Greece Police Chief Todd Baxter to leave department
Meaghan M. McDermott and David Andreatta, Staff writers
Long before Chief Todd Baxter earned a reputation for restoring public trust in a Greece Police Department mired in scandal, he was an Army veteran looking for work in a civilian world.
He was fresh from three years of active duty as a military police officer in South Korea and Fort Leavenworth, Kan., but back home in Rochester the best jobs he could get for nearly 18 months were as an airport security guard and ripping old furnaces out of homes.
“The military recruiter told me that I’m going to go into the military and come out very hirable and marketable. That’s not always the case,” Baxter said. “I remember that feeling, when I was riding my motorcycle to the airport where I was working security. I really had nothing to fall back on.”
He recalled his homecoming experience Monday upon announcing that he would leave the Police Department after nearly four years to lead the Veterans Outreach Center, a Rochester nonprofit organization that reintegrates troubled veterans into civilian life.
Baxter, 48, speaking at the South Avenue veterans center, said he would remain in Greece until the end of the month and start as the center’s executive director on April 2.
Following the retirement of its longtime executive director, Thomas Cray, in 2010, the Veterans Outreach Center has had trouble retaining leaders, cycling through two permanent executive directors and one interim in fewer than four years.
Bob Janson, chairman of the center’s board of directors, said the search committee sifted through a pool of more than 100 applicants from across the country in search of a candidate with strong leadership skills who was “vested in this community and in veterans’ futures.”
“That person is Chief Todd Baxter,” Janson said.
Baxter, who resides in Ogden, took over at the Greece Police Department in 2010 amid mounting public distrust stemming from the imprisonment of the former chief, Merritt Rahn, and two other officers on corruption charges.
During his tenure, he introduced policy changes in the way the department collected evidence and investigated its own through Internal Affairs. He hired many officers and was credited by counterparts in other jurisdictions with restoring integrity to a department associated with patronage hires.
Greece Supervisor Bill Reilich, who will choose Baxter’s successor, said a third of the department’s officers were brought in and trained by Baxter.
“He will certainly leave the department much better than he found it,” Reilich said in a statement.
Prior to joining the Greece Police Department, Baxter spent 22 years in the Rochester Police Department. He was an administrative aide to three city chiefs of police and temporarily commanded a patrol division of more than 200 personnel.
Baxter served in the Army Reserves until 2005.
Baxter said he considered his mission accomplished in Greece and looked forward to a new mission of aiding veterans. He said he is particularly passionate about helping homeless veterans get back on their feet.
Baxter conceded that in stepping down from a job overseeing a budget of $17.5 million in Greece to a $3.5 million budget at Veterans Outreach Center he would take a modest cut in pay. Janson, the board chairman, said Baxter would be paid about $130,000 a year.
“There is only one thing that will lead me away from police work, I have a true calling to be a cop, and that is the soft spot I have in my heart for veterans,” Baxter said.