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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 4, 2011

Quinn claims APD “out of control”
Video shows appropriate arrest

By Jo E. Prout

ALTAMONT — Local resident James M. Quinn has alleged that Altamont Police violated his rights when they stopped him and arrested him last week. Altamont Police, with a video recording of the incident to back them up, deny any wrongdoing.

Quinn, 53, of 1057 Leesome Lane, was arrested last Thursday night, July 28, after failing twice to signal a vehicle turn, first at the intersection of Western and Maple avenues, and again at the intersection of Main Street and Maple Avenue.

Acting Public Safety Commissioner Todd Pucci, who was in the police car with Officer Gerardo Conti, said that Quinn went up the S-curve on the Altamont hill and drove off the road by two or three feet. The police had followed two car lengths behind, Pucci said, and stopped him on the hill “for the safety of himself.”

According to the video viewed by The Enterprise, Quinn’s vehicle, a silver Dodge pickup truck, crossed the white line, and then drifted over the center yellow line before police pulled him over.

“He hit my officer with the door,” Pucci said.

Quinn told The Enterprise that the officer told him to get out of his truck twice. Asked if he hit the officer with the door, Quinn said, “He told me to get out of the car. I opened the door and he happened to be standing right there.”

On the video, the door is pushed open vigorously and hits Conti in the stomach and chest; Conti remains calm. Throughout the arrest, until he is handcuffed, Quinn swears repeatedly at the police, frequently using the f-word, according to the video.

Conti attempted to administer sobriety tests, Pucci said, but Quinn did not cooperate. The video shows Quinn refusing the tests and mocking Conti.

“We didn’t smell alcohol,” Pucci said. Quinn’s erratic behavior suggested illegal or prescription drugs, Pucci said. None were found at the scene when the officers searched Quinn’s vehicle, he said.

“I’m not on any kind of drugs, at all,” Quinn told The Enterprise. “If I were on prescription drugs, it’s none of their business.” 

According to the video, Quinn lunged at Pucci when he asked Quinn if he were on alcohol or prescription drugs. The two officers then handcuffed Quinn, who then noticeably calmed down. He was a “different person by the end,” Pucci said.

Quinn tells the story differently.

“They threw me down on the ground, OK…Then they handcuffed me and they dragged me over to their car,” Quinn told The Enterprise on Friday. Being handcuffed, he said this week, “really sent chills down my spine.” The roughly 45-minute video does not show Quinn being thrown to the ground, nor does it show him being dragged.

Asked if he had acted erratically, Quinn said, “After 15 years of being pulled over, you start to get a little punchy. I am starting to get a little irrational.”

“He’s got a history with the police,” Pucci said.

When The Enterprise asked Quinn if he had been arrested before, he said, “Oh, yeah. Absolutely.” Asked why he had been arrested, Quinn said, “That’s not important.”

The Enterprise reported on his Nov. 24, 2003 arrest by Guilderland Police for assault. According to the arrest report, Quinn was involved in a domestic dispute where he pushed the victim down the stairs, causing her to strike her head; she had a laceration above her right eye and complained of pain in her right arm. The arrest report also said that police found a broken table and a broken railing at the top of the stars and there was blood down the stairway. On Feb. 12, 2004, then-Judge Steven J. Simon in Guilderland Town Court adjourned the case in contemplation of dismissal.

Pucci said that Quinn could have been charged for many reasons during last week’s traffic stop, but that the department issued only two traffic tickets and arrested Quinn for disorderly conduct, which requires a court appearance.

Quinn called the police department the day following his arrest and asked if his name would be printed in the Enterprise’s “blotters” section.

He also called The Enterprise that day and said he’d like to see news of his arrest printed in the newspaper. “It’s a fun, fun situation…” he said. “I think everybody in the town would enjoy seeing it. It’s basically a police force out of control…. It’s been this way since I got here in 1996. It’s never going to change. People have to just grin and bear it.”

Quinn told The Enterprise this week, “Police reports should be made public. Let people draw their own conclusions. To be in this incubator of fear, of this police force, which is not very highly trained…If I deserved to get a ticket, OK, give me a ticket. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I’ll deal with that. I’m not going to be intimidated.”

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