Brian ChilsonKENTON BUCKNER: During his time in Little Rock.
A reader asks if former Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner had met the Syracuse, N.Y., fitness standard to be a certified officer on the force he now leads. A web search indicates the answer is, no, but he might get a pass.
We reported back in July on Buckner’s rocky relationship with the local police union and its criticism that he hadn’t met training and fitness standards for certified officers. In addition to 400 hours of training in various aspects of police work, certified officers also must meet the local police academy’s fitness standard:
The physical standards for a male recruit between 40 and 49 include running a mile-and-a-half in 13 minutes 50 seconds, and doing 18 push-ups and 29 sit-ups, according to police recruiting material.
Spectrum News, a Syracuse-area website, updated Buckner’s situation last month.
It reported that the state agency that certifies police had given Buckner an additional year to complete training requirements, until Dec. 1, 2020. It said he’d completed 386 hours in such areas as defensive tactics, driving and firearms testing. It said he still must complete the fitness testing and 160 hours of field training.
Kenton told Spectrum he was training for the fitness test and was confident he’d pass it, though he wasn’t sure when that would be.
“I can actually get through the workouts now without passing out and feeling like we’re making progress with that,” said Buckner. “Any of you that tried to get into shape, it’s not easy. I don’t try to hide that or walk away from it. I think it’s difficult but certainly reachable.”
The Spectrum reporting indicted Buckner has a supporter in the local mayor and, according to him, passing the test might not be necessary for Buckner to keep his job.
“I didn’t hire the Chief based on how many push-ups he can do or fast he can run a mile and half,” said Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh. “I brought him in based on his experience, based on what he thought was important for the police department and for the community, and that’s what he’s delivered on.”
Walsh also says the state law allows him to keep Buckner as chief whether he passes the certification or not. The certification just maintains his status as a sworn officer.
The police union has disagreed with the mayor on this opinion, but syracuse.com reported that the city’s attorney backed up that reading of the law. Buckner could remain as a “civilian police chief.”
The mayor tapped Buckner to be chief in Syracuse in November 2018. He’d been chief in Little Rock for more than four years, after 21 years on the force in Louisville.