Dennis Nayor recently retired as chief of the Ithaca Police Department. He was previously the Chief of the Oneonta Police, with nearly 25 years of service in policing. Following an Executive Order from The New York Governor, all police agencies in NY have to submit proposals for reform by April 1, 2021.
After many focus groups and meetings, a decision was made to drastically change the police department, The plan, which includes renaming the Ithaca Police Department and having armed and unarmed public safety workers, was approved unanimously by the Common Council on March 31. The implementation plan has not been finalized but will reduce the number of armed officers while adding more civilian staff. Ithaca Mayor says he wants to rebuild the Ithaca Police Department from the ground up.
In a candid chat, Dennis Nayor discussed the process, the changes, and the way forward for a reimagined public safety agency. We talked about the current state of policing, defunding, and leadership in agencies.
[00:00:00.900] - Intro
Welcome to The CopDoc Podcast, this podcast explores police leadership issues and innovative ideas The CopDoc Podcast thoughts and ideas as he talks with leaders in policing, communities, academia and other government agencies. And now please join Dr. Steve Morreale and industry thought leaders as they share their insights and experience on The CopDoc Podcast.
[00:00:31.280] - Steve Morreale
Well, hello, everybody, again, this is Steve Morreale, and you're listening to The CopDoc Podcast, I'm sitting in Boston today and I have the opportunity to talk to Dennis Nayor, the former chief, the retired chief from Ithaca, New York, and he's sitting up there in upstate New York. Good morning to you, Dennis.
[00:00:46.370] - Dennis Nayor
Good morning, Steve. Thanks for having me.
[00:00:47.660] - Steve Morreale
Thanks for being here. I do appreciate it. In order to get this started and to talk about you, I'd like you to let the listeners know a little bit about yourself, how long you've been policing, where you did your policing, when you left policing, and then we'll start to talk about difficulties.
[00:01:00.320] - Dennis Nayor
Yes. Yes. So I have finished a twenty five plus year career in law enforcement. I started as a fledgling rookie officer in the city of Oneonta, New York. A small city in upstate New York is at two colleges. A state college and a private college is a real busy city, super active, just typical for for any college city. And I went there through the ranks. You know, I started as an officer and spent time as a sergeant, Lieutenant and my last five years as police chief.
[00:01:28.220] - Dennis Nayor
And it was an amazing twenty-one plus years there. I did a lot, learned a lot, and I thought it was a good time to retire. So I wound up taking a job. I was offered with the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police as kind of a long title, but I became the director of research, development and training. And one of my goal was, was to take the things that I had done in the small city and which was really bring about legitimacy and trust and all the six pillars of twenty first century policing and kind of perpetuating that on a statewide level and in terms of articles I write and conferences and trainings and just the philosophy.
[00:02:00.440] - Dennis Nayor
So what happened was it was pretty shortly after I started that job that I really miss the mission of active law enforcement and I had a desire to go back and the city of chief was going to be retiring within the year. And he knew my skill set and credentials. And we just thought that that would be a very good place for me to apply what I have done in Oneonta and what I was doing at the state level. So I want to go into the city of Ithaca and became their chief.
[00:02:25.040] - Steve Morreale
And when was that, Dennis?
[00:02:26.750] - Dennis Nayor
That was September of 2018. I went there and I got hired as their deputy chief of professional standards with the thought that I would then assume the role of chief, which I did, came first acting chief eight months later, and then in September of 2013, I became a full time permanent chief and I served there until April of this year where I decided it is a really good time to retire again and closing out just over twenty five years in the profession.
[00:02:52.730] - Steve Morreale
So tell the listeners so that they understand. Describe the differences between Oneonta and Ithaca in terms of demographics. Talk about that department and how big it was, how big the city was, and then move on to Ithaca just so we can have some perspective.
[00:03:06.910] - Dennis Nayor
You know, similar to the population of the city of Oneonta is fourteen thousand plus and had those from the two colleges and the commuters inside the department size wise and its largest was around twenty eight. Twenty nine officers. When I retired, including me as chief, I took twenty five officers. We were always understaffed. We were probably about 15 percent lower in staffing than what we should have had just for the dynamics. But we made it work. If it was thirty one thousand, it's OK to Cornell University, Ivy League, to college, a lot of wineries and very internationally diverse community.
[00:03:39.050] - Dennis Nayor
The department here had been as high as I think, maybe eighty four, but in twenty thirteen I think they were at seventy eight. And then when I came on it was sixty nine because nine positions have been cut in twenty thirteen to I think close up the budget. And the department had been kind of struggling since those cuts. And then when I retired the authorized strength was sixty three.
