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Age is the issue: Rick LaJoy wants to be a cop.

PHOTO: Chris Shields

Just Too Old

An Albany man finds out the hard way that age matters when you want to be a cop


Last October, just days after turning 36, Rick LaJoy filed his application for hire with the Albany Police Department. He wasn’t concerned that the age restriction for those applying for the force set the cutoff age at 35. A loophole in the restriction allowed for people who had served in the armed forces to deduct from their age the time they had spent enlisted. LaJoy had done a year and a half with the Army Reserves. He figured he was in the clear.

Eight months later, after scoring high marks on both the physical and written exams, he would be told that he had technically not been eligible to take those tests. His history of military service lacked active duty, and couldn’t be used against his age. Therefore, he was told, he was too old.

Although he doesn’t agree that his military service ought to be discredited in such a way, it bothers LaJoy even more that his dream of being a cop has been dashed by his age.

“I think it is discriminatory,” LaJoy said. “You have someone who is willing, able, and wants to do the job. I have given everything they have asked for, and I have passed everything that they have given me.”

According to David Ernst, with the state’s Department of Civil Service, New York’s age limitation for joining any police force across the state (except New York City, which has different guidelines) was enacted by the state Legislature in 1999. The previous limitation of 29 had been eliminated in 1994.

“In 1996,” Ernst wrote in an e-mail, “President Clinton signed into law the Age Discrimination in Employment Amendments to provide that it would not be unlawful to fail or refuse to hire an individual as a law enforcement officer pursuant to a State law enacted after such date. Therefore, the age requirement for law enforcement personnel in New York State is in conformance with the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). It is our understanding that the age limitations that were enacted . . . at the request and urging of the law enforcement community within the State.”

“There is state legislation and the courts make decisions that throw out age restrictions, and then the courts allow them to resurface again,” said Richard Stevens, the staff director for Council 82, the union representing Albany police officers. “And it is an ongoing issue that’s basically a legal, technical one.”

“Some of the arguments,” Stevens said, “are that the younger guy might be able to do their job in a much more agile way. But the piece that baffles me is, as a guy gets older, he gets more experienced. He has opened up through more facets of life, and that may be an attribute that would offset the physical demands of the job.”

The union, he pointed out, doesn’t advocate one way or the other on the issue of age restrictions, as the people on the job aren’t adversely affected.

“It is based on the mood of the day,” he said. “It is a social issue that keeps on changing, that doesn’t have any real sense. It doesn’t conform to anything.”

Detective James Miller, with the Albany Police, sees retirement as a large factor in the restrictions. To receive a full pension, a person must serve 20 years on the force.

“I am sure it is from an aspect that if you didn’t have one and you hire someone who is 45 years old, after 20 years they will be 65,” he said. Serving on the force from 25 to 45 would be much more tolerable than serving from 45 to 65, he figured, considering that “it is a difficult and stressful job.”

Stevens also noted that the police academy is rigorous.

“You have to run miles, do obstacle courses early in the morning,” he said. “It is a full day of training. But I know a lot of people—and I am an old guy, 57—but I know a lot of people in their 40s that could do it without a problem.”

LaJoy pointed out that he aced the physical-agility entrance exam. Thirty-five sit-ups in a minute, 25 push-ups, and 1.5 miles in 12 minutes and 53 seconds—he had been training for it since October.

“I ran the 1.5 miles in the time that people 29 or younger ran it in,” he said. “Sit-ups I made. Push-ups, you know, I doubled what they wanted. It was a good feeling. It was a big accomplishment. And then for them to yank the rug out from under my feet.”

At this point, LaJoy hasn’t had any official notification saying whether or not he is still a candidate. He assumes from his last conversations with the police department that he is not. But, he said, “there is no accountability on their end.”

He has contacted attorneys, though he really doesn’t want to engender any animosity.

“Last thing I want to do is get on and then have problems,” LaJoy said. “I just don’t feel like I am getting a fair shake. I wanted to be a servant to the public. I wanted to give back to the community.”

