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Media: Former State Police Counsel Joins Carter Conboy

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Thomas A. Capezza, a former assistant U.S. Attorney who recently stepped down as general counsel for the State Police, has taken a job with Carter Conboy, an Albany law firm.

Capezza was appointed in December 2011 as the agency's top attorney by Superintendent Joseph A. D'Amico, who retired in June.

"In light of Superintendent D'Amico's departure, I had decided to resign so as to afford the next superintendent the opportunity to choose his or her own counsel," Capezza said this week.

A State Police spokesman said D'Amico's successor, Superintendent George P. Beach, recently named Kevin Gagan as his general counsel. Gagan was a first deputy superintendent who briefly worked as chief of staff and special counsel to the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

Capezza, 53, was with the U.S. Attorney's office for 11 years before joining the State Police. He said his most memorable achievement with the nation's ninth largest police force was getting the agency out from under a consent decree that had given the U.S. Justice Department authority over its promotion and hiring practices for more than three decades. The decree was affirmed by a federal judge who in 1979 ruled the State Police's hiring and employment policies discriminated against minorities and women.

The case began in 1977 when the Justice Department filed a federal complaint. At the time, the State Police had 2,712 sworn members, but only 13 were black, nine were Hispanic and six were female.

Not long after Capezza joined the State Police four years ago, he said the agency was interested in reviving its police academy but the Justice Department still had jurisdiction over their hiring practices. Capezza filed a motion to reopen the 1977 case and have the consent decree lifted. His work included three years of negotiations with his former colleagues in the U.S. Attorney's office, who eventually agreed to the agency's request.

A federal judge last year ordered the consent decree vacated.

"It was a unique opportunity for me because of my background with the Justice Department," Capezza said.

While those negotiations were unfolding, Capezza said the State Police improved their recruiting methods, including using social media to reach minority communities. "The first class that was selected from that new test was fluent in 14 different languages," he said.

Today, there are 4,757 sworn State Police members, including 425 women, 260 African Americans, 271 Hispanics, 42 Asian-Americans and five Native Americans.

Capezza was an enforcement counsel with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission before he joined the U.S. Attorney's office.

"Tom is a tremendous addition to our complex litigation, municipal, regulatory and law enforcement practices," said Carter Conboy's Chief Operating Officer Michael Catalfimo.

blyons@timesunion.com518-454-5547@brendan_lyonstu