PATERSON, NJ - Paterson’s soon to be appointed police chief, Ibrahim “Mike” Baycora, did not initially embark on a career in law enforcement, he told TAPinto Paterson during a lengthy telephone conversation.
Instead, the 32-year-veteran of the Paterson Police Department, who said that he grew up in a loving family with a very strong father, graduated from Eastside High School and went off to Boston University. After transferring to Rutgers University for financial reasons, something many college students can relate too, Baycora pursued, and earned, a degree in business administration and engineering.
His eventual choice in careers, Baycora reflected, actually came after his own run-in with law enforcement, an encounter he referred to as “negative.” Following a minor fight he was involved in after college, Baycora said that he felt that the treatment he got from responding officers wasn’t “the best.”
“I wasn’t treated as fairly as I could’ve been,” he suggested, before confirming the incident “sparked my interest in law enforcement.”
After completing the academy and initial training Baycora’s career was underway, starting out on walking patrols in what he considered to be some of the “tougher areas of Paterson.” Immediately proud to wear the badge, Baycora, who would eventually work in every capacity in the Patrol Division, most recently as deputy chief, said that his initial introduction to policing “grounded him.”
“I learned about treating everyone as equals,” he said.
It’s the experience he gained in his earliest days that Baycora said will serve him well as he takes on the city’s top law enforcement spot. “If any officers have an issue or problem, I can relate,” he said.
When asked, Baycora, while acknowledging that his days of “jumping out of cars” is over, lays out a well-defined leadership style that has carried him through the ranks, and will go with him into the Chief’s Office.
Saying he will lead “by example,” Baycora readily admitted that he doesn’t “know it all.” He believes he is in a good starting position as he and the two deputy chiefs that will remain after his promotion, Lourdes Phelan and Ronald Van Kluyve, have already been working “collaboratively.”
Additionally, he said, he will work with all subordinates in efforts to improve local policing, a strategy that has already included visiting each of the divisions with Phelan and Van Kluyve to let all officers know “what they can expect from us.”
In reference to the recent arrests and subsequent charges against eight Paterson Police Officers Baycora was unhesitating when he said that “the actions of a few doesn’t represent this Department.
“We will never tolerate these actions.”
Taking over a police force that is still operating under a shortage of manpower, Baycora said that his crime fighting focus will continue to be on serious crimes and "gangs, guns, and drugs,” placing an even greater emphasis on the third component.
“Through focused deterrence,” he said, “we are going to go after the small percentage of criminals that use guns or are likely to be victims of guns.”
Baycora also hopes to expand the use of technology in all facets of policing, and welcomes the body cameras that are due to be introduced under his watch. Furthermore, he would like to see additional surveillance cameras operational across the city, and hopes to eventually establish a drone program to supplement law enforcement efforts with aerial support.
“Not embracing technology leaves us behind,” he said.
Efforts to maintain relationships with the residents they serve, often referred to as community policing, will also continue under Baycora, he promised. Saying that when the public knows that every group is going to be treated fairly, and none will be a target, law enforcement can be more effective.
“If (the community) believes in us something positive starts to brew,” such as faith based leaders that routinely advocate for police officers.
With the appointment comes another milestone for Paterson as it is believed that Baycora will be the first Turkish American to run a local law enforcement agency in the U.S. A first generation American, Baycora referred to his promotion as “validation that we live in a country that has opportunity.”
“If you work hard good things can happen.”
Referring to Mayor Andre Sayegh as a “mover and a shaker” who is always working for the betterment of Paterson, Baycora called the enthusiasm of the city’s standard-bearer “infectious” and said that he believes the city he has called home all his life is getting “better and better.”
“I love Paterson, and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve Paterson,” Baycora said, concluding that he believes "our best days are ahead of us."
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