SYRACUSE — The first new police department in New York in many decades started operations Monday at Syracuse Hancock International Airport.
The newly formed Syracuse Regional Airport Authority Police Department began patrolling the airport’s grounds and passenger terminal at midnight, taking over for Syracuse Police officers who have provided security at the airport for most of its existence.
Consisting of 21 members — a chief, a captain and 19 patrol officers — the department is the first new police department formed in the state in at least 50 years, airport official said.
Previously, the airport hired off-duty city police officers to patrol the airport. The airport authority was established in 2011 and took over management of the airport from the city in 2014.
At the authority’s request, state lawmakers approved legislation in June creating the airport’s own police force. Werbeck said having its own police force gives the authority more control over personnel, staffing and resources.
Most of the new department’s officers are recently retired from various departments, including the State Police, the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office and the Oneida Nation, Werbeck said.
Werbeck and Capt. Anthony Sobiech are full-time employees of the department. Executive Director Jason Terreri said all the other officers on the force will work on a part-time basis, with none working more than 29 hours a week. The department will patrol the airport around the clock, however, he said.
The officers wear police uniforms — all black, with a shoulder patch featuring the letters SYR and an image of a plane taking off. They carry guns and have full authority to use force and arrest people.
Werbeck, a Solvay native, oversaw the Syracuse Police Department’s Airport Section as part of his duties at the department, serving as the direct liaison between the department and the airport authority.
Sobiech is a 28-year veteran of the city’s police force. During his career, he commanded the department’s Southwest District and later commanded its Patrol Service division.
Terreri said the airport’s police will be encouraged to engage with travelers, answering their questions and assisting in any other way they can.
“We are creating kind of a customer service aspect at the airport through a law enforcement position,” he said.
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