Sergeant Pat Koch’s final “walkout” felt more like a parade of servicemen and -women honoring a man who has given 33 years to the New Paltz Police Department. It was a ceremonial walk through a tunnel of friends, family and colleagues after his final shift before entering retirement. There were also firetrucks from stations all around the region lined up to pay their gratitude to Koch, who has been a dedicated volunteer to the New Paltz Fire Department and will continue to be, even after his retirement from the police force.
It was an emotional day for Koch, who began working for the NPPD as a dispatcher and moved up the enforcement ranks to become a sergeant. His mother, Karen, was also the first-ever female officer in the New Paltz Police Department.
“We were both very young when we started,” said former NPPD chief Joe Snyder, who showed up for the walkout celebration. “I remember him as a dispatcher, an officer and then a sergeant. He’s been of great service to this community, and I’m sure he’ll go on to do great things.”
Wearing a tee-shirt that was given to him that said, “The Legend Has Retired,” Koch said there was no one particular part of the job that he enjoyed the most. “It wasn’t one thing. Every day was rewarding because I’m doing what I love: serving the community.”
Asked what his most difficult day or case on the job was, he didn’t hesitate. “Bozydaj,” he said, referring to the 25-year-old New Paltz High School graduate who went on a shooting spree on June 21, 2001, on a busy night in downtown New Paltz. Armed with a semiautomatic rifle and dozens of rounds of ammunition, Jared Bozydaj fired, seemingly at random, towards businesses, civilians, apartments and patrol cars, injuring one officer before he was brought into custody. “Trying to get back to work after the Bozydaj shooting was tough,” he said.
When New Paltz Police chief Rob Lucchesi was asked what he believed was Koch’s greatest asset to the force, he said, “For me, it was his tremendous amount of experience and knowledge from having worked for so many years in the department and in different capacities. His institutional knowledge, his dedication to public service – these are things that Pat brought to the job every day. And he’s a volunteer on our Fire Department. When he found out that his day of retirement would leave us short-staffed, he offered to hold off another 28 days. That’s a testament to how he is as a person and someone who believes in community service.”
Koch’s position will be filled by seasoned NPPD officer Calvin Halstead, who has been doing field training with him in preparation for the new post.
The veteran officer, now sergeant, was surrounded by his loved ones, his daughter, firefighters, State Police officers, County Sheriff officers, his own NPPD colleagues and a legion of firetrucks standing in regal salute.
Asked what he’s going to do (besides volunteering for the Fire Department, a full-time job in and of itself) Koch said that travel was on the top of his list. “We want to go to Australia, to New Mexico to see the balloon festival and Route 66 from Chicago to California. But we might have to wait until gas prices get cheaper.”
Caps off to Koch.