Greg Veitch was overcome by emotion more than once Tuesday, as he was sworn in as Saratoga Springs’ new top law enforcement officer.
He teared up repeatedly as he thanked past police partners who taught him the ropes as a street cop after he joined the department in 1995, and again when he became an investigator. By his own account, he was “a mess” again moments later when he thanked his large family for their encouragement and support.
“It’s more than an honor standing here today,” he said at a City Hall swearing-in ceremony. “When I was a kid we grew up on Circular Street. We had no air conditioning so I’d lay awake with my brothers listening to the sirens go back and forth. I guess I was always going to be a policeman.”
Veitch, a 39-year-old Saratoga Springs native, was sworn in as police chief Tuesday as the replacement for Christopher Cole, who retired Friday. Cole had been chief since 2009, and was grooming Veitch as his successor since Veitch was named assistant chief in 2011.
Veitch told a group of relatives and city officials that he will be expecting a high level of professional conduct from his officers in their dealings with the public.
‘Protect and serve’
There have been recent blemishes on the department’s record: three off-duty officers were involved in a late-night altercation last November, and Cole’s reputation suffered in 2011 after a female acquaintance complained about explicit pictures he sent her.
“We have sworn an oath to protect and defend the community,” Veitch said during his remarks. “If we didn’t mean it, we should not have taken the oath.”
“My philosophy is we are dedicated to protect and serve. I can’t put it any more simply than that,” he told The Daily Gazette after the ceremony. “It’s protect and serve, protect and serve.”
City Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen praised Cole for managing the department through difficult budget cuts, and then praised Veitch as “modest, intelligent … and practical.”
As chief, Veitch will be paid $102,000 annually.
Veitch joined the police after graduating from Saratoga Springs High School and SUNY-Plattsburgh. He worked part time for the Burlington, Vt., police force before returning to Saratoga.
He rose through the ranks from patrolman to investigator, then the lieutenant in charge of investigations. He was the department spokesman for a time before becoming assistant chief.
Saratoga County District Attorney James A. Murphy III said he has known Veitch for 25 years, and seen him successfully handle cases from major drug busts to the 2005 attempted kidnapping of high school distance runner Lindsay Ferguson.
“Despite the emotion you saw today, he looks at things very clinically, and in a logical way, and with common sense,” Murphy said. “I hope he’s here for a long time. I think it’s good for him, and it’s good for the department.”
Murphy said Veitch was among those who recently met with the Downtown Business Association to discuss an increase in complaints about panhandling on city streets — a problem he expects to see addressed.
Veitch comes from a large and accomplished family with multigenerational roots in Saratoga. His father, Michael Veitch, was a longtime teacher at Saratoga Springs High School, and remains a locally prominent horse-racing writer.
“He always wanted to be a policeman,” Michael Veitch said of his son.
Veitch’s older brother, Matthew, is a Saratoga County supervisor representing the city; his brother Mike formerly worked for state Sen. Roy McDonald; and brother Paul is a sergeant with the police department, and head of the city police officers’ union.
The new chief and his wife, Jennifer, have five children.
The department currently has an authorized strength of 67, but only 62 positions are filled.