[00:03:59.990] - Steve Morreale
You're saying from seventy-eight to sixty-three in less than two years.
[00:04:03.470] - Dennis Nayor
No twenty thirteen was one was. Oh but I should say that's on paper because what we're really functioning with was really when I retired around low 50s because we had people that were on various leaves, military administrative leave, workers compensation. And if you look at numbers, the DOJ twenty seventeen did an analysis of the average number of officers per one thousand was two point four. So that should have brought the average at no less than seventy four point four officers.
[00:04:30.710] - Dennis Nayor
And I will tell you, the city of Ithaca is anything but average in the expectations and the dynamics, the challenges. So we were making it work with around 30 percent or more. Thirty percent less than the average. And it's it's a tribute to the officers who do an amazing job day in and day out, many, many challenges. And I'm sure we're going to go into it. But I will talk about how then that played into the pandemic, the civil unrest, the reforms, surge in crimes, violent crimes specifically that we saw as a byproduct.
[00:04:58.910] - Dennis Nayor
And again, it was a for me two and a half years that I was with the city of Iftikar. It was a full sprint each day, every day. Never any lapse in crisis is or challenges. So some of which is what made it a time for me to just kind of unplug for a while and look at the next chapter. But that's kind of the description of Ithaca, New York.
[00:05:17.000] - Steve Morreale
Is there a little disappointment in your voice that you are out of the business right now, or is it a bit of relief or is it too early to tell?
[00:05:25.160] - Dennis Nayor
It's kind of early? But it's more relief, you know, I've done this at a very high level. For a very long time, the average time span for a police chief, at least in this current day and age, is, they say, three to five years. I've been a chief now for seven years in two cities.
[00:05:39.790] - Dennis Nayor
The first city that I was the chief, it was I had taken over after my predecessor left and I had been an excessive force case and an officer termination and some racial tensions. And I vowed that when I took over, I was going to change that and do all the things that 21st century policing expected. And that was before our 21st century. Those six pillars were even publicly discussed. And I have done a lot in a short time with the help of my team.
[00:06:03.610] - Dennis Nayor
And when I retired from there, we were now a fully accredited agency. And at that at that time, there were only less than eight percent of agencies our size that became state accredited. But I wanted to make that happen. And at the time and meant we met one hundred and thirty standards for the best practices in policing and just rebuilding community trust of our technologies and updating our fleet and our hiring and staffing. And so that was it was a full pace.
[00:06:26.140] - Dennis Nayor
But the difference there was it was me creating that pace because I just wanted to get the things done that needed to be done yesterday. So when I retired the first time, I thought I was ready, but that I missed right away. And again, that's what prompted me to want to go back. Now it's more the relief because in the last well, specifically the last year. But my whole time there, two and a half years, there was a lot of challenges that I that I inherited and a lot of things that needed to also be done yesterday.
[00:06:51.550] - Dennis Nayor
And so it was a full a full court press the whole time. And then there was no playbook for the global pandemic. There's no playbook for the months and months of civil unrest. And then New York State is one of the only states in the union, I believe, that has an executive order, executive order two zero three that required some very specific teams to be covered for policing reforms. So you add all that up and then include the surge in violent crimes we seeing.
[00:07:17.740] - Dennis Nayor
It's just exhausting and all consuming. And so I made a decision. I was going to make sure I navigated us through the worst of those times. And then at the beginning of twenty, twenty one in January, I said that I would be retiring in the spring. After I continue, I wanted to really do two more things before I retired, see the reforms through and help bring on lead, which is law enforcement assisted diversion to help those who commit a low level offense and don't have priors and keep people out of the system who shouldn't be in the system to begin with.
[00:07:43.630] - Dennis Nayor
And so my goal was to see those projects through and then move along and maybe put my master's degree to use a teach or something. So, yeah, I think to answer your question in the most succinct way it was, I don't think that was succinct. I think you told me a whole bunch, you know, but but listen, I think that's terrific because there's so much I draw from what you're saying. I want to go back for a minute and I want to ask you this, because there's so many things you just said.
[00:08:05.110] - Steve Morreale
Do you see yourself and did you want to see yourself as a change agent?
[00:08:08.920] - Dennis Nayor
You know, it's funny. I never in my first agency, I set out to be a change agent because I knew we need it. And I think my natural tendency is to not accept the status quo and to always improve whatever it is. So it's I think it's just part of who I am. And I think the times in which I've led as a chief has required it. The first agency, just because we were really needing changes to be a contemporary quality professional agency.
[00:08:31.730] - Dennis Nayor
And if it was because of the times in which we were living. So in both agencies, I was a change agent, but for different reasons.
[00:08:38.920] - Steve Morreale
Do you think that there are too many agencies in America?
