By Becca Taurisano
Photo by Maureen Tricase/Capture Your Moments Photography
Lynette DelFavero has a calm presence and friendly demeanor that instantly puts you at ease. She is the second female in the history of the Syracuse Police Department (SPD) to reach the rank of deputy chief. A certified personal trainer and former basketball player at University of Buffalo and coach at Niagara University, DelFavero first studied sports and exercise science in college and has a Masters in Public Administration from Marist College. She worked as a physical therapist in Florida for a year before realizing she needed more of a challenge in her career.
Now in her 22nd year with the SPD, DelFavero was the only female in her class of 15 at the academy in 1997. She spent 10 years as a police officer before being promoted to sergeant in 2007. As sergeant, DelFavero stayed on the night shift and afternoon shift, which she said are not the most desirable assignments.
“I think I gained a little respect [from male colleagues] because I was in patrol for so long,” she said. “I didn’t take the easy way out and I was between the two most undesirable shifts.”
Promoted to lieutenant in 2010, DelFavero moved to the Crime Reduction Team, focusing on proactive policing like loitering, drug complaints on neighborhood corners, or tracking down wanted persons. She was the only female commander on the Crime Reduction Team.
Next, DelFavero worked in Community Relations and commanded School Resource Officers and DARE Officers. The Community Relations officers would do community events like Coffee with the Chief or Shop with a Cop.
“It was a different side of policing. I got to see people in the community who showed their appreciation more,” she said. “It wasn’t when they were in crisis.”
While working in Community Relations, she was approached to serve on the Board of Directors of Vera House. The board of Vera House has SPD, Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department and district attorney representation.
“One of the reasons they like to have a police presence on the board is to [facilitate] the relationship between the police department and Vera House,” DelFavero said. “It’s kind of a built in way to get a quick response if we are loaded down with calls for service. If someone is in severe crisis and if they need immediate response I will make sure our guys get over there. And vice versa, if we have someone who needs to be placed and we are being told there is no room in the shelters, I can call them and they will figure something out.” said DelFavero.
Once she was promoted to Captain in 2015, DelFavero said she missed going out on calls. “With the layers between captain and police officer, we are a paramilitary organization and we follow a chain of command. When a captain walks in the room, everybody shushes. It’s even more so now as deputy chief! Before you could laugh and joke but now I have to remember if I say something we might be planning, the entire shift or platoon will think it is going to happen.”
DelFavero is also the Immediate Past President of New York Women in Law Enforcement (NYWLE), a professional organization for female police officers across the state.
“It’s a support system. There could be a town or village department with only one female officer and they have no one to ask questions, they have no policies and procedures in place for maternity [leave]. If they feel they are being discriminated against, they have no one to talk to. The organization has model policies that we could share with them and they could bring it to their department and get it approved.”
DelFavero married in 2001 while she was still a patrol officer on the night shift. When she and Mike had their two daughters, he worked days as a corrections officer while she worked afternoons and nights. The opposite schedule worked out well for a young couple with small children “We made it work. One of us was home all the time, but we didn’t see each other,” she laughed. DelFavero said that her professional life does impact the kind of mother she is to her girls. “I am making them aware that there are bad people in the world and they need to be smart and not put themselves in situations. I do like to know where they are and what the plans are. Knowing and seeing what I’ve seen and how people can treat other people is definitely a scary thing.”
Talking about the emotional nature of policing, DelFavero said, “You’ll see officers in a group and maybe the cameras catch them laughing. That’s to deal with the trauma…. It’s tough. I’ve had a few calls that I’ve been on and I’ve related to my own family. You go home and hug your daughters.”
DelFavero teared up while talking about a particular case. “There was an 18-month-old little girl that was killed. My oldest was 2 at the time and I just got in bed with her and slept with her the whole night. The whole system failed that little girl. Neighbors and daycare workers noticed evidence of abuse and did not report it. There were so many opportunities to help her. We were too late as a community,” she said. “When you see something, say something. I think people are afraid to get involved. But who is going to protect children if not us? There are systems in place. You can call anonymously. We’re the adults here and we need to intervene. It takes a community to raise a child.”
DelFavero was named Deputy Chief on Jan. 22, 2018 and she currently oversees the Uniform Bureau, the largest division of the Syracuse Police Department, including all of the patrol officers, traffic, CRT, SRC/DARE, and K-9. She said there is a nationwide trend down in the number of new recruits to the police force. “It’s not popular to be the police these days. The people that are coming truly want to help; truly want to be the police. You don’t just sign up because you need a job. It takes a special person.”
DelFavero supports her fellow female officers to rise through the ranks to leadership roles. “I’m always pushing people to take the promotional exam. We need more [female] representation. We are about 12 to 13 percent of the department and 13% is the average nationally for most departments.”
About young women considering a career with the police department, DelFavero said, “I would encourage them. It’s been a great 22 years. It’s not easy, but the positives outweigh the negatives, knowing you may have changed someone’s life on a call or prevented something from happening.