By CHRYSTAL SAVAGE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
The City of Oneonta’s Citizen Advisory Board – Governor Cuomo mandated such entities statewide after George Floyd’s death – is due to report back April 1 with recommendations.
“All of them seem reasonable,” said OPD Chief Doug Brenner in an interview after announcing his retirement. “They now need to be refined and implemented.”
A new chief with time ahead of him to work the reforms through would better serve the city than Brenner, who at 56, is coming to the end of his career.
That was his explanation of his surprise retirement, announced last weekend and due to take effect on Thursday, Feb. 18, after a 35-year career.
Brenner started his career in June 1986, just weeks short of his 22nd birthday, as a guard in the old county jail, now the District Attorney’s Office.
In March 1988, Brenner was promoted to road patrol and attended the Herkimer County Police Academy.
In Cooperstown, Brenner assumed many roles, including firearms instructor, among others and even found himself with “job perks” such as meeting Hall of Famers like Jim Palmer and Yogi Berra.
In 1998, the Oneonta-native joined the city force. He was promoted to sergeant in April 2007, lieutenant in May 2012 and chief in July 2017, after the resignation of Chief Dennis Nayor.
“I was born at Fox” and raised in Oneonta, and always tried to bring a “community” approach to the work he does, inspired by his father, David Brenner’s, service as Oneonta mayor (1986 – 97), as well as the Cooperstown philosophy: Be “a helpful neighbor first.”
“I have been fortunate that the right opportunity has seemed to present itself at the right time,” Brenner said. “However, now it is time for someone that has more time in front of them
to take over.”
Brenner notes that transparency whenever possible is vital for developing trust between officers and the community they serve – a challenge for the department after two unfortunate incidents in 2009 and 2011 of which Brenner believes that staffing of the department never recovered.
“It was hard; we were looked down upon,” Brenner said. “We had to change ourselves and I was asked to help rebuild and redirect our department – it was a real turning point and the trust in our officers took a while to regain.”
Despite the difficult and unfortunate circumstances, Brenner believes this led to the implementation of positive changes.
“I don’t know if I have instilled this in my officers or simply improved upon what was there in terms of our relationship with the community,” Brenner said. “We need to have a broad mindset; one that helps to make our officers good, smart, attentive and approachable.”
“I think my openness has been contagious in a good way,” Brenner said. “I have never been afraid to go out, have a coffee or grab some lunch – the respect is mutual.”
A sentiment Brenner also shared with the Black Lives Matter protests in Oneonta following the death of George Floyd in May.
“There was a demonstration of about 500 people who needed to make their voices heard,” Brenner said. “If (the Oneonta PD) had a presence there, it would not have allowed them to truly express themselves.”
“The people in Oneonta are great,” Brenner said. “It has been an honor.”