By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — Two weeks into his tenure as the Falls police superintendent, Bryan DalPorto sits in an office filled with half-unpacked boxes.
He tells a Gazette photographer there will be no pictures taken there until he’s finished settling in.
The new Cataract City top cop thinks he might finally get unpacked in another week or so. You see, he’s been a little busy since he became superintendent.
“Extremely busy,” DalPorto says with a bit of a chuckle. “But a lot of that is self-imposed.”
A 15-year Falls police veteran, DalPorto hasn’t hesitated to move fast to put his imprint on the department. He met with the department’s captains early last week to outline his vision for the force.
He’s also made an effort to speak with every one of his officers and detectives, attending platoon roll-calls and dropping in for investigator briefings.
“I make it a point to walk through (police headquarters) at least once a day and stop and talk to any of the officers I encounter,” DalPorto said.
The new superintendent has also made it clear he won’t be a 9-to-5, behind a desk chief.
“I was out the other night (around 9:30 p.m.) on patrol, and I backed up a car stop,” he said. “And I’m not out there to watch over (the officers). I’m out there to show my support and show them how much I appreciate what they do. When I took the (superintendent’s) job, I envisioned it being like this.”
A military commander with the New York Air National Guard’s 107th Airlift Wing at the Falls Air Reserve Station, DalPorto says his approach to commanding city cops is shaped by a U.S. Army hero.
“Always do everything you ask of those you command,” DalPorto said. “That was the motto of General George S. Patton and I believe in that.”
DalPorto also hasn’t shied away from making dramatic moves to combat a rising crime rate. Among his first orders, DalPorto dispersed the officers of the Roving Anti-Crime Unit back into the Patrol Division.
The former Narcotics Division lieutenant, who commanded RAC, said it wasn’t an easy move to make.
“That was a difficult decision. These guys are like my kids,” DalPorto said of the eight-officer unit. “But I spoke to them all, individually, and they understand why I did this. This is no reflection on the job they did. They are all very good officers and they’ll continue to do good work.”
DalPorto says he intends to “bring RAC back” but he isn’t sure when. The new superintendent has also reassigned a Crime Scene Unit officer and the officer detailed to city hall to the Patrol Division.
The result has been a marked increase in the number of patrol cars on the street and even an occasional officer walking a beat.
“I think it’s important for people to see police officers in police cars,” DalPorto said. “Patrol is the backbone of the police department and patrol is only as strong as its manpower levels.”
That is a message that DalPorto has brought to the city’s block clubs and community groups as well. A former administrative lieutenant, who oversaw the department’s Community Relations Division, he’s no stranger to neighborhood activists.
“I’ve been around the block with these folks and I’ve been out and about meeting with them (over the first two weeks),” DalPorto said. “I’m trying to make sure they know I’m here and we will be reactive to their needs.”
He said his predecessor, John Chella, left “big shoes to fill” in the city’s neighborhoods.
“(The block clubs) wanted to be sure I’ll do the same (as Chella),” DalPorto said, “and, of course, that’s our obligation as a police department.”
The new superintendent said the manpower redeployment is his biggest adjustment, for now.
“I’m trying to make my biggest changes right out of the gate,” DalPorto said. “That way, we can settle in by the start of the summer (tourist season) and begin to evaluate how (the changes) are working.”
DalPorto said the Comp Stat program and data-driven policing will continue on his watch and help him determine where to target his increased manpower.
For the moment, DalPorto finds himself busier than he may have ever imagined. But he couldn’t be happier.
“Happy to be here,” he said. “And proud to serve.”