Longtime Baldwin officer named new police chief
Tony Cortazzo remains calm, even in the most intense situations.
The quality stood out to Baldwin Borough council members as they sought a new leader for the borough’s 22-member force.
“He has a very calm, balanced demeanor about him,” said council Vice President Marianne Conley.
Council on Jan. 15 named Cortazzo as the new chief of police. Ten-year police Chief Michael Scott retired Jan. 31, to move to Arizona with his family. Cortazzo was expected to be sworn in today.
“Tony is the right person for Baldwin,” Conley said. “He’s very Baldwin-oriented.”
Cortazzo, 46, of Swissvale, has been on the Baldwin police force for 23 years.
Even in high school, he wanted to go into law enforcement. Then, he had dreams of joining the FBI and went to college for accounting, as that’s what the federal agency was looking for experience in at the time.
He spent his summers working as a park police officer at Kennywood Park. It was there he found his calling for uniform work.
He took tests for police jobs across the region, and Baldwin was the first to give him an offer.
He was sworn in Feb. 12, 1996.
After working several years on patrol, Cortazzo was named the department’s juvenile officer, where he handled everything from bicycle safety and stranger danger programs in schools to child abuse investigations.
He also served as the department’s longtime detective. In Baldwin, the detective handles all investigations. The department only seeks assistance from Allegheny County on homicide cases.
When Baldwin police made a push for national and state accreditation, both of which it received in 2016, Cortazzo led the charge as the department’s accreditation manager.
In that role, which he’s held since 2014, he took on more responsibility including overseeing officer reports and handling aspects of the budget.
He’s always wanted to be chief. So, when the opportunity arose, he went for it.
“We have a good department. We have a lot of well-trained, experienced officers. We have the accreditation background, which gives us a solid foundation,” he said. “I think all of us working together can make this a better place.”
As the new chief, Cortazzo said he doesn’t think the department needs “sweeping changes.” He said each officer on the force has individual talents, and he intends to form goals around tapping into their strengths.
“We’re a family here and I know the family we have and, with the help of the supervisors, I think we can bring the most out of our family members,” he said.
Baldwin has a diverse population and it’s important for the officers to get to know the borough’s new residents as well, the new chief said.
He aims to create a stronger bond between the department and the community by having officers stop by events at the schools or at the new borough library.
In the past, Baldwin has had two officers assigned to community policing. Now, all 22 members of the force — which likely will be hiring an additional two officers this year — will be community officers.
Being familiar with every member of the department is beneficial for residents, Cortazzo said.
“Nobody calls 9-1-1 to say, ‘Hey, we’re having a great day — I just wanted you to know!’ They’re calling us at their worst,” he said. “If they have a familiar face, or at least somebody they’ve seen once or twice in their life shows up, that goes a long way.”
Officers also will benefit from knowing more people in the community, said the new chief.
“I’m excited for the opportunity. It’s a once-in-a-career opportunity that I’ve been given a chance to succeed at and I don’t intend to let people down,” Cortazzo said. “If you have a problem, call me up, make an appointment, stop in…. I subscribe to the philosophy that there’s nothing that we can’t solve if we all work together.”
Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.