Niagara Gazette — In an office filled with half-packed boxes, Falls Police Superintendent John Chella rummages around, searching for a small cherry wood display case.
It’s one of his most prized possessions and he wants to show it to a reporter. He says he treasures it so much that it will be buried with him.
The case contains seven badges, one for each rank that Chella has held in his 42-year law enforcement career in the Falls. From cadet to superintendent, he has served in every position possible.
He’s the only Falls officer ever to achieve that feat.
“When I was young, I lived next door to a Buffalo police officer,” Chella recalled. “I knew by my sophomore year at (Bishop) Timon (High School in South Buffalo) that I wanted to be a police officer.”
Three years later, Chella joined the Falls Police Department as a cadet and, except for a one-year layoff in the mid-1970s, he’s never looked back. From cadet, Chella moved to a position as a patrol officer, serving in what was then called the Street Crimes Unit.
He moved up through the ranks as a detective and a lieutenant, serving in the Confidential Division which later became the narcotics squad. When longtime Falls police commander Ernest Palmer became the department’s superintendent, he tapped Chella to be his deputy.
He was then named superintendent in the early days of the administration of Mayor Vince Anello. He remained in that post when Mayor Paul Dyster was elected to succeed Anello.
“It wasn’t planned,” Chella said of his rise through the ranks. “You take the promotional exams because you always try to advance. But I’ve been very lucky. I was in the right place at the right time.”
Luck may have played a role, but the only longer serving commander in the department, Captain Morris Shamrock, said it was clear that Chella was destined to lead the force.