Brian Ferayorni hadn’t always planned on getting into law enforcement.
The new Independence new police chief was sworn in at a special meeting of the Independence City Council in September.
After graduating from Boone County High School in 2000, he enrolled in Northern Kentucky University to study not criminal justice but pharmaceuticals. However, he took some criminal justice classes through his general studies course requirements, and his professors noticed he had an aptitude for it.
“Some of the professors would ask if I was going to be in law enforcement,” Ferayorni said. “I said, ‘No, it’s not really where I was wanting to be right at that time. I really actually want to be a pharmacist.'”
He was even working as a pharmacy tech at the time, but eventually, he ended up majoring in psychology and minoring in criminal justice. Moreover, Ferayorni, who’s from Florence, didn’t “even know where Independence is” when he first heard the city was hiring police in 2006.
Fast forward to 2023, and Ferayorni has arguably lived up to the potential his professors saw in him, having held “virtually every rank” in the Independence Police Department, he said, from patrolman to detective to captain and now to chief.
Ferayorni succeeded former Police Chief Tony Lucas, who retired at the end of June. His swearing-in was the subject of much fanfare–the council chambers were packed full of people as the mayor officially finalized Ferayorni’s status as the new chief.
The process for vetting Lucas’ replacement was exceptionally thorough, complete with a round of interviewing from a community panel, anonymous surveys of the police department and batteries of cognitive testing from a psychologist. There were three candidates for the chief’s position: Ferayorni, Captain Jake Boyle and Captain Russ Wood.
The community panel had representatives from various sectors of regional life. It consisted of Independence Mayor Chris Reinersman, City Administrator Chris Moriconi, city council member Chris Vogelpohl, City Attorney Jack Gatlin, Erlanger Mayor Jessica Fette, local businessman Gary Holland and Dr. Melissa Moon, a professor of criminal justice at Northern Kentucky University.
“While this was an extremely difficult choice and all demonstrated that they would be excellent choices, I believe that ultimately the process worked well and strongly indicated Chief Ferayorni as the best choice for our agency,” said Reinersman in an email to LINK nky.
For the final part of their vetting process, each captain was given interim command of the department for three weeks. It was during Ferayorni’s turn that tragedy struck.
“I was the only one that had a murder during my stint as acting chief,” Ferayorni said.
On Friday, Aug. 25, 23-year-old Seth Burns was shot on Archer Court and transported to UC Medical Center for treatment, where he later died. Two suspects were arrested. One was a minor whose identity has not been released. The other was Xxavion Turner, aged 20, who was charged with complicity to murder. Xxavion Turner’s mother, Amanda Turner, was later arrested and charged with accessory murder. The investigation and trial are ongoing.
“I had to come in and work the scene and command the scene, which I’m used to doing as a patrol captain,” Ferayorni said, “but when you’re the final say, it’s a little different because there’s nobody to call; it’s all on you.”
However, “everything else was not much different than our normal day-to-day,” Ferayorni said.
When asked what his plans are now that he’s in charge of the department, Ferayorni said that he wanted to restructure the ranks within the department to allow for an assistant chief as well as institute some revisions to the sergeant structure. He bracketed his statement by saying these proposed changes are dependent upon the approval of the mayor and city administrator, who are still considering the proposals.
Reinersman later said in an email that he was “supportive” of the initial plans Ferayorni submitted.
He also said he planned on exploring the implementation of a surveillance system from the company Flock Safety. Flock Safety systems are camera networks that photograph car license plates as they enter a community and check them against criminal reports. Ferayorni said they’re particularly helpful for identifying stolen vehicles and cars associated with amber alerts.
With all of this in mind, he said that the biggest challenge that the Independence Police Department faces now–a challenge that many of the region’s departments are facing–is recruitment.
“The biggest challenge is the recruitment or retention of officers,” Ferayorni said, “and it’s been an ongoing issue since we changed the retirement system. We just aren’t getting the applicant pool we used to get.”
Kentucky’s police pension system has gone through several reforms over the years, most notably the change from a defined benefit structure to a defined contribution structure. Older pension systems were defined benefit plans that guaranteed a certain payout upon retirement. More recent pensions are defined contribution plans, where a worker invests a certain percentage of their pay but is responsible for managing the investment from there. 401Ks and individual retirement accounts are both examples of defined contribution plans.
According to Ferayorni, the newer pension plans disincentivize long-term police careers, especially when faced with competition from the private sector.
“When I tested, I tested against 100 guys for one position,” he said. “I’ve got four positions, and I had 15, 20 to start, and we’re down to four or five.”
“I don’t want to just fill a position,” the chief added. “I want to fill the position with a good employee, a good officer that’s going to take care of the community.”
Overall, Ferayorni said, he wants to leave the department in a better condition than what he found it in.
“I have a vested interest for this place to succeed,” Ferayorni said. “My kids go to school here. My kids grew up here, and I want for this agency to go on beyond me and beyond the staff that I created and end up being well-off when I’m gone, hopefully better off than than I am now.”
If you’re interested in applying for a position as a police officer with the Independence Police Department, visit their website for application instructions.