[00:08:42.010] - Dennis Nayor
I think there's many agencies that don't have standards and don't maybe abide by the same philosophy in terms of continual evolution and development and just all the standards. You know, in New York State, there's over five hundred police agencies I can speak to, the two that I've led as to what my expectations always were. I can say that every agency, if it has maybe just a few officers or maybe maybe get involved in a lot of high profile things just because it's a small agency, I can't tell you for sure what standards they have, what their thoughts toward future growth are.
[00:09:15.850] - Steve Morreale
Well, think about think about that, what you just said and what I'm asking. And I'm not trying to impugn the discipline we both served for so many years. But without standards, one group has standards. The other one is trying to create standards, and the other one doesn't have the time or the capacity to adapt or adopt to standards. Could this be part of the problem?
[00:09:37.420] - Dennis Nayor
One hundred percent. Yeah, sure. Yeah, sure. And I'll tell you why, because when people see police officers, they don't differentiate between all they work for this agency or that agency. They see a person with authority in a uniform. And that's part of what's created. The problem is as a profession, we've all been broadly dated as the worst examples of policing. And you and I, as we talk with over 50 years of combined law enforcement experience between us, we can both say for sure that there are people that don't put the same level of passion or care in and there's people in charge that don't put the same standards of hiring in.
[00:10:08.470] - Dennis Nayor
And that does create the problem. Let's face it, we have around eight hundred thousand sworn law enforcement in our country. If you take a tenth of a percent, a tenth of one percent, you're looking at eight hundred. If those eight hundred represent the rotten apples, it's still way too many. But the media can show every example of those worst ones in a three hundred and sixty five day year and have over two stories every day that. That's bad policing, and again, that's still too much, but it sadly has blanketed the entire profession as seeming, well, putting us in a negative light, and that's a problem.
[00:10:39.720] - Dennis Nayor
So, yes, there needs to be national standards.
[00:10:43.680] - Steve Morreale
I was just going to ask you that question. My concern is, do we need the federal government to intervene? And I'm not saying that in a positive way. I was a federal agent for many years, and I'm not always keen to the outside interference because I think especially in the Northeast and probably in most places in America, we like the idea of local control, don't we? Right, right. But the problem with that is you have elected officials, some of whom have, again, the capacity to manage and lead, others who have that power, and they want to use it against others just to show.
[00:11:15.990] - Steve Morreale
And this is clearly one of the things that may have happened in Ithaca, that there was a change the way they reacted, I guess. Let me jump into that. So what happened in Ithica? What was going on as they began to look for a different approach to policing?
[00:11:30.240] - Dennis Nayor
So as I said earlier, New York State was one that had an executive order that required every municipality that had a police agency to come up with reforms due to the governor's office by April 1st. So it was one of those 500 plus agencies. And so the approach became a way to look at it was really looking at four themes accountability, hiring, retention, diversity, the culture within the department. And it was a very broad effort that there wasn't a very specific way that all reforms had to be, but it had to be something that brought in community input and brought in the way officers used force, the way officers do their training, what trainings they're doing.
[00:12:09.410] - Dennis Nayor
It was quite a lengthy process. And again, just trying to boil it down here. And if the approach became well, recommendations became and in absentia of anything that I brought forth, that the only plan forth would be to start fresh and create a new department. And there was about 19 or so different form or recommendations listed. But the one that really became this focal point was to have to create a new department and start over. And the problem for me with that was, well, it's huge.
[00:12:41.460] - Dennis Nayor
And one was I was part of the process from the very, very beginning on the ground floor that every meeting I was mining data. For me, it became a way to show off so much what we were doing at a very high level for a very long time, because Ithaca, New York, has always been a training centric department to the fact that the state uses some of the advanced instructors, L.A.P.D. to set the state standards. And so I just couldn't believe that that was what was being recommended.
[00:13:04.620] - Steve Morreale
And well, Dennis, again, not having been there and for the benefit of the listeners and remember, these are listeners potentially from all over the world. And I can assure you that's happening is who was a part of this particular group, if you were on it, who else was on it?
[00:13:18.210] - Steve Morreale
There were focus groups. There was members of the community. There's the director of human resources. The mayor was involved. There were people from the community. There was a lot of different groups. And my group was specific toward answering questions that would come forth, how we train our policies, how we do our hiring, how we do our discipline. So as I was providing data toward, again, the themes that were being discussed. Oh, and the main theme, I think I forgot to say, was the role of policing and the role of policing was really defining what we do, how we do it, so forth.
