Niagara Gazette

December 9, 2012

Chella stepping down at end of year

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — It's not the first time he's thought about hanging up the gun and badge.

But this time, Falls Police Superintendent John Chella said he's having no second thoughts.

"It's time," Chella said Sunday night. "The crime stats are not the greatest and it might take someone with a different perspective to step in. It's time. I can't repeat that enough."

A 42-year veteran of law enforcement, Chella had filed retirement papers last December, but then pulled them back in a dispute with the State Employees Retirement System. State officials and the Cataract City's top cop disagreed over the scope of his retirement benefits.

"I had some problems with the pension system," he said. "And appreciate that the mayor and the city council and the corporation counsel got together and we were able to figure something out."

Chella has spent more than 30 years on the Falls police force, the last nine as superintendent. He said over the course of the last year, the nature of crime in the city has begun to weigh on him.

"You try not to let things get to you, but the Loretta Gates (dismemberment) homicide, the Isabella Tenant (5-year-old child) murder, the little girl shot at the Hometown Market, I just shake my head," Chella said. "When you're going home and you're not in a happy mood, it's time to go."

An up through the ranks Falls police officer, Chella was appointed superintendent in 2004 by then Mayor Vince Anello. He was re-appointed to the post in Mayor Paul Dyster's first term. 

After his decision to stay last December, he remained the top cop as Dyster began his second term in January. Dyster could not be reached for comment on Chella's plans on Sunday night.

Chella began as a patrol officer, serving in what was then called the Street Crimes Unit. He served a term as deputy superintendent under Superintendent Ernest Palmer and was also a detective and longtime lieutenant in the Narcotics Division.

He oversaw the move of the department from the old Public Safety Building on Hyde Park Boulevard to its new state-of-the-art headquarters on Main Street. Chella has also been credited with working hard to improve relations between police and the community and with making significant investments into proactive, intelligence based policing.

Chella said he has made a recommendation to Dyster on a possible successor. He asked that the name not be made public at this time.

The superintendent said his last day in uniform will be Dec. 28. If a successor has not be named by then, it's expected that Administrative Captain John DeMarco will run the department on an interim basis.

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