New Watervliet Police Chief Joseph Centanni Is Veteran Of Troy’s Force | WAMC

New Watervliet Police Chief Joseph Centanni Is Veteran Of Troy’s Force

Apr 8, 2021

Watervliet in Albany County swore in its 19th Chief of Police last week.

Joseph Centanni began his career with the Troy Police Department in February 1995.

"I retired in January of 2020, after serving 25 years with the department. During my time with the department, I worked in every facet of operational and administrative policing within the police department, I retired at the rank of captain. The last assignment that I held was Captain of Detectives. And that was one of the most satisfying and rewarding experiences of my career. What led me to Watervliet, is the city of Watervliet is very appealing to me, along with the police department, for one simple reason, which started at all. It's urban policing."

Centanni says the road to his becoming chief was serendipitous.

"I was the director of Safety and Security for SUNY Empire State College. It was a great experience. I met many, many great people. And I did enjoy it. I'll be honest, I didn't have a specific intent of coming out of retirement. But to be quite candid with you, I was a finalist for this position in the last search. And Chief Geraci was selected at that time, and I did not anticipate an opening to, to come around. And when it did, the juices got flowing again, so to speak."

Anthony Geraci took over in July 2019 after his retirement from the Albany Police Department. He was let go in May 2020, as the pandemic took its toll on Watervliet city coffers.

Centanni takes over as New York's state-mandated police reform process is concluding. He wrote the Troy P.D. internal affairs report on the death of Edson Thevenin, who was fatally shot by police during a traffic stop in 2016. Later, the state attorney general found the department made several mistakes during the incident and its investigation and urged the city to make procedural changes. Thevenin, who was suspected of driving under the influence, was shot and killed by Troy Police Sgt. Randall French, who contended Thevenin tried to run him over during a traffic stop.

Thevenin's family is still engaged in a lawsuit with the city.

"I have extensive experience at Troy with policymaking, and I served four years in planning and analysis position, which oversaw all department policies. My graduate studies are in policy, and it is something that I'm very comfortable with. So analyzing the policies, not just specific to use of force, all of the policies is important to me. And once I, once I get a better feel for how the organization operates, internally, I'll better be able to assess and set short term, intermediate and long term goals. Specific to the Edson Thevenin matter, I handled that case, quite honestly, Dave, the same way I handled the 1000s of other investigations that I either oversaw or took part in. I mastered the facts, and I applied the law. I stand by absolutely every word in that report. And I think as you're seeing this progress through the court system, I think ultimately, that report, it'll speak it'll speak for itself. Other than that, I really don't want to comment on any of the other specifics. Obviously, it's an open litigation."

Centanni says he has looked at the police reforms reports that have been sent to the state. He notes that Troy and Watervliet, while neighbors, are vastly different.

"Troy is a very, very violent city. There is not nearly the violent crime here and we're going to continue to do our best to keep that to that level, and continue to work hard to even reduce the violent offenses that we have."

Centanni says his actions speak louder than words. He says he looks forward to engaging with the community of around 10,000 residents and earning its trust.

"And I have been in some challenging situations with the city of Troy when there was not sometimes the trust between the agency and the community was questioned, and quite frankly, rightfully so. And I intend to be honest with them, I will I will speak with them. Clearly, honestly and directly. Sometimes they may not like the things that I say what I will not lie to them."

Centanni says he loves his job and adds part of loving it is understanding that there are challenges along the way.