergeants who will be determined after interviews.