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Cuzzupoli appointed new BPD chief

by Tori Martinez - Managing Editor
Tue, Apr 10th 2018 11:00 am

“Aristotle once said, ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit’ … Anyone who knows Mark will tell you that excellence is more than a habit, but a way of life for him.”

Brockport Police Department (BPD) Sergeant Stephen Mesiti read the above opening words at the swearing in of Mark Cuzzupoli as the department’s new chief of police on Thursday, April 5.

BPD appointed the new chief about a week ago, but the department has known for almost five months now that Cuzzupoli would take the position. Cuzzupoli was sworn in by former BPD chief Daniel Varrenti, surrounded by his four children, wife, sister and parents, as well as close friends, community members and members of the police department itself.

Choosing a new chief can be a daunting task for some police departments and local governments, but for Brockport, the decision was relatively easy. 

“Chief Varrenti was not shy about telling us that we ought to look within the department, and he was right,” Mayor Margay Blackman said. “Because the man we are swearing in today as chief was mentored by him, guided by him, and we couldn’t have made a better selection.”

Despite essentially making its decision in November, the Brockport Village Board decided to create two and a half pages of questions for him and conducted an interview. 

“It took about an hour and a half, and he was a wonderful interviewee,” Blackman said of the interview. “We actually had a very good and very informative conversation, and we knew once again after that, we had made the right decision.”

Cuzzupoli grew up in Hamlin, but he has spent his life in Brockport. Having gone through grade school in the Brockport Central School District and graduated from The College at Brockport, he is more familiar with the area than most 48-year-olds. 

“He knows this community, and that’s a huge asset,” Blackman said. She then told the story of an incident that occurred at the village hall where a resident made threatening remarks directed toward a village clerk. 

“It didn’t take a formal police report. Mark took care of it. He said, ‘I know the guy, I’ll go talk to him.’ And he did. And that was the end of it,” Blackman said. “He’s all about community policing, and we’re very grateful for that.”

Varrenti then administered the oath of office, but had a few words for Cuzzupoli first.

“Here’s the only advice I’ll give: don’t follow my footsteps, make bigger ones, which I know you can do, and you will do.”

No one in the village court, which is where the ceremony took place, had a Bible, so they laughed it off and used a program.

“I, Mark Cuzzupoli, do solemnly swear, that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of New York, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the Brockport police chief to the best of my ability. So help me god.”

A palpable sense of love and community filled the court during Cuzzupoli’s following remarks as he thanked many of the influential people in his life who helped lead him to where he is, including his wife and children, where he had to take a few pauses as he choked up.

“Simply put, you mean the world to me. My heart beats with yours,” Cuzzupoli said. “I love you and I’m extremely proud of you.”

He then ended the ceremony with some of his plans as the new chief.

“I’m not going to tell you there’s a massive change coming,” Cuzzupoli said. “I think the only thing that I really want to do, I want to try to amp up the amount of community service we do.”

Community policing is an initiative Cuzzupoli says the department has been working on, and although he knows it is a stretch, he would like to see it doubled by increasing foot patrol, as well as school and business visits. This relates to Blackman’s appreciation for Cuzzupoli knowing the community so well, because more than anything, he wants to build trust and relationships between the department and village residents.

“The more people who feel comfortable, the more relationships you build, which leads to more trust, understanding and even information,” Cuzzupoli said.

For Cuzzupoli, community policing extends beyond simple hellos on the street — it is about knowing how to be empathetic and compassionate, and treating everyone with respect. 

“It’s that simple. You do what’s right the very best you can and you treat other people the way you want to be treated,” Cuzzupoli said. “The biggest thing is, when you’re dealing with ‘insert anyone,’ if you treat them like a family member … there’s really not a situation that can go wrong.”

He used an example of letting a student go after pulling her over for speeding. She was stressed because she was running late to a test, and instead of giving her a ticket, he had a conversation with her about safety. Cuzzupoli says that does not mean you should never give out tickets, but it is more about knowing when to be a little understanding.

“The most important thing a police officer has is discretion. Not everything has to be a ticket,” Cuzzupoli said. “Sometimes, you can show compassion and give someone a warning. What good would it have been to give her a ticket?”

Whether or not he gives out tickets is not what he is necessarily thinking about — the ultimate goal is to aim for positive encounters no matter the situation. It always comes back to community policing. 

If community policing with respect and compassion is a habit, or way of life, for Cuzzupoli, the department is sure to be led with excellence. 

Photo of the Week

Taken by Vincent Croce:
Staff Photographer

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