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CHELLA PROMOTED TO DEPUTY POLICE COMMISSIONER

Buffalo Police Detective Sgt. Robert T. Chella -- who helped take down drug lord Donald "Sly" Green and dismantle notorious street gangs such as the Goodyear Crew and Gangster Killer Bloods -- is being promoted today to deputy police commissioner.

Police Commissioner Rocco J. Diina was scheduled to announce the appointment of Chella, a 33-year veteran, in a ceremony in Police Headquarters. He is succeeding Mark E. Blankenberg, who retired last week.

For the last eight years, Chella has been head of Special Services, the intelligence-gathering unit that tracks crime trends, identifies gang members and analyzes graffiti.

In the 1990s, he served as commander of the multiagency Career Criminal Task Force, a prestigious anti-crime unit known for making more than 2,200 arrests and putting gang members behind bars. He has also worked as an officer, narcotics detective and homicide squad supervisor.

As deputy commissioner, Chella said, he will focus on dismantling gangs, arresting criminals and forging improved relationships with city residents and community groups.

"I'm honored and humbled by the appointment, and I hope in some small way that I can make the department better," Chella said.

Diina said Chella, 52, deserves the appointment. "We felt we needed to pick someone whose main focus is crime," Diina said. "He will keep tabs on all crime, track crime and develop strategies to attack crime."

Chella said he hopes to expand two of the department's crime-fighting tools.

Under his plan, Sweep Clean will happen on a weekly basis this summer throughout the city. The operation is a blitz in which officers saturate high-crime neighborhoods for several hours to serve warrants, arrest gang members, hand out pamphlets and talk with residents to solicit crime tips.

He is also hoping to tweak the Operation IMPACT program -- a state-funded, multiagency task force that focuses on ridding the streets of guns, drugs and gangs -- by using existing law enforcement resources. For example, he said, parole officers may assist with home checks of criminals, while probation officers might coordinate a late-night visit.

Today's ceremony also includes the public appointments of two police chiefs -- Anthony J. Barba and Joseph F. Strano -- who were promoted in private sessions early this year.

A police officer for 19 years, Barba has been serving as chief of investigative services since January. He has also served as supervisor of the department's property office and captain of the Narcotics/Vice Unit.

Strano has been overseeing the Central and Northwest districts since February. A 23-year veteran of the force, Strano rose through the ranks, serving as an officer, lieutenant, captain and inspector -- the highest civil service position -- before he was promoted to chief.

e-mail: vthomas@buffnews.com

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