The Police Board may consider recommending the city ease its qualifications for new police officers by allowing candidates who have years of relevant experience but no college degree to join the force.
The Lockport Police Department requires new officers to have at least a two-year college degree. Candidates also must meet other criteria, including scoring in the top tier of a civil service exam, attending a police academy, passing a physical fitness test and undergoing a background check and psychological examination.
Interim Chief Steven Preisch said the city should consider waiving its degree requirement for candidates with relevant experience in law enforcement, corrections or military service.
“You are somewhat limiting yourself by that requirement," Preisch said.
Preisch added that he was able to join the Niagara County Sheriff's Office, from which he retired as a chief deputy, because the department waived its degree requirements for candidates with at least three years of public experience. After high school, Preisch joined the U.S. Air Force and served as a military police officer.
"I fell into the three-years experience. Or I would not be here today," he said.
Several police board commissioners said they supported the idea. Commissioner Rick Abbott, who also serves as 5th Ward alderman, said state civil service often waives college degree requirements if applicants have years of relevant experience. "I think that's consistent with what's going on with civil service," Abbott said.
Commissioner Flora Hawkins said Lockport has more stringent requirements than most neighboring departments, such as Buffalo police, and that it discourages otherwise qualified candidates from applying.
"Our bar is the top bar, the highest bar," Hawkins said.