(The following is excerpted from an interview Rose Mariglia and I did with new Niagara Fall Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto on the Niagara Broadcast Network, which aired January 4, 2013. The entire interview can be seen every other hour on Tuesday and Wednesday, January 7 and 8.)
Sal Paonessa (SP): The new Police Chief in Niagara Falls joins us tonight. The thing is, you see, Bryan and I went to the Police Academy together. How did your career path lead you to this new position?
Bryan DalPorto (BDP): As a Niagara Falls police officer, I started out in Patrol, started walking a beat up and down Pine Ave. as my first regular assignment. From there, I bounced around in the Patrol Division. I served [several] years on the Roving Anti-Crime Unit, which is our Pro-Active Policing Unit, and from there I became a Detective in the Narcotics Unit. I did that for a few years where I was promoted to lieutenant. I was the administration lieutenant in charge of the move from the old Police Station to the new Police Station. After the administration lieutenant, most recently, I was the lieutenant in the Narcotics Unit.
BDP: I always aspired to be Chief. Obviously you don’t know if that’s going to play out when you’re walking a beat on Pine Ave., so you always hope and you dream and here it is. I’m thankful and humbled they gave me this job and responsibility. I think I can do a good job. I think I’m qualified and I look forward to all the challenges. I know there’s going to be a bunch, but I think you’re going to see some good things from the Police Department. I think you always have…
BDP: I think you also know I’m a military guy. I think the Chain of Command in the rank and file structure is important in an organization like the police force. You know we’re a paramilitary organization and you know that’s the way it has to be. I’m not egotistical at all…
SP: Tell us about the Niagara Falls Police Department you’re taking over now. What problems are you facing?
BDP: Right now, obviously, our violent crime. Our biggest concern, from an administrative perspective is the budget crunch, just like every other department; we are trying to make do with what we have. The Mayor and the City Council have assured me that public safety will not suffer at all, so we’re relying on that and depending on it.
SP: I know you recently made some changes where there’s going to be more cops on the street. Tell us about that…
BDP: We are taking the policemen that we have and putting them into patrol cars. Because I believe a bigger patrol presence [is needed]… We’ve taken them from across the board from specialized units and placed them back into patrol cars; putting them back into the Patrol Division…I think you’ll have a much more pro-active police force because the patrol commanders will be able to have more people on patrol… I’m trying to put more bodies into police cars so you see that big number and that big police presence - especially in the summer time when we get the tourists here because the tourists are important to our economy. Obviously, we have to protect our citizens, too, but we can keep the tourist friendly areas safe by showing a police presence and that’s what we’re trying to do. And I think we will be able to do that and I think we’ll be successful. Like I said, the mayor and the City Council have pledged public safety will absolutely not suffer because of the budget crunch. I have every confidence that will occur, but we have an obligation to streamline our process the best way we can.
Rosemarie Maraglia: What’s been the reaction of the policemen…you said you took them from various areas and now they’re back out on patrol?
BDP: I didn’t move any officers without talking to them personally. I explained the situation. We’re policemen first; you know we’re a lot like the Marine Corps, you’re a marine first. We’re policemen first and if that means going out in a police car doing police work, then that’s the most important part of our job and so they all understood.
SP: How did you come up with this idea to take people out of the units and put more men on the streets? I mean, we’ve talked about this for months, but it really hasn’t happened. All of a sudden you’re made police chief and ‘boom’ it’s happening.
BDP: Well, if you look at the amount of cars that are going out on patrol compared to the amount of calls that we have, it just made sense…We’ve looked at it for a while; it was not an easy decision to make. It kept me awake for days thinking about this and again I think it’s the right call. I think it’s the right move for the department and the city and we will provide excellent police service that way…. People want to see police officers walking a beat in business districts, people want to see police officers down in tourist areas to feel safe and they just want that police presence to feel safe. By and large, I think Niagara Falls is a safe place. I know it is. You know sometimes it gets painted as a bad picture. Whenever our crime rate goes up though, if you follow the statistics, so does our arrest rate. We’re out there when things happen, arresting the perpetrators.
SP:The people that call this show want to know where they should draw the line on when to call the police? We’ve heard, “If you’ve seen something, then say something.” The Police Department has said, “If you see something that doesn’t look right, then call.”
What should the community be doing to assist?
BDP: I think in this day and age we need citizens to help us combat crime and that may just mean picking up the phone. You’re never a bother to us; you should call us no matter what because you really don’t know what is important to us. You should make that call and let us sort out whether it’s something that is important or whether it’s something that needs to be followed up on…We couldn’t do our job without the citizen as far as wasting our time or bothering us. That is what you pay your taxes for, that is why you pay your taxes so we’ll be responsive to that.