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Northport lieutenant 'excited' to take over as police chief

Northport Police Lt. Bill Ricca, stands next to

Northport Police Lt. Bill Ricca, stands next to an antique police car in the rear of the headquarters in Northport Village, Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015. Ricca will become chief of the department later this month. Credit: Steve Pfost

Northport Village Police Lt. Bill Ricca is to become chief of the department this month, taking over when longtime Chief Eric "Ric" Bruckenthal retires.

Ricca, who has been in law enforcement for more than 30 years (25 in the North Shore village of about 7,400 people), said he's "excited, slightly nervous" about the promotion. He will lead a staff of 45, including 17 officers, when the transition becomes official Sept. 27.

"There won't be major wholesale changes" to the department, the 49-year-old said. "I do want to have a little bit more in the way of community outreach . . . I want to expand on that; the officers' interactions with the store owners and people downtown. Build a sense of community."

Bruckenthal, retiring after 37 years with the department, said Ricca will be a strong leader.

"I don't think the village is going to have any trouble at all," Bruckenthal said. "He's the right man for the job. Hopefully, he enjoys it as much as I have."

The two have worked closely, particularly since Ricca was made a lieutenant in 2013.

Ricca said he shares Bruckenthal's aggressive stance on the drug problem in Northport, and that the department will continue using undercover operations to pursue large-scale dealers.

"We've been more aggressive than other departments in the area," he said. "We have been able to move up the food chain. . . . The revolving door of the low-level dealers isn't going to get it done."

In recent years, the police department has developed cases that led to arrests, convictions and broader investigations outside the village, Ricca said. He declined to elaborate.

Ricca spent his first five years in law enforcement with the NYPD, working in special units, including street narcotics enforcement and the K-9 unit.

He grew up in Flushing, Queens, went to high school in Commack, then returned to the city to pursue his career.

He "fell in love with the Northport area" and joined the department in 1991.

Now, he feels prepared to take the department's top post.

"The chief's been very good at making sure that the transition went smoothly and taking extra time to sit down [so I wouldn't] have a sink-or-swim experience," Ricca said.

Village trustees unanimously approved a resolution on Aug. 12 to appoint Ricca chief.

"I'm very grateful for the opportunity," said Ricca, who with his wife, Dawn, has raised five children in Northport. "I'm glad to get to the point where I'm a manager in a police agency -- especially one as fine as ours."

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