When David Guerrera first started working for the Cortland Police department 25 years ago, arrests were a big deal and could be problematic. Now thanks to new advances in training, officers work through problems that might not require breaking out the cuffs.
“Police overall over the last 25 years have become less hands on,” said Guerrera, now a lieutenant. Officers rely more on communication. “Before we’d run into a problem and make an arrest. Now we try to problem-solve.”
That entails new training like the emotionally distressed persons response team, diversity training and implicit bias training. “We’re trying to be more understanding,” Guerrera said.
This year Guerrera celebrates 25 years with the department.
Growing up in Elmira, Chemung County, Guerrera had law enforcement inspiration all around — three neighbors were cops and he had a high school class taught by two Chemung County sheriff’s deputies.
In 1984, he entered Mansfield University in Pennsylvania and graduated in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration.
From college, Guerrera went to work for Cornell University police and moved in 1993 to the Cortland City Police.
After 4 1/2 year as an officer, Guerrera was promoted to sergeant. “I was sergeant for a long time,” he said. “I spent eight years as a sergeant.”
After the eight years, he transferred to the department’s detective bureau as a sergeant detective. “I was a juvenile officer for four years,” he said.
Guerrera served for three years as lieutenant of the detective bureau before returning to the uniform division. “I missed the day-to-day police functions,” he said. “I missed working the road.”
As the sergeant who handled juvenile cases, Guerrera said his work mostly involved investigating cases that involved youth and sexual abuse cases. Other duties included following up with other complaints, conducting interviews and putting cases together for prosecutors.
Doing the duties of a road patrol officer is one of the reasons Guerrera got into the field. “That’s why I wanted to become a cop — to be a cop,” he said.
Chief F. Michael Catalano has worked with Guerrera the entire 25 years. “He’s been a great officer to work with,” he said. “He’s a great person to have as command.”
Guerrera is even tempered, technology savvy and remains up to date on all the training, Catalano said.
Over his 25 years, Guerrera has seen technology change, making an officer’s daily duties easier.
“Computers are huge,” he said.
When he first started working for Cornell and Cortland, reports and tickets were all written by hand and then typed. Dispatches came from a radio. Now calls from software that logs the address and gives the fastest route to it.
Guerrera’s six-shot revolver, hand radio, light-blue uniform and bulletproof vest able stop small-caliber rounds have become 13-round semiautomatics, stun guns, pepper spray and a vest able to stop a high-velocity rifle round.
At 25 years in the department Guerrera is eligible for retirement, Catalano said. However, Catalano said he hopes Guerrera stays and continues to move up in the department. However, there are only two position above Guerrera’s — chief and deputy chief — and there are no openings, at the moment.
But Guerrera still looks ahead, 25 years, or at least until retirement. “My goal is hopefully to be chief,” Guerrera said. “That’s why I went to college for administrative skills.”