A Commitment to Community Continues to Fuel Retired Police Chief

Michael Cerone ’77 remembers parking himself in front of a television to watch “Dragnet” as a child. It was while watching those episodes that he first felt inspired to become a police officer. “I was mesmerized by that program. I loved how police work was done on it. It was done professionally and working with the community as a joint effort.”

Looking back, Cerone admits his childhood desire to have a positive impact on the public was a guiding force that led him to his own law enforcement career. This commitment carried him into his role as Chief of Police of the Irvington Police Department, a role he held for the last 13 years.

The community returned the love to him as he retired from a 45-year career in law enforcement. This past February, members of police departments from throughout Westchester County joined village officials, business owners and residents to line Ferris Street in Irvington, all gathering in a special salute to Cerone’s last day on the job. “That was something that I will never forget, and I will take with me for the rest of my life. Irvington is a groundswell of family,” said Cerone.

Mercy was a “good fit” for Cerone to obtain his bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice after completing coursework at Westchester Community College, Cerone said. He was already employed by the Westchester County Sheriff’s Office at the time but was steady in his resolve to balance everything. “It was quite a busy time in my life, working fulltime and trying to keep up with the curriculum, but Mercy made it possible for me,” said Cerone.

Following his desire for a small community experience, the Navy veteran accepted a position as a police officer in Irvington in 1979. “I wanted to work with the people, and it’s a good place to live and a good place to raise your kids,” said Cerone. Inevitably, he says he fell in love with that community, just a stone’s throw from the Dobbs Ferry Campus where he had attended classes.

Cerone saw firsthand the importance of community relationships throughout his leadership of the Irvington Police Department. Drawing as far back as his Psychology courses at Mercy, he emphasizes that the most influential relationships in a community are most often with its youth. He cites collaboration with school districts as an integral component of law enforcement supporting the community. “That’s the key. We have to look to the needs of the youth because they’re our future leaders,” said Cerone.

Over his more than four decades of service, Cerone has seen many developments in all areas of his profession; in protocol, in technology and in communication. One thing Cerone says remains a constant though is the need for public trust in the work of their police department. Recently, national incidents like that which resulted in the death of George Floyd have strongly compromised that trust, said Cerone. “That was a horrific incident,” said Cerone. Going forward, he admits the path remains uphill in restoring public confidence. Yet, he has faith that the path forward will involve positive reforms. “It’s going to be a new horizon, a new way of doing things, and hopefully in the end that change will be positive,” said Cerone.

“You have to have a calling to do this job,” said Cerone. That calling is exactly what kept him grounded in a profession that often takes such a heavy toll. He looks back on his time serving Irvington citizens with immense gratitude. In retirement, he admits, “It’s a little like Groundhog Day where every day is Saturday,” he laughs. Though the days are much quieter, he still feels whatever he does going forward he will always remain invested in the community.