[00:13:51.270] - Dennis Nayor
So with that, I was giving all the information. And then I can tell you as we sit here and talk, who actually created the recommendations. And we were working with a group called the Center for Policing Equity, and they were more really, I think, facilitating and coordinating the meetings and so forth. But when the recommendations came out, I where did these come from? And the only one that was put out that I was really a staunch supporter and advocate for was health and wellness and law enforcement, because let's face it, law enforcement is a tough, tough job.
[00:14:20.520] - Dennis Nayor
You deal with toxic situations, dangerous situations. You go into the unknown day in and day out and that sort of thing chips away at the health and wellness of an officer. And really, for years, there was never a focus on it because it was, well, just you suck it up and you deal with it. And it's been shown that that doesn't work and that cumulative stress doesn't go away. And that's why you have people who may have started out as good officers, maybe now not so good.
[00:14:45.750] - Dennis Nayor
So I was really a big advocate for health and wellness. So that made it into direct, which I was glad. And there were some other ones that had some value, but I kind of lost sight of what they all were because the main one about dissolving the department and starting fresh again, it didn't align with my philosophy of what you do is if you want to change, make changes, you do gradual, incremental changes. You evaluate them and then you keep what works.
[00:15:07.420] - Dennis Nayor
If it doesn't work, then you make adjustments. And again, going back, I always said the city of Iftikar was a highly training centric department when I was always touted for its standards training. So that's not the type of department that you throw away. And I should add, we were all on the same page that we have to find ways to better deal with mental health issues, find ways to pass out things that we as police shouldn't be going to because we became a catch all because.
[00:15:29.260] - Dennis Nayor
One, no one else could do the job and the jobs that or the societal problems and to go to what we do, so we said we shouldn't do everything. We said we have to find ways to deal with mental health issues, ways to address homelessness, ways to address addiction, ways to address inequalities. We're all in agreement to that. But I feel that there were many, many different pathways without saying we're going to dissolve the department and start fresh.
[00:15:49.960] - Dennis Nayor
And again, that wasn't my decision, but it was one that caused a lot of angst and confusion for all.
[00:15:56.200] - Steve Morreale
So is that new department up and standing or is it still in the formative stage?
[00:16:01.270] - Dennis Nayor
Strictly formative? I think the way it ended was that it was the task force would be formed to really determine how this would go about it supposedly would happen then over the course of two to three years, and it would bring in armed and not armed officers and have the common name would be changed and it would be a Department of Community Solutions, or I believe that's still up for debate. But the challenges are this. There are so many unknowns in law enforcement.
[00:16:26.650] - Dennis Nayor
And you can say, well, some calls have a lower likelihood of requiring any sort of physical force ever being needed or will be able to be done by someone else. But there are calls that you can go to in law enforcement that you think will be routine, and I hate even using that word, but then they become anything but routine. It's a problem because if you think that you'll have a panacea by just removing police from certain calls, I think what you'll find out is there's now a new danger that those who go aren't equipped to handle.
[00:16:55.450] - Dennis Nayor
And and we police for the society and the challenges in society. And sometimes people look at will look at how they do it in New Zealand or Scotland. But there are different societies and we have a higher propensity for violence where we encounter here more guns than people. I just think that when you want to make some changes, especially when it has to do with something, with the stakes so high, such as public safety, you have to do it in a very graduated logical steps.
[00:17:19.810] - Dennis Nayor
So that way you're not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. You can make adjustments as you need. You can see, does this work? Is it working with sending unarmed personnel to these calls? Is it taking the burden off law enforcement or the outcomes better? And if it is, then you expand that. If it isn't, you haven't gone so far in an extreme that now you've lost something so valuable you use it as a pilot almost, rather than to try it out.
[00:17:42.310] - Dennis Nayor
Right. Trial and error and adjustment.
[00:17:44.060] - Dennis Nayor
Exactly. Again, that's my philosophy on really where you have the best chances for success. And again, my philosophy as a police chief, as an officer is just someone who's dedicated their lives to public safety, is really to create an environment where people are safe, they feel safe, that we have the correct means to address crime. That goes in terms of resources, staffing, outward support. We need to do the job. And let's go back to what we said earlier.
[00:18:11.350] - Dennis Nayor
Standards. And as long as we have the standards, then let's say, OK, well, this is quality policing. Let's find ways to enhance that. And and again, so philosophically, you go graduated, you make adjustments which you don't do something that's so drastic that it leaves you no chance to come back and make corrections.
[00:18:29.590] - Steve Morreale
You know, that's an interesting piece, because I see so many times that I see myself as a student of public administration.
