October 18, 2021

Cortland police chief to retire in March

Cortland Police Chief F. Michael Catalano announced Thursday he will retire in March after serving almost 40 years with the department.

His last day will be March 19.

“I just feel I’m ready,” he said.

Catalano said he wanted more time to gather his thoughts and emotions before speaking more about his retirement.

Lt. David Guerrera said the civil service process for hiring a police chief within the department requires an officer to be a lieutenant for at least three years and to have passed the civil service exam for the position.

That leaves him and Deputy Chief Paul Sandy as the two eligible members already in the department, Guerrera said.

Being chosen, however, would require meetings between the Cortland Common Council, Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin and the police commission.

No one from outside the department has expressed interest in the position, Guerrera said.

“I’m happy for him,” he said. “I wish him well.”

Tobin said the process requires the police commission recommending up to three candidates to the mayor. The mayor then makes a recommendation to the Common Council.

Tobin said he’s looking to have a part of the interview process in which candidates will be recorded answering questions, which will then be posted online so city residents can learn more about the candidates.

Guerrera also said he’s excited to see what new changes the next chief will bring about.

Catalano, a lifelong Cortland resident, began his law enforcement career in 1980 as a corrections officer with the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office, according to the city’s website.

In 1981, he moved to the road patrol.

He took a job with the Cortland Police Department in 1984, serving as a patrol officer, sergeant, detective sergeant, uniform division lieutenant and deputy chief of police.

He was promoted to chief in August 2009.

“I started at the very bottom, and worked my way through every possible rank and position we have here,” Catalano said in 2009 after he was promoted. “It’s worked out very favorably for me.”