DeWitt After 12 years of serving as the DeWitt Police Chief, Gene Conway announced his candidacy for Onondaga County sheriff in 2014 on Jan. 9. Soon after, Conway sat down with Eagle Bulletin editor Allie Wenner to talk more about his past experiences in the sheriff’s department and DeWitt and what he’s looking forward to in the future as he gears up to start his campaign.
How did you get interested in law enforcement?
I was interested in designing cars when I graduated from high school. My guidance counselor suggested I go to Morrisville to take classes because I couldn’t get into the college I wanted to. While I was at Morrisville, I realized that [I wasn’t interested] in what I was taking classes for, and my father’s cousin, John Dillon, was a deputy police chief in the city of Syracuse, and he said to me, “Why don’t you come ride with me some night while I’m on duty?” So I did, and from those ride alongs, I became interested in police work.
Can you tell me more about your career before you became the DeWitt Police Chief?
After the ride along, I continued going to college, but I changed my major to criminal justice and did two years at Auburn Community College and then two years at SUNY Oswego. I took the police exams and had the opportunity to join the North Syracuse Police Department in 1977. So I worked there for a year, and in the meantime, I had taken the civil service exam for both the city and the county sheriff’s department and they both happened to be hiring at the same time. I was canvassed by both agencies and I chose the sheriff’s department.
And you worked your way up through the sheriff’s department from there?
I worked there for 24 years. I started out as a rogue patrol deputy, out in a marked car, working in the evenings and after a year and a half, I went into the drug unit and I did undercover drug investigations for four to five years. At the end of those five years, I started working on cases as a regular detective and took a promotional exam and got promoted to sergeant. Then I got selected to supervise the warrants unit, which was very interesting because it gave me the chance to work with other agencies – the city and state police, the U.S. Marshall Service – because trying to find those people required the resources of all of those agencies. Some people were hiding in Syracuse, but others to took off to places as far as Florida, or California. And I supervised that unit for five years.