[00:18:34.870] - Steve Morreale
I've seen so many times when people would like to privatize things. And so you privatize school custodians or you privatize corrections. You know that they did that. You privatize trash pickup and all of a sudden you begin to realize, you know, these people are not doing what we wanted to do. They were for the first year. But by that time, you were already dissolved. The DPW or whatever, whatever group worked, it's very hard to put put the horse back into the barn after it's out.
[00:18:59.440] - Steve Morreale
And that's a problem. So do you think is there room for improvement in policing?
[00:19:02.710] - Dennis Nayor
A hundred percent? Yeah, absolutely. Many police officers, executives, we all thrive on that because we've evolved continually. And one hundred percent, there's room for improvement.
[00:19:12.430] - Steve Morreale
So is accreditation or certification by a state or by CALEA? Is that I think is something that civilians don't necessarily understand what that means, the effort that goes into it, and that so few departments do that. Just explain what the understanding it's a high workload. What's the benefit of that for an agency?
[00:19:31.150] - Dennis Nayor
The benefit is now you're meeting what we talked about, ICE standards, you're meeting or exceeding standards and all of the key areas of evidence collection, vehicle pursuits, foot pursuit, use of force, prisoner transport and handling prisoner. Correct?
[00:19:45.550] - Dennis Nayor
Correct. You're hiring your promotional standards, making sure that basically you have a clear mission statement and you follow and get the way that you basically the way you do business is is in keeping with professionalism, ethics and integrity. And when you get accredited, it's not that, OK, you check that box, you're done. You have to show compliance every year and then you have to be reassessed with an on site multiday inspection several years later. So so it's just a process that just it's just like you can't go to the gym one day for eight hours, worked out non stop and think, OK, I'm good for the next six months.
[00:20:17.740] - Dennis Nayor
It doesn't work that way. You know, consistency over time equals results. See over T equals R, you know, and I didn't coin that. I just use it because it's so true whether it's in policing, private sector, personal. Whatever its consistency, over time, that's where you get results, accreditation basically provides that because you're consistently doing things that are meeting and exceeding the standards and they're all in the areas of high liability. And when we look at stuff that's going on around the country and bad policing, I would like to see, well, what were the policies or the people adhering to bad policies where they just not adhering to that they have good policies and the officers weren't adhering.
[00:20:52.960] - Dennis Nayor
What's the culture in that department
[00:20:55.090] - Steve Morreale
And what was the union influence in that, too? Because sometimes that's a problem, correct?
[00:20:58.690] - Dennis Nayor
Yeah, I've I've gone head to head with union on issues. And for me, as most chiefs you're never aligned with really, you never aligned with the unions. You never aligned with politics. You're not always aligned with the media because they don't maybe see things in the same light. But if you align yourself with integrity and ethics, that's how you do the job. And you're not going to win a popularity contest always. But people will look back and say that they were always fair, they were consistent, they had high standards, he or she.
[00:21:24.130] - Dennis Nayor
And that's what really I think policing needs. Let's look at the nationally. So when Mr. George Floyd was murdered several days after that, I put out a press release and I never do this. I don't ever do a press release or something that happens outside of the city that I'm working. And I saw that. And I was like, this is just so wrong. And my press release was basically telling the community what just happened was in no way consistent with any sort of police training or any level of human decency.
[00:21:50.260] - Dennis Nayor
And it was abhorrent to watch. And as a community, we will heal together from this. And I just wanted them to know from not only a chiefs perspective, but from a human perspective and a police trainer perspective that was wrong, is wrong. Could be. And that's exactly what the prosecution's expert witnesses said, the same thing that wasn't consistent. And I just wanted back then people to know this cannot represent what we are as a profession. And sadly, it was so horrible that so many people just saw all of policing that way.
[00:22:18.880] - Dennis Nayor
That's what we're trying to still recover from.
[00:22:20.960] - Steve Morreale
I would say that that's quite admirable because one of the things that I have said and I've waled saying that I think police chiefs for a good number of cities and towns because of the council culture, they have a hesitancy to weigh in. But I think it is extremely important for them to say, look, that happened, we don't like it. This is why we're working that it wouldn't happen here. I can't guarantee it would not. But this is the training this would indicate and I think that allay the fears of your own community, which is what you're responsible to heal.
[00:22:48.520] - Steve Morreale
So I think that's great that you did that. Let me thank you for telling me that one of the things, again, that troubles me is that lack of standards. I'd like it to I scratch my head about this an awful lot so you can go to one state. And I don't care what state it is, you can go to state out down south, southwest and the academy might be 15, 17 weeks. You how many weeks is the New York Academy?
[00:23:08.350] - Dennis Nayor
Most of them are at least 20 weeks plus then required field training. So, I mean, you're really looking at twenty, twenty four weeks and some as much as 30 and thirty five weeks and then add on field training. But it makes no sense. If you only got 14 or 16 weeks, what the hell are you missing that the other boys are getting an additional eight to ten weeks. Right. And where is the consistency there's where where national standards I think need to be sure like so let's use so New York State, for example.
