NIAGARA FALLS – The city police superintendent who preceded him is more than two decades older and started on the beat about the same time E. Bryan DalPorto was born.
But this doesn’t mean that an experienced law enforcer isn’t still at the top of the Niagara Falls Police Department.
DalPorto, a 15-year veteran of the city police force, has worked numerous jobs within the department and has an even longer tenure with the military.
Unassuming and approachable, the city native also has a clear vision to make the streets of his hometown safer.
“My plan is not to sit in an office, but to be out on the street with the people and find out firsthand what is going on and what the problems are, and address problems as they come up,” DalPorto said.
John R. Chella, 63, the police superintendent he succeeded Tuesday, was a community relations-orientated chief, “and I intend to be, also,” DalPorto said. “Being from Niagara Falls and living here my whole life, I think I have as many contacts in the community as anyone can have.”
DalPorto, a 1989 graduate of Niagara Catholic High School, turned 42 last week. He may be one of the youngest officers to take the top spot in the city, but his experience goes well beyond his age.
He has served in key positions in the Niagara Falls Police Department, as well as on active duty in the Air Force.
DalPorto came highly recommended by Chella to take the reins, and DalPorto said that during the last year, the former superintendent allowed DalPorto to work closely with him so he would be ready to move up.
“I learned from Chief Chella things I did not know. I knew police work, but administration of a police department is a lot different than just catching bad guys. But I do have some [administrative background] managing budgets and managing people from the military,” DalPorto said.
As he prepared to leave office, Chella said he hoped the mayor and the City Council would share his vision of appointing DalPorto as his successor. They have.
“We found that we had some very strong candidates inside the department, and over the past year, Bryan emerged as the consensus choice … in part because he was one of the new leaders of the department,” Mayor Paul A. Dyster said. He said Administrative Capt. John DeMarco also worked closely with the new police superintendent.
Dyster said he hopes the department will continue to increase its use of community and computer-assisted policing.
“You hope to maintain all the traditional things, while at the same time you are keeping up with the changing technologies,” Dyster said.
City leaders agree that DalPorto has the acumen for the new job.
He has received numerous military awards for his service with the 107th Airlift Wing of the Air National Guard, including the U.S. Meritorious Service and Air Force Commendation medals, as well as other honors for his service in the Iraq War. He currently is commander of the 107th’s Force Support Squadron.
The new police superintendent also taught courses in emergency management at Niagara County Community College and was the head instructor in defensive tactics for the Niagara Police Academy.
In his 15 years in the city Police Department, DalPorto worked on patrol and as an officer in the Roving Anti-Crime Unit. He then was promoted to a detective in narcotics and later became a patrol lieutenant.
He was chosen to be an administrative lieutenant to facilitate the move to the new Police Headquarters on Main Street in May 2009 and received the Police Chief’s Award for his work in smoothly moving the court and Police Department without a break in service, a feat he calls one of his proudest accomplishments.
DalPorto also has served as an emergency response supervisor with the Special Weapons and Tactics team, a commander in the Office of Professional Standards and, most recently, was a detective lieutenant overseeing the department’s Narcotics and Roving Anti-Crime units.
He said he began his career in corrections at the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, serving as a member of the jail’s emergency response team.
Born and raised in Niagara Falls, he served on active duty in the Air Force from 1993 to 1995. Afterward, he joined the Sheriff’s Office, leaving for his hometown police force in 1997.
“I was offered jobs in other cities, but I always wanted to be a police officer, and I wanted to come home and be a police officer in Niagara Falls,” DalPorto said. “I thought it was important to help the community I grew up in.”
He said he started by walking the beat on Pine Avenue. “It ended up being one of the most important things that formed my police career, because I was able to … talk to people and get an aspect of police work that most people don’t get to do anymore,” DalPorto said.
He already has plans to deal with gun violence and wants more officers to be visible on the street, from foot and bike patrols to officers in marked cars.
“I’m a big fan of foot patrol,” he said. “It pays big dividends in community relations and intelligence. If you don’t have that barrier of the window, you will learn more. There is always an element of policing that is reactive, but if we can be proactive, we can address problems before they become bigger.”
As for higher visibility of officers on the streets, he said, “What we are going to do immediately is redirect our workforce to have more of a police presence. … If there is more of a presence, people will feel safer to visit our businesses and come here on vacation.
“The more people we get out of this building and out on the street, the safer people will feel. If we can get more eyes and ears out on the street, I think it will pay dividends for the city. If we can get officers seen and communicate with the community, I think it will be better all around.”
DalPorto said that as part of his work in the Air Guard in Iraq in 2008, he was an executive officer in the Air Expeditionary Group stationed in Baghdad, where he said he learned about leadership.
“A lot of the good things that are done by the military don’t make it into the news, but the reality is they are building schools and keeping people safe,” DalPorto said. “It was very similar to what we do in police work. They really are rebuilding Iraq.”
All of his experiences, DalPorto said, have helped prepare him for the new job.
“All of it, from the military to police assignments, I’ve learned things every step of the way,” he said. “I can relate to patrolmen walking the beat, to detectives and supervisors. I know what they are going through.”
One of his first actions in the first week of the job, he said, was to get a closer look riding along with a patrol captain on each shift.
DalPorto said that in his experience with defensive tactics, he will continue to teach officers to be safe.
“I would tell recruits I taught that, in my opinion, defensive tactics in a nutshell are the ability for officers to go home safely at the end of their shift,” he said. “Officers should go home safe and sound, all in one piece. Defensive tactics are more than fighting skills; [they mean] safely executing an arrest, for you and the person you are arresting.
“Officers sign on to be police officers, but they don’t sign up to get themselves hurt. … Defensive tactics are the most important thing you learn.”
DalPorto said that the department will continue to respond effectively to reports of police violence. “In any police department, [the use of excessive force] has a propensity to be an issue. We give officers every tool to keep themselves and the person they are arresting safe,” DalPorto said.
“Unfortunately, these things happen. Under Chief Chella and under me, we will take every step to make sure appropriate action is taken.
“Everyone needs to know the bosses are watching over them. I think we have an obligation to the community and the City of Niagara Falls to make sure that we are doing our job in the best possible way.”
DalPorto added that “I am honored that the mayor would give me his confidence in appointing me and for the tremendous support from the City Council and the community.” He also credited his wife of 18 years, Evelyn, and the support of his two children, ages 6 and 16.
“I’ve been very lucky getting the opportunities I’ve gotten through the department,” he said. “A lot of people don’t get a chance to do the diverse things I’ve done in police work.”
Chella wishes his successor the best.
“You always hope you do a better job than your predecessor,” Chella said, “and I hope he … can do a better job than me. The key thing is to meet with the public, take every call and go to every meeting.”
DalPorto said he looks forward to his latest challenge and is happy that it’s close to home.
“I’ve been in the military for 20 years,” he said. “I’ve been to the FBI Academy, and I’ve been all around the country, and you won’t find a better police department than Niagara Falls.”