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North Versailles chief plans family time in retirement

| Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 3:36 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
North Versailles Township police Chief Vince DiCenzo Sr. packs in preparation for his upcoming retirement.

North Versailles Township police Chief Vince DiCenzo Jr. is calling it a career after protecting his hometown for the past 32 years.

He officially retires on Sunday.

“After 32 years, I want to spend some time with my family,” DiCenzo said. “I had a grandson born three years ago. Watching him grow up I realized how much I missed my kids growing up because I was always working. I'm still going to stay involved with the Fraternal Order of Police and the (National) Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, but I plan on spending time with my family.”

Officer-in-Charge James Matrazzo was appointed acting chief on Thursday. He's served in the position during DiCenzo's vacations and a three-month medical leave last year.

“He's a good friend of mine. I wish him all the luck in the world,” DiCenzo said of Matrazzo. “It's not an easy job. I don't know what his plans are. Everybody has their own plans.”

The department will have 17 full-time and four part-time officers after DiCenzo retires.

“I'm happy for him. He made it through all (those) years,” Matrazzo said. “He achieved his retirement. Now he gets to enjoy a stress-free retirement.”

DiCenzo, 55, was hired as a part-time patrolman in October 1982, became full time in May 1989, and became sergeant in 2001. Other titles included officer-in-charge of shifts, crime prevention officer and Attorney General Task Force officer. He served as the township's Fraternal Order of Police representative and was a member of the state FOP. He was on the board of directors for Allegheny County FOP Lodge 91.

He was a volunteer firefighter in high school and worked as a McKeesport Hospital security guard prior to becoming a full-time township officer.

DiCenzo became chief in January 2010 when commissioners reorganized and reopened their budget.

Commissioners demoted then-chief James Comunale to sergeant. Comunale retired in October of that year, having served North Versailles since 1982, including 15 years as chief.

DiCenzo began his career in law enforcement after he was laid off in 1981 from U.S. Steel Corp.'s Irvin Works, where he banded and marked numbers on hot coils of steel.

He said people's reactions to his conduct are career milestones.

“People that I've arrested have come up to me and thanked me for treating them with dignity and doing what I could to help them out,” DiCenzo said. “That means a lot to me. I was always taught that you treat people the way you want to be treated.”

DiCenzo served with his father, Vincent James “Jim” DiCenzo Sr., who was chief in the mid-1970s through his retirement in January 1992.

“It was different,” DiCenzo said. “He was probably a lot harder on me than he was on other officers because he expected a lot out of me. I've been fortunate. I'm ending my career and my son is working for me.”

DiCenzo Sr. died on Dec. 15, 2010, at age 77 after battling lingering health issues for several years. He was a member of the township's police department for 27 years.

“Before my father died we had had a long talk, and I had told him about five years ago that I was happy with my career,” DiCenzo said. “I had thought that I had done well with my career and had gone places with my career. At that time, my father told me he was proud of what I had accomplished and I think that he would still be proud.”

Vince DiCenzo III is a part-time township officer and full-time Allegheny County Housing Authority officer.

DiCenzo Jr. said he's not sure if his son will continue the family legacy of becoming chief.

“That's up to him,” he said. “I used to get mad when people would tell me I was a better police officer than my father, but now I understand it because my son is a good police officer. I've been told that by a lot of people that he's worked with through the county and everything. That makes me proud when I hear that.”

The retiring chief wishes to thank his mentors and others who've helped to mold his professional life.

“There are too many to name, but I appreciate everything they did for me and helped me with,” he said. “They know who they are.”

North Versailles police also patrol Wilmerding. Borough councilors and township commissioners gave their congratulations and farewells to the retiring chief at their respective April meetings.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or

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