[00:23:34.810] - Dennis Nayor
That's what I'm familiar with us. I did my policing career, New York State. I can use my certification in New York State, go to just about any other state and take a two-week equivalency of training and EOT and be certified in that state. And the reason being is the standards in New York state are so high that you can equate it, but it doesn't work the other way. You cannot come from just I don't think there's any other state you could come into New York and do that.
[00:23:55.900] - Dennis Nayor
You have to go through several hundred hours to have your standards equate. And again, if there was national policing standards and maybe we'll start seeing this as a change, I want to see the policing profession evolve to a point where we have that idyllic image, that Norman Rockwell image of policing as helpers and then we're guardians and that we're there to be part of the glue that holds society together. I've always believed in that. I'm a realist, but at the same time, I've never lost the ideals of what got me into this profession as a young twenty two year old right out of college.
[00:24:26.680] - Dennis Nayor
Part of for me is I'm second generation law enforcement. I grew up in it. My dad was retired, full career at NYPD went to me. I just looked at this profession as what an awesome job. You help people, you keep society safe, you keep people safe, you treat people good. I mean, I, I got into it for those reasons when I became a rank of where I was part of the hiring process, then the ultimate decision on hiring, I saw myself as a gatekeeper.
[00:24:50.410] - Dennis Nayor
I saw there were so many people that want in on this profession that shouldn't be in because they lack the tolerance to do the job or they lack the resilience or the people skills or the temperament or whatever. And I'll give you an example. People look at hiring standards. My goal as a chief and most people agree, is you want your department to be reflective of the community you serve. You want the demographics of the department to equate. You want them that they're part of the community, that even if they come from elsewhere, that they get ingrained in the community.
[00:25:17.050] - Dennis Nayor
So I calculated in a 16 month period, I conducted forty five interviews for people to become officers. I hired only three or four because out of that, those were the only ones I felt could uphold the mission and treat. People well and do the job and keep themselves safe and so forth out of that, two people didn't make it through the academy and one didn't make it to field training. So I needed, I think, either one or two.
[00:25:38.280] - Dennis Nayor
And those are the standard. So like people look at staffing, I could easily have filled all of my staffing vacancies, but it would not have been with the right suitable people. And to me, I'll go below or without before I'll put someone in a position of such authority and power that isn't the right person that's going to I mean, that's taking on quite a risk for the community and for you as the leader. There's a couple of things.
[00:25:57.750] - Steve Morreale
Let's change the subject for a little bit. What's the most meaningful case you were ever involved in when you had an impact on somebody's somebody's life?
[00:26:04.020] - Dennis Nayor
Well, there's a couple. I think one of them really just involved just a serious, serious assault case. And I was a young officer at the time and the person I thought the person lost a tooth. They got kicked in the face so hard that they just wound up the palette shifted and they were out to the gap. And it wasn't the truth. It was the face was so broken up and just working that. And I remember just being able to I don't know why that one stands out, because I was a young officer, but I think because my sergeant at the time, who is a seasoned veteran, my mentor, he recognized it and sent my case to the chief at the time to just show the exemplary work.
[00:26:36.150] - Dennis Nayor
And I thought it was good because I just really looked at myself as how would I want to be the officer to investigate this if if I was the victim and I just felt I treated it that way. So that one stands out. I think there's a lot of other ones that I would sit back and really think about it. I come up with a lot. But I think broadly speaking, the ones in which I help someone who is a victim, whether of domestic violence or of some sort of abuse.
[00:26:58.440] - Dennis Nayor
And I just treated it seriously as if it was me who was the complainant or victim. I think also we wound up having an issue where some in Africa where cases were not properly investigated and this was predating my arrival there. But when we noticed it, we took very strong actions to try to get justice for those two cases went unanswered. And I remember one person, she was speaking on behalf of her daughter and just extremely thankful for me for taking it as seriously as I did in terms of trying to address a past wrong.
[00:27:29.190] - Dennis Nayor
So like those stand out, I guess, as you would probably attest to in policing, we deal with so much that I'll probably end this podcast and think, oh, I should have talked about, you know, these four or five. I think just in general, the ones where someone just has a genuine, heartfelt thanks, which is not the reason we do it, but just because we know we made a difference and you treated them with respect and dignity.
[00:27:49.450] - Steve Morreale
Well, how about the funniest case that you've been gone on his show up and think, oh, my God, what the hell is this guy or what's going on here? Can you think, oh, my gosh, you know, there are so many. I will say most of them involve someone drinking way too much, doing something that they normally would never have done. Wow. But, you know, I should have thought about this before I did the podcast myself for what that is.
