Bethlehem middle schoolers will see a new face on campus next week as the town has promoted Michael Whitely to replace Bruce Oliver, who retired earlier this summer, as the school’s newest resource officer.
The Town Board voted unanimously Wednesday, Aug. 26, to promote officer Whitely to detective. The promotion comes after the town promoted officer Gerald Young on Wednesday, July 22, to detective. Two openings in the detective’s office became available when Oliver and Christopher Bowdish retired earlier this summer.
Bowdish was best known for his work on the Christopher Porco murder investigation while Oliver was Bethlehem Central’s first school resource officer.
Chief Louis Corsi said Whitely was a natural fit.
Although he has some very big shoes to fill he’s the best person to fill this position, he said.
After seven years with the Bethlehem Police Department, Whitely began as a patrol officer and then became a DARE officer working with area youth on drug awareness and resistance.
He has degrees from Schenectady Community College and SUNY Brockport, according to Deputy Chief Timothy Beebe, who commended Whitely’s work on the force since 2002.
Supervisor Jack Cunningham thanked Whitely for his service after he was appointed by the board, and Councilwoman Joanne Dawson led the room to a round of applause in his honor.
Whitely’s family attended his swearing in. His two young children held the Bible he placed his hand on, and his wife pinned the badge on his uniform.
Bethlehem Middle School Principal Sandy Morley was also in attendance to show support for Whitely’s appointment.
`We are extremely pleased to have Mike joining the district in this capacity,` she said. `Mike has been involved in the district in recent years and is familiar with our students. We are looking forward to having a great working relationship with him and expect that Bethlehem’s young people will greatly benefit from his involvement in our schools.`
The district’s superintendent also had kind words for Whitely.
`Officer Whitely is a true professional and a great role model for BC’s kids,` said Superintendent Michael Tebbano. `I am pleased to welcome him to the district in this role, and expect that he will be a great representative of the community and the department and a positive presence in our schools.`
With the two promotions from within the department, Bethlehem is now short two patrol officers, which Cunningham said the town is actively canvassing for. The selections must be made off of the Albany County Civil Service list.
`We’re looking at potential candidates now, but we have to make selections off of the list,` he said.
Cunningham added that the town is actively seeking female and minority candidates for the department. Currently there is only one female officer on the force.
The restructuring comes at a time of internal strife within the department as Officer Christopher Hughes, who is on paid leave, has made several allegations to the district attorney’s office involving favoritism, the targeting of officers over union matters, and racism.
Little has been said on the town’s behalf as the investigation is a `personnel matter,` but Cunningham has refuted several of the claims.
During the Town Board meeting when Whitely was promoted, a truck parked outside in the municipal parking lot towed a large billboard highlighting some of the claims Hughes has been making.
The billboard, towed by Hughes’ father, depicted three monkeys covering their eyes, ears and mouth and had the names `Cunningham,` `Corsi` and `Soares` written about them, referring to the supervisor, chief of police and Albany County District Attorney David Soares and the way they have handled Hughes’ claims against the department. “