Colonel Steven G. O’Donnell of the Rhode Island State Police and Commissioner of Public Safety announced that David M. DeCesare of Johnston has been appointed as the new Chief of the Rhode Island Division of Sheriffs.
DeCesare, who is a 24-year veteran of the Johnston Police, its current deputy chief since 2009 and emergency manager for the town has also served as interim director of the Johnston Fire Department.
“I may be leaving this job, but no way am I leaving Johnston,” DeCesare said in his office Tuesday. “I coach sports for the town and St. Rocco’s, and I will continue to take an active interest in the police and help them in any way I can.”
DeCesare has received numerous commendations and letters of recognition throughout his career, including the Medal of Valor, which is the highest award bestowed on a Johnston Police Officer for bravery, and the Rhode Island American Legion Medal of Valor. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in administration of justice from Roger Williams University, where he graduated summa cum laude in 2002. He is also a graduate of the prestigious FBI National Academy.
But his most prized moment in his career was when his late mother said she was proud of him.
“My mother was adamantly against me becoming a police officer,” he said. “She was afraid I’d get hurt and that she’d worry about me all the time.”
He said he felt bad about going against her wishes, but he just knew he was meant to be a cop.
“Eventually, she began telling people how proud she was of the kind of police officer and the person I had become. Her absence now is felt and missed every time I achieve anything.”
DeCesare said he had difficulty recalling specific, defining moments in his career but could not forget one or two.
“There was the time when a guy ran into headquarters and said his wife was having a baby right then, in the passenger seat of their car,” said DeCesare. “It was around 3 a.m. and her husband was on his way to the hospital from Scituate when his wife told him they weren’t gonna make it. It was her second child, so she knew. So I delivered the baby, right in the passenger seat.”
A different type of anxiety swept over DeCesare in 1992, when he was confronted with two men attempting to flee a robbery.
“One of them was armed, and that was the only time I discharged my weapon,” he recalled. “Many officers are lucky enough to retire without ever having to fire their weapon, but I had to.”
Fortunately for DeCesare and the suspect, the wound was to the robber’s leg.
“I do recall that it was then that all the training I relied on and all the preparation came out and I was very grateful for it.”
So was the town. He got a Medal of Valor for the incident.
His new job may not offer as much adventure, but it will challenge the management skills he has developed working his way up through the department. As Chief Sheriff, Deputy Chief DeCesare “will be responsible for the daily operation, policy implementation and direction of the sheriffs, involving the custody, safety, discipline and well being of prisoners and defendants while being transported to and from the courts and other facilities, and to effect a comprehensive program of judicial security in the courts and other buildings.”
The Division of State Sheriffs has approximately 175 employees.
“I am proud to have selected such a distinguished member of the law enforcement community for this important position,” O’Donnell said. “We interviewed dozens of very qualified law enforcement professionals for this position and worked with the rank and file to fulfill my commitment to make the Sheriffs a priority. David will be a strong addition to our State Division of Public Safety.”
DeCesare said he does not in any way consider his new job an abandonment of police work as he has known it. He said he’s at the top of his game and he will continue to be cop, no matter where he goes.
“It’s inside you,” he said. “From a dispatcher up to the chief of police, if you don’t have that attitude, if you don’t have that DNA in you, you’re not cut out for it.”