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Police officers welcome new chief

Just four days after protesting the planned appointment of an outsider as Depew's police chief, members of the force set any acrimony aside Monday evening and welcomed Albert J. Liberatore as their new boss.

Liberatore, a Buffalo cop for 28 years, was sworn in during a regular meeting of the Village Board and pledged afterward to seek plenty of input from rank-and-file officers on how the department should operate.

He was unanimously approved as interim police chief despite a meeting Friday in which members of the Depew Police Benevolent Association walked out on Mayor Barbara A. Alberti to protest the village's decision to pass over Depew officers for the post.

Liberatore, 52, said he held no grudges and appreciated the gesture from about a dozen Depew officers, who shook his hand and stood at his side in Village Hall as he was sworn in.

"Policemen are policemen," he said. "After the dust settles, police officers chase bad guys. We lock up criminals. We all bleed blue. I thought it was a great compliment when they walked up before my swearing-in and stood with me."

Flanked by his wife, two daughters and parents, Liberatore also received a huge display of support from colleagues in the Buffalo Police Department, where he had served since 1983. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1994 and to captain in 2010.

Village Hall overflowed with more than 100 people, many of them police officers, who turned out for the meeting.

Depew PBA leaders declined to elaborate Monday on what had changed since Friday.

"All we can say is he's our chief now, and we're all here for the same reason, and we're all going to work hard to protect the community," said Officer David Anthony, PBA vice president.

Shaking Liberatore's hand and standing by him was acknowledgment that he has been a fine cop, said Officer Christopher B. Hoffhines, PBA president.

"He's our chief. It's respect. He's got 28 years in law enforcement," Hoffhines said.

Hoffhines said he had no doubts about the credentials of Liberatore, who has a master's degree, teaches criminal justice at Buffalo State College and was part of security detail during President Obama's visit to Western New York last May.

"We'd like to hire from within to protect our members," Hoffhines said. "I'm not saying that the new chief is not qualified."

Alberti said none of the other four candidates came close to matching Liberatore's qualifications. "His work experience just overwhelmed us," she said.

Liberatore has been granted a one-year leave of absence from the Buffalo Police Department that is renewable.

He must now pass a chief's test to be retained permanently. He will earn $52.69 per hour, and he succeeds Thomas J. Domino, who retired last July.

e-mail: jtokasz@buffnews.com

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