[00:28:11.580] - Steve Morreale
Let's go back to that one. I'll think about that as I will.
[00:28:14.160] - Speaker 2
I will. So when I have pet peeves as it relates to work, what are your pet peeves that, you know, the things that sort of agitate you with other people around you, what they do and why?
[00:28:23.010] - Dennis Nayor
You know, in policing, I've always had I looked at this job as a reward for someone who's lived a good life of integrity and that it's an honor to serve. And for those who look at it as a paycheck and who are lazy and those who do anything that's on the lower side that administratively we can address. And but worse is, and I would call it it would exceed what we'd call a pet peeve. But when people do things to tarnish the profession, always looked at this profession as the closest thing to a kind of corny but like being a superhero, because you could be so much to so many.
[00:28:52.620] - Dennis Nayor
And the people who take the job like, oh, it's just a paycheck that bothers me. And, you know, when you as a chief, you don't always hire like if you come in from an outside agency, you don't have the say and you don't hire everybody. But you can do, though, is make sure you affect the positive culture. And when I see I've trained all throughout the country and I and I've trained with people internationally, when I went to the FBI's National Academy, I was with people all over.
[00:29:12.910] - Dennis Nayor
And there you have different levels of and different versions of policing. And I would say that wherever I train, whether it's in the United States or if it was like we're training people with people from abroad, it's just when there's people that just are marking big time and just doing the job and don't really care and aren't invested anymore, that's a pet peeve. And it's in every agency you have people who are apathetic, you have people who are lazy.
[00:29:38.640] - Dennis Nayor
Again, it's not the majority. Most police officers I knew always did the job with integrity and to the best ability possible and oftentimes difficult situations. But a pet peeve is those who make it past the gate. And it's really their their time of quality policing has long expired, but they stay where people who are lazy.
[00:29:56.970] - Dennis Nayor
That bothered me.
[00:29:57.810] - Steve Morreale
You know, you call it retired on duty. Can we get something out of you? Maybe just could you do something? So let me move on and then we're going to begin to wind down. What do you like about police culture?
[00:30:08.030] - Dennis Nayor
You have people who are service-oriented to begin with, what they get in the job, care about people. One of the reasons I struggled when I retired the first time of missing it so much was because all of the things that I enjoyed were so connected. You know, I'm a lifelong martial artist. I'm a lifelong physical fitness enthusiast. I was a life person who enjoyed training and service and all of those. I never realized until I made the choice to retire was so interwoven into what I did for a profession.
[00:30:34.360] - Dennis Nayor
I was paid to do what I love doing and what were natural toward my toward my nature. And I think a lot of people in policing or that way there service oriented. They care about people that go into danger. They go into the unknown day in and day out. Most do amazing work and they exist just completely underneath the radar because let's face it, positive news doesn't get reported often and nobody is really calling the police when something is good.
[00:30:59.830] - Dennis Nayor
So we're going to the negative things. And so I enjoy being part of a team that's focused. That's the mission of that mission, the mission, the mission. It is helping and it's safety. And it's again, I'm still this idealistic. Twenty five years later, I can't say I'll never go back. And right now I'm looking forward to unplugging being a chief in two cities and twenty five years it's been all consuming.
[00:31:20.950] - Dennis Nayor
But I will say this. Parts that are the good parts of policing the gold nuggets and they make a lot of the negatives worth doing, but it's really just being with other people whose goal is just to help others.
[00:31:31.660] - Steve Morreale
So if you had a magic wand, you had the power, the authority and the money to make one change, to improve policing. What would it be?
[00:31:38.860] - Dennis Nayor
That there were national standards in terms of the key areas that involved hiring and quality and hiring and use of force and use of force training? I think all police officers should be trained. This is important. Force to begin with isn't pretty. It's not like the movies. It's not like television. But there's a saying in effect, to force often becomes excessive force.
[00:32:00.910] - Dennis Nayor
And a lot of times people go through their training in the police academy and then sadly, they may not stay with it. And use of force and certain skills are perishable. And you have to I think Brazilian jujitsu is a martial art that all police officers should learn and not only learn at the academy level, but be required to spend several years in. I've been a student of that for now, seven years prior to that, I did a different martial arts.
[00:32:22.480] - Dennis Nayor
But I will tell you, Brazilian jujitsu allows you to control a person in a way that you're confident you are not striking them because it's not a striking art. You're controlling them in a way that is leverage-based, body mechanics based, positional advantage-based. And then you can get them control, get the person handcuffed and you're not injured. They're not injured. I would like to see and whether it's that or some sort of hybrid of that, just something that requires consistent quality training for all law enforcement.
