Police commissioner resigns

By LIZ BUTTON

Rye Police Commissioner William Connors announced his resignation this week after more than 12 years leading the city’s police department.

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Police Commissioner William Connors, center, seen here with City Manager Scott Pickup, left, and Mayor Douglas French during a Hurricane Sandy press briefing, announced this week that he will resign from his post effective Jan. 16, 2014. Contributed photo

On Sept. 3, the city issued a press release stating Connors would resign effective Jan. 16, 2014. The commissioner, a 20-year veteran of the New York City Police Department, was appointed to the Rye post in January 2001.

After working in law enforcement for 33 years, Connors said he would like some time off, but said the move would more likely be a sabbatical rather than a permanent retirement.

“I have hoped, for myself and my family, that I would be able to take some time to restore a proper work/life balance while I am young enough to enjoy it,” he said.

Calling the city “a challenging and demanding place to work,” Connors said his time in Rye was rewarding nonetheless. On the administrative side, Connors spearheaded the department’s successful re-accreditation assessment by the New York State Law Enforcement Accreditation Council in July. He was also responsible for drafting the city’s Taser policy and was in the process of reworking the department manual.

Mayor Douglas French, a Republican who took office in 2010, said that the years during which his tenure overlapped with Connors were packed with notable events that faced the city, from coyote attacks in 2010 to major weather events like Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storm Irene.

During the coyote incidents that saw two Rye children attacked by the animals over a four-day span, Connors became well-versed on the subject and proved a resource for local police departments in Westchester.

“Retirement had been on his mind for the last year or two,” French said. “He and the city manager discussed over the last few months when the right time [to leave his post] would be.”

City Manager Scott Pickup commended Connors for deferring his original preferred resignation date “to assist in crucial city planning” over the remainder of the year.

Continuity of operations within the police department is important during fall’s hurricane season, city officials said. Over the past two years, severe storms pummeled the coastline and flooded residents’ homes and required high levels of organization from city staff and first responders.

The commissioner did face some adversity during his time in Rye, however, most notably due to union strife, including a vote of no confidence by PBA members, and ongoing health issues.
Connors was hired by then-City Manager Julia Novak to lead police operations back in 2001. To accommodate his hiring, the city put in a request for a 211 Waiver with the state Civil Service Commission that enabled Connors to collect his New York City pension while working in Rye.

A civil service employee in New York can only continue to collect a pension and a salary simultaneously via a 211 Waiver if the employer has determined that no other qualified candidates with the appropriate qualifications are available for recruitment to that position. It was an effort undertaken annually by the city during Connors’ tenure.

Mayor French said the council will authorize the city manager to post an ad for his replacement and will put together a representative committee to assist in the hiring process. Connors has not announced any future plans at this time, according to city officials.

Republican Councilman Joe Sack, who is running for mayor this November, said Connors’ departure is “a good opportunity for a fresh start.”

When it comes to selecting a new police commissioner, Sack said, the decision should be made by the new administration rather than during the interim that remains until January, when Connors leaves his position.

Currently, the city manager hires all department heads and all other city employees. Sack is eager to change that.

“One of the proposals I made earlier this year was that the city charter should be amended to require the city manager to include the mayor and council in the process of hiring department heads, such as high-profile department heads like the police commissioner,” Sack said.

A phone call to Commissioner Connors seeking comment was not returned as of press time.

Contact: liz@hometwn.com