Evans Police Captain Charles Danzi retiring
That all comes to an end on Nov. 30, when Captain Danzi, 51, officially hangs up his Town of Evans Police badge and begins his retirement.
“Since I was a kid, I always wanted to be a police officer and a fireman,” Danzi said.
Danzi grew up in Highland, the son of Louis and Serena Danzi. His father worked for Republic Steel and his mother worked for Westwood Pharmaceutical.
“No-one else in my family were into this, I was the first,” he said. “My parents were proud of me wanting to do this and always encouraged me.”
After graduating from Lake Shore High School, he went to Brockport State College, majoring in health sciences and graduated in 1983.
“I didn’t want to take criminal justice, because I wanted something else to fall back on, just in case,” he said.
As soon as he graduated from college, he started taking civil service exams for the Town of Evans Police and for the New York State Correctional Officers.
He didn’t just sit around waiting to be called in though.
He went to work at Father Baker’s as a youth counselor and he worked at 291 Elm, Alcohol and Drug Dependence Services of the Erie County Department of Mental Health.
Then in the autumn of 1984 he got a call off the list.
“I was called off the correctional officers list first, so I took it and worked in Albion and Collins, beginning in the end of October,” he said.
“I saw quite a lot doing that type of work,” Danzi said.
Then in the beginning of 1988 he got the call from the Town of Evans that he was on the top of the list and they were looking for a new police officer.
At the time Robert Ferguson was the Town of Evans police chief and Paul Garvin was the town’s supervisor. and they offered Danzi the position of entry level patrol officer.
“I jumped at the chance and I went off to the Police Academy on Feb. 29, 1988,” Danzi said.
The school training lasted until mid-July, approximately 26 weeks. Once he graduated from there, he returned to the Town of Evans to start his field training.
“I had two of the best field training officers, Ernie Masullo and Don Hepkins. I really learned a lot from the two of them,” Danzi said. Masullo is the current Town of Evans police chief and Hepkins is the current Town of Brant police chief.
“Ernie is one of my best friends, we’ve been through a lot together,” Danzi said.
Once the one-year probation was completed (it began from his date of hire), Danzi went on to be a patrol officer for 15 years, working the 4 p.m. to midnight and the midnight to 8 a.m. shifts.
“I got involved in a lot of different aspects of the police department during this time,” he said.
He was a diver on the Town of Evans Police Underwater Rescue Unit in the 1980s early 1990s and was very involved with the town’s Marine Unit.
Even with all this activity, he never stopped taking civil service tests and in January 2003 he was promoted to lieutenant.
“I worked the relief shift, so I worked all three shifts. It was constantly changing,” he said.
Along with the added responsibilities, Danzi continued to be involved in various units in the department.
He spent 15 years as the disaster coordinator for the town (until 2011), was on the accident investigation unit and bike unit, to name a few.
“I’ve been on all the units at one time or another,” he said.
Danzi worked with the late former Assistant Police Chief Stephen Slowinski in the training program and later took over, following Slowinski’s retirement in January 2008.
“I like doing the training, teaching the other officers how to best use the equipment, especially when it is something new.”
Training can also be used to give officers an opportunity to respond to life-threatening events, like a school shooting, that has forced police agencies to rethink how they handle the threat.
“The whole thought process has changed. There is no more ‘wait until the SWAT gets here,’ we are all SWAT members in that situation.”
Not only has Danzi been teaching Town of Evans Police, but officers from neighboring municipalities have taken advantage of the programs.
Along with that, Danzi teaches part-time at the Police Academy in Buffalo.
Danzi also reaches out to the community and gives lectures to the local high school health class students every year.
He has also been involved with the Town of Evans Police Academy.
In July 2009, Danzi was promoted to captain and became the chief’s right-hand man.
“I ran the Detective Bureau for the first two years I was captain, until Doug (Czora) was promoted to lieutenant.
“Now I do a lot of administrative work, help with the scheduling, make sure the tasers maintenance is kept up, keep up with the training for the officers and still answer calls. I’m very busy.”
“Chuck is a real asset to this department and I don’t know what I’ll do without him,” said Masullo.
“He has been here for me, helping with the everyday operations of this department, which is much more complex than anyone really knows. Replacing him is not going to be an easy thing to do, you can’t just replace all that experience,” Masullo said.
In the course of almost 25 years on the force, Danzi has also seen a lot of changes not only in the job but with the equipment.
“When I started, we had batons, then it was pepper spray and now it is tasers,” he said.
He went on to point out how the patrol vehicles have all been upgraded with better safety features, from air bags, reinforced body’s and in many cases roll bars, to rifles in all the cars, computers as standard equipment and new electronic plate readers.
“Police work has always been dangerous, but there is so much more out there now.
“You never know what will happen. There is no such thing as a normal call,” Danzi said.
The types of crime has changed too over the years.
“Prescription drug abuse is almost epidemic now. It is the biggest change I’ve seen over the years.
“Domestic violence is up three-fold and I don’t know if it will continue to get worse with the stresses of the economy.”
Danzi will be quick to tell that the job is not all negative experiences, no way.
“Dealing with the people is the best part of this job and there’s an excitement about not knowing what will happen next.
“This is not ever a boring job, each day is different and brings you a new experience. You never know what impact you will have on someone. I even delivered a baby in the back seat of a vehicle once,” he said.
Another of those non-boring days occurred on Jan. 28, 1994 when he responded to a fire at the Tanglewood Apartments.
Danzi ran into the burning building that was filled with smoke and pulled a woman from the building, saving her life. He received a commendation and award for his efforts.
“People said ‘What are you crazy running in there, you’ve got a baby on the way’,” he said. “You know, it never crossed my mind. I knew someone was in there and I knew I could get her out.”
Five days later, his wife, Jeanne Dowling Danzi, gave birth to their first child, daughter Shannon, now 18 and a freshman at college.
The couple, who have been married 20 years, have another daughter, Callie, 17, who is a senior in high school.
“I can’t tell you how important my family is, my girls are my treasure,” he said with a wide smile on his face. His office is graced with multiple pictures of his family, reinforcing that sentiment.
“It is amazing how quickly the time has flown by,” he said. “Now I’m teaching kids that I knew their parents when they were kids. That really makes you think.
“So, I decided I wanted to go back into the private sector and put my college degree to work.
“I’ve done police work now for a long time and now I want to do something different, it is time for a change.
“Police work is what I know and leaving it behind is kind of scary but it is exciting at the same time. I’m going to miss this but I’m looking forward to new challenges.
“Bottom line though, I wouldn’t trade these last 25 years for anything,” he said.