January 23, 2022

New chief takes reins

Paul Sandy officially at the helm of Cortland police

Jamie Costa/staff reporter

Paul Sandy stands outside Pita Gourmet, one of his favorite restaurants on Main Street in Cortland. The City of Cortland Police Department welcomed Sandy as its new chief of police on Saturday

Paul Sandy realized his love for the law after taking a business law class in high school. On Monday, he was sworn in as Cortland’s police chief.

“He’s always been a go-getter, nose to the grindstone,” said F. Michael Catalano, his predecessor, who retired last week. “He has the institutional knowledge that I had and that goes a long way with keeping the department on the same keel that it’s always been.”

Sandy graduated from McGraw Central School and majored in public justice and minored in forensics at SUNY Oswego and interned at the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office in 1983 before graduating in 1984.

“I absolutely became enthralled with the profession because it’s all about helping people and making your community a good place to live,” Sandy said Tuesday. “I knew the Cortland area and to me it was like, what better community to serve than the one I grew up in.”

In 1985, the City of Cortland Police Department hired Sandy as a patrol officer and he worked his way through the ranks of the department for 36 years.

He was a founding member of the department’s tactical response unit and started a bicycle patrol. He was promoted to sergeant in 1993 and assigned to the detective bureau in 1995 as a member of the Cortland County Drug Task Force. He was promoted to detective lieutenant in 2003, then promoted to deputy chief in 2009.

He received his master’s in labor policy studies in 2002 from SUNY Empire State College and graduated from the FBI National Academy in 2005.

“This is something I’ve groomed not only myself for, but other past chiefs have groomed me for this position,” Sandy said. “I want to leave this department in a better place than it is right now.”

The department has operated the same for the last 40 years and Sandy wants to change that, he said.

He wants to create more opportunities for young officers to focus on their specialties, focus on community engagement, and initiate reforms that were prompted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 203 that requires New York police departments to review their policies and strategies and develop a plan by April 1 to improve on them and work toward police reform. That order was issued in the wake of the death last year of George Floyd in Minneapolis under the knee of a police officer.

“I have some ideas on how to engage members of the community that feel we do not treat them fairly or with respect,” Sandy said. “I would love to think we could heal the emotional wounds in our community in a few years, but that might take a long time.”

But when it comes to being chief, Sandy, 59, doesn’t expect to exceed 10 years.

“I want to stay long enough to ensure that proper leadership has been put in place to succeed me, that the department is in a very good spot where the men and women of this agency have the highest morale and are able to perform their duties with the tools they need and the support they need and that our community as a whole feels safe, protected and treated as equals under the law,” Sandy said. “If I can achieve that in three to four years, I’m out of here.”