[00:32:49.570] - Dennis Nayor
And if they can't meet that standard every year, well, then they have to look for something else, because you can't be in a role that requires you to possibly use force and that have the skills to do it in the least invasive way possible. And again, there are certain situations where people are heavy handed. Those people have to be terminated, charge, whatever. Then there's other situations where people just don't have the confidence or skill because they let their skills lapse or they never acquired additional skills.
[00:33:14.860] - Dennis Nayor
So I would wish that the hiring standards were solid across the board and that they didn't meet certain basic standards. It didn't matter what agency you were in, everyone would see an officer. No, they met those standards and that there was requirements consistently for those most perishable skills. And so much focus has always been on just firearms training. And that's why I was so proud to be part of effective PD, because they always a training centric department, always doing reality-based training, de-escalation training, defensive tactics, training, because those are just things that give you not only ability to control, but the confidence to not have to use a higher level of force.
[00:33:51.520] - Dennis Nayor
Because let's face it, a lot of times people are just having a bad day and they could be good people. And those are the people that, you know, you could be one of them one day by some bad twist of fate or what have you. So you really have to work on having it to force you use is proportionate and not any more than needed. And that comes with having the skills and the proper ability to apply sound techniques.
[00:34:13.390] - Dennis Nayor
And the hiring creates the ability to have the quality of character that, you know, it'll be correctly used. And those are the things that are making the most national headlines.
[00:34:21.850] - Steve Morreale
Right you are. Two questions that sort of intertwined to end up with. By the way, we're talking to Dennis Naor. He's the most recent chief in Ithica, recently retired, and he's talking to us from his home in Ithaca, New York. What's on your bucket list? What's what's one or two things you want to get done in the next several years?
[00:34:40.090] - Dennis Nayor
I've actually thought of writing a book just really talking about policing and crisis, kind of sharing my thoughts, my ideals, what policing is and its truest, most selfless way of sharing to the world. What made someone like me want to devote my life to it and what many, many, many others also subscribe to and align themselves with? I want to continue on. One of the things that brought me the most value was when I do something for kids because I always felt there the future.
[00:35:07.480] - Dennis Nayor
When we do things that are positive and influence them in a good way, we create a better world. So one of the things I'm looking forward to is just going back to my martial arts training. I'm going to get back to not only training back in Brazilian jujitsu, which I kind of over to the pandemic, how to disconnect from. But going back to teaching kids. And again, just that's what I want to do. I've had many offers put my way since I announced my.
[00:35:29.050] - Dennis Nayor
None of them were solicited, people found out I was stepping away from police officers for being a police chief in some large cities were coming to me and some other opportunities were presented and made it clear to myself that what I want to do is going to be something benefit. Society aligns with who I am, serves others, and hopefully does something that that just gives that sense of purpose that law enforcement always gave.
[00:35:52.390] - Steve Morreale
Well, what people can't see and I can see because I see you on video is that you still have some you still have a lot to give. And your youthful appearance might be deceiving. And the wear and tear that happens when we are serving in the manner that you were and being a chief is not easy. But I want to thank you very much for your time, for your energy, for your input. I wish you the best because I think some of the things we've talked about are so important.
[00:36:15.110] - Steve Morreale
It's not something we can easily turn our eyes to. So thank you, Dennis, for being here.
[00:36:19.270] - Dennis Nayor
Steve, thanks for having me. It's been my pleasure. And again, I just wish for improvements throughout and that we start seeing some positive news coming soon because I think we all need it.
[00:36:28.360] - Steve Morreale
We sure do. Well, this is Steve Morreale. You've been listening to The CopDoc Podcast. Stay tuned for other episodes coming up. Thanks for listening.
[00:36:36.330] - Outro
Thanks for listening to The CopDoc Podcast with Dr. Steve Morreale. Steve is a retired law enforcement practitioner and manager turned academic and scholar from Worcester State University. Please tune in to The CopDoc Podcast for regular episodes of interviews with thought leaders in policing.
[00:36:55.620] - Steve Morreale
Hi, everybody. A few things before you leave. First, thanks for listening. I'm so gratified to see the downloads rising in the last few months, not only from the U.S. but from across the globe. It's surprising and humbling to find students, colleagues and practitioners listening. We have a growing number of listeners in Canada, Ireland, England, Northern Ireland, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Colombia. We appreciate your time and energy and welcome feedback.
[00:37:19.080] - Steve Morreale
Please feel free to reach out to me by email at The CopDoc Podcast at Gmail dot com. That's The CopDoc Podcast at Gmail dot com.