It makes no sense to him, he said, that they would turn away a willing applicant at a time when the force is hurting so badly for cadets, and they are experiencing the largest wave of retirement since 1986.

“And the worst thing is that nobody can tell me why,” LaJoy said. “Why is it 35? Why 35?”

—Chet Hardin

What a Week

Access Granted?

The Albany Common Council adopted committee recommendations this week that would establish public-access television in Albany. The recommendations would have Time Warner Cable provide $500,000 for start-up costs, going to the purchasing of equipment and securing of programming. A $4.20 yearly fee would be added to cable bills to pay the salaries of four employees. The city’s lawyers will now use these recommendations to bargain with Time Warner.

Diary Debate

The U.S. Army claimed this week that their investigation into the Baghdad Diarist, an unnamed soldier who wrote about his time serving in Iraq for The New Republic, revealed that his sometimes shocking reports of U.S. troop misconduct were untrue. The Diarist recently revealed himself to be Pvt. Scott Thomas Beauchamp as The New Republic finished an investigation into his claims. The magazine said that members of Beauchamp’s platoon had confirmed his graphic reports. The Army insisted that Beauchamp’s platoon members did not corroborate his stories, and reportedly curtailed Beauchamp’s access to phone and e-mail after he revealed his identity.

Listening In

On Sunday, Congress signed into law a vast expansion of warrantless wiretapping, rendering legal much of the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program exposed in 2005 by The New York Times. The law will allow the government to eavesdrop on any telephone conversation between persons in the U.S. and a foreign country, without first seeking a warrant. Further, the legislation shifts oversight of the program away from the special-intelligence courts, established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to the attorney general and the director of national intelligence.

Looking for the Leak

As Congress debated extending the powers to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens, FBI agents, backed by a classified search warrant, raided the home of former Department of Justice lawyer Thomas M. Tamm. Tamm has come under scrutiny as the possible source of the leak about the government’s warrantless surveillance program first reported by The New York Times. According to Senate hearings, in 2004, Tamm, along with other top officials at the DOJ, including former Attorney General John Ashcroft, strongly opposed the scope of the warrantless eavesdropping apparently condoned by President George Bush.

Sending a message: Maud Easter and Diane Reiner of Women Against War.

PHOTO: Chris Shields

Preemptive Strike

Women Against War launch campaign to prevent war with Iran

Maud Easter and Diane Reiner, representatives of Women Against War, want to rally their troops in the Capital Region to fight what they see as an impending conflict with Iran. The opening salvo of their battle came in the form of a billboard posted earlier this month on Fuller Road between Washington and Central avenues. The billboard features pictures of Iranians taken by Reiner during her trip to Iran in 2005. Reiner said she is thrilled to see the images of the people she met during her trip being used to show the human face of their country.

In the next month, Women Against War plan to raise the issue, expose the propaganda that the Bush administration is using to paint Iran as the next target in the war on terror, and put a human face on the country in anticipation of the return of Congress in September.

“We want to really push our representatives to take action,” said Easter, who added that representatives from Women Against War have met with Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand (D-Greenport).

“Mike McNulty (D-Green Island) has the best position on the issue,” said Easter, “but we would like to meet with him about it. We would like to see him out front being a leader on this issue.”

Women Against War would also like to see a local representative sponsor a bill to preempt funding for any military action on Iran.

Along with meeting with representatives and holding demonstrations, group members are handing out a fact sheet they hope will expose what they see as the very similar ways the Bush administration has used propaganda to justify war with Iraq and a possible war with Iran, from claiming the countries are both on the verge of developing nuclear weapons to insisting that diplomacy is not working or saying the countries are fueling terrorism.

“We don’t want to see the people of Iran going through the kind of suffering the people of Iraq are experiencing,” said Easter.

For more information, visit women

—David King

Loose Ends

-no loose ends this week-

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