Todd Pucci, Altamont’s police chief for a decade, to retire

— Enterprise file photo

Todd Pucci went through the police academy for Altamont in 1997, but his first full-time job came a year later with the Cohoes Police Department, where he worked for 22 years. For the past decade, Pucci pulled double-duty as Altamont’s police chief. This week, he announced he was retiring, effective Aug. 31. 

ALTAMONT — Family is a funny thing.
“I was actually in the Navy for six years in nuclear engineering,” said Altamont Police Chief Todd Pucci.

 Pucci said he earned more money working as an electrical superintendent in the ’90s than he ever did as a police officer.

But his grandfather was a cop, as was his brother, and an uncle.

“My father was a fireman,” Pucci said. “He was the oddball.”

“It’s just in my blood,” he said of police work. “I hate to say it, but it’s true,”

“It was one of those things where I could have made more money doing something else, but my heart was in police work,” he said.

Pucci went through the police academy for Altamont in 1997.

His retirement, effective Aug. 31, was accepted by the village board of trustees at its Tuesday meeting. 

“Chief Todd Pucci has been with the Altamont Police Department for over 20 years and the positive impact he has had on our community will be sorely missed,” said Mayor Kerry Dineen by email. “He continually worked toward improving the department and made community policing a priority for our officers and our residents. The board recognizes when hiring the new Police Chief, Todd’s shoes will be difficult to fill. We wish him the best for his retirement, it is well deserved!”


Taking the reins

“I started my career for the village development, which is why I always felt obligated to stay here,” Pucci said.

He was hired as a full-time officer in Cohoes in 1998, but stayed on with the village’s department the entire time, he said, because without Altamont, “I wouldn’t be a police officer.”

He became Altamont’s chief in December 2010, and righted a ship that had been off course for some time.

Pucci’s immediate predecessor, Anthony Salerno, resigned as Altamont’s public safety commissioner in 2011 after the state Civil Service Commission forced the resignation, citing the “clear practicability” of his passing the Civil Service exam required for him to hold the post, which he had not done during the six years he had the job.

The board of trustees at the time was culpable in aiding Salerno’s circumvention of the Civil Service system and was also responsible for giving him a 50-percent pay-rate increase.

Dineen, then a trustee, is the only holdover from Salerno’s time as public safety commissioner and then as a “team leader,” another position created to get around Civil Service requirements.

Robert Coleman had taken command of Altamont in 2001 and opened his own police training academy, which was housed at the Peter Young Center, on Route 156 just above the village.

Many villagers felt harassed by the inordinately large number of police officers and police-officers-in-training, this newspaper editorialized in 2006.

Villagers complained in the pages of The Enterprise and to the board of trustees about unwarranted traffic stops and meddling in private affairs. “There is so much radar in the village, I am surprised we all don’t suffer from radiation,” wrote one disgruntled citizen.

Pucci said he didn’t apply to be Altamont’s police chief. 

When Salerno was on the outs, the department, minus Salerno, met with then-mayor James Gaughn and a couple of officers recommended Pucci for the job, he said. Pucci at the time was a captain in Cohoes, and holds a master’s degree in criminal justice from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree, also in criminal justice, from the University at Albany.



Pucci’s proudest achievement in his time as chief has a lot to do with what he’d like to see in his replacement. 

As for what he’d like to see in a replacement, Pucci said, “To be honest with you, I think a big part of that was I understand the importance of getting along with the community as well as the media,” he said.

Pucci said it’s not only important to have a department that is professional but also has good communication with the community it serves, which was something that previously had been “kind of lacking.”

Pucci said he has always tried to be as open and accessible as he can be, and hopes his successor will do the same.

He said there are a lot of good in-house options.

Pucci said he thinks that several Altamont officers “could step up and do a great job.” But he said doesn’t know how much input he’s going to have in the hiring process. 

Dineen wrote she anticipates the village “starting the recruitment process for the position as soon as possible so the new candidate has some time to train with Chief Pucci.”

Of his proudest achievement, Pucci said, “I’d like to think it was better communication with the community”; he said he knows a number of residents on a first-name basis. Pucci added that he took over a department that villagers were looking to abolish, “and then now I’d like to think is readily acceptable in our community.”

His observation is borne out by skewed statistics. 

A survey included with this year’s police-reform plan found that 64.5 percent of the 77 respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with the Altamont Police Department. About 12 percent were dissatisfied; 22 percent were neutral.

Pucci credits having the right people around him who stay on, some of whom have been there for nearly two decades. His least-experienced officer has three years, but the second least-experienced officer has nine. 

The part-time Altamont police force has 10 officers.

“You’ve got to have the right people on your team to accomplish stuff ...,” he said. “So I tried to get rid of the individuals that didn't have that type of thinking, and I tried to hire people that did.”

When Pucci took over, there was the police academy in Altamont.

“There were, like, 30-some guys on the roster,” he said. “People didn’t know anybody by name here.”

“It was kind of like a puppy mill before,” Pucci said. 

Asked about his greatest regret or something he had set out to achieve but never actually was able to, he said, “Technology-wise, I would have liked to have brought us a little further along …  I would have liked to have brought on a few more items.”

But as a small department in a small municipality, there are obvious budget constraints he had to deal with, he said. 

The police budget this year is about $186,000.



Pucci, 56, retired from Cohoes, where he was a captain and a patrol commander, in July of last year, which is when he began thinking about retiring from Altamont. 

He’s worked full-time for the past decade in both Altamont and Cohoes. 

“[It’s] not that I want to leave; it’s just, there’s limits,” Pucci said, “And I’d have to go get a waiver” from the state.

But there’s also no real benefit to staying on unless he wants to work until he’s 62. 

“So for me, I would have had to work another, six, seven years,” Pucci said.

And, once he looked at the math of staying on for those additional years, it just didn’t make sense, financially. 

He also said he’s not done with work. 

“I’ll probably get back into engineering at some point,” he said.

Pucci said he’d like to travel, he’s got a 36-foot motorhome and a home in Florida. He’d like to spend time with his three children and three grandchildren and generally be young enough to still be able to enjoy life.

He also had a goal of retiring when his youngest child graduated from high school, which she is set to do later this month. 

Jessica Pucci is attending Siena College in the fall.

“She’s in the biology program,” he said. “She wants to become a doctor.”

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