Updated 09/02/2009 09:37 AM
Police Chief Tuffey retires; questions raised over timing
Albany Police Chief James Tuffey announces his retirement. Tuffey has worked with the police department for 24 years and became chief back in 2005, but his time in office hasn't been without some controversy - and questions are being raised over the timing of his decision. Britt Godshalk reports.
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- "I'm not sure it's a shock," said Mayor Jerry Jennings. "It's a tough job, a lot of things going on. And, you know, Jim has other responsibilities."
Mayor Jennings said he will not speculate as to whether Albany Police Chief James Tuffey's decision to leave the department has anything to do with a letter sent to the mayor and the Common Council last month.
"That was an anonymous letter that came in," said Jennings.
The letter detailed allegations that Chief Tuffey said a racial slur in regard to the killing of Richard Bailey, a white UAlbany student. The letter alleges that after Bailey's death, Tuffey told an assistant chief in passing, "This wasn't just some ---- that was killed."
Councilwoman Barbara Smith received the letter and has heard no indication that the comment was actually ever made.
"I think that if these allegations are true, then he made the right decision," said Smith. "I can't help but assume that there is some connection between the allegations and his decision."
Jennings said the decision to leave was the chief's alone.
"I'm not going to even speculate," said the mayor. "I'm just saying we're moving ahead. Respect Jimmy for what he's done for the city. Respect the department for working together. We're moving ahead."
Tuffey is credited by the mayor for helping to reduce crime in Albany, but the police union is calling the decision "despicable," saying in part, "...It is clear to us that this resignation was forced and that this was an 'execution' orchestrated by the Command Staff in the Department of City Hall itself."
Tuffey leaves amid a City Hall investigation aimed at in part determining what role the department, if any, played in issuing decals for certain officers' vehicles to avoid a ticket. Back in May, Tuffey decided to take a paid vacation after it was discovered he carried department-issued weapons without a permit.
"I respect the job that Jimmy did here in the city, and I wish him the best," said Jennings.
In a statement, Tuffey said, "It has been an honor and privilege to serve the great City of Albany and its citizens. I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished during my tenure and I was extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to lead such a professional and dedicated organization. I thank everyone who has supported me and I look forward to my future endeavors."
His retirement takes effect Saturday, Sept. 5.