Staying well educated and interacting with residents are top priorities in modern policing, said Jeff Montesano of Harford, the deputy chief of the Cornell University Police Department and a recent FBI academy graduate.
“Officers need to be well trained, especially in de-escalation skills, mental health skills, and cultural diversity,” he said. “We need to be interactive and we need to be listening to our community and to our partners on what’s best for the community and the people that live in it.”
Montesano, 49, built on this understanding as one of 258 law enforcement officers from around the world who graduated Dec. 20 from the 278th session of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
The officers, he said, represented the top 1% of officers in the world.
During the 11-week program, Montesano took classes on employment law, public speaking, media relations as well as a mandatory physical fitness program.
As deputy chief, he said that these classes were important to helping him make sure that the police department works as it should and that the department works well with the news media to show why law enforcement is needed and the positives it can provide. “When I was done, I was humbled and I was honored to be one of the 258 graduates and join a family of 52,000 other FBI NA (National Academy) graduates,” he said. “It’s probably the most rewarding training I’ve ever been a part of in my entire law enforcement career.”
Montesano was nominated for the program by Chief David Honan because of his commitment to the department’s mission of service.
“Jeff (Montesano) is a hard-working, dedicated leader, dedicated to delivering the best services to our community and our officers,” Honan said. “I’m proud for him taking on the challenge of this course and successfully completing it. We’re looking forward to him bringing the new skills and knowledge that he learned into our daily operations here at the Cornell Police.”
Honan also said the training will help Montesano build relationships with other U.S. and international officers.
Montesano is the third member of the police department to be accepted and complete the training, Honan said.
Former Chief Kathy Zoner and Honan are the other two.
Montesano described his leadership style as having his officers take on risks and challenges that are out of their comfort zone so they learn and grow.
“Jeff’s a person of great character,” said William Carpenter, the president of the police department’s union and the Ward 6 alderman for the Cortland Common Council. “You can go to his office and talk to him as a friend. He’s very highly respected.”
Carpenter applauded Montesano for attending the program. It helps with networking and gaining advice on leading, but also helps bring prestige to the police department.
This helps as part of the officers’ roles is “taking care of a lot of prestigious people,” Carpenter said.
“He’s done well for Cornell University.”
Montesano, 49, was born in Cortland and lived in the city until he was 6, when he moved to Dryden, he said. He then moved to McLean where he lived until four years ago when he moved to Harford.
Ron Bradford, an officer from the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office who lived across the street from Montesano’s Cortland home, helped stir in interest in being an officer.
Montesano would frequently talk to him and explore the officer’s equipment and car, Montesano said. Montesano joined the sheriff’s office in 1996 as a part-time officer here he stayed until 2006. He joined Cornell University’s police department in 1999. He remains friends with Sheriff Mark Helms.
Montesano credits his success to his wife, Maria, and his children, Elena Huff and Mark Montesano — an officer for the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office.
“I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without them,” he said.