Vaccarella is new chief deputy

Published 5:43 pm Friday, January 18, 2008

Frank Vaccarella has 25 years of experience and numerous resources upon which he can draw in his new role as Chief Deputy with the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Department.

Vaccarella retired from the New Orleans Police Department after 25 years and 12 days of service. He worked his way through the ranks, beginning as a grade one officer and gradually working up to sergeant before retiring as a lieutenant.

During his time as a uniformed officer, Vaccarella served as a criminal investigator with the New Orleans District Attorney, a detective investigating burglaries, a task force officer for street crimes such as drugs and hunting down wanted criminals, and as a SWAT team member.

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While on the SWAT team in the late 1980’s, Vaccarella was chosen as a counter-sniper and assault team member and as a plain clothes security officer during the visit of Pope John Paul II. He also served as a plain clothes officer on the security team for then-presidential nominee George H.W. Bush in 1988, before being moved to perform security alongside the Secret Service for Dan Quayle later that year.

Vaccarella says he believes one of his greatest achievements was when he served as the French Quarter Commander for the 2003 Mardi Gras season. He coordinated and managed the on-foot patrol officers, traffic checkpoints, mounted personnel, all air operations associated with helicopter patrols and all associations with the Louisiana Highway Patrol. He also assisted in coordinating the government controlled response with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Secret Service in the event of a terrorist attack. He also coordinated media relations with the C.O.P.S television show, as well as the Learning Channel and the Discovery Channel, and was featured on a 2003 episode of C.O.P.S.

Of his experience with the N.O.P.D., Vaccarella says, “There was never a dull moment. It was truly an adventure. I felt like if I did not go to work, I would miss something… We relied on each other. They were a strong, committed group of men and women. We went through the good, bad and the worst of times.”

One of the worst times, Vaccarella said, was during and after Hurricane Katrina, when he served as the night watch commander over the Katrina division.

“It was total chaos. There was a total lapse of communication… We worked every area of the city, enforcing curfew, working with outside agencies, recovering bodies and deterring looters. It was a very trying time, with a lot of physical and mental stress. You saw the best and the worst in people… It was the closest you could ever come to urban warfare in the U.S. You had to be on full alert at all times,” he said.

Vaccarella acknowledges that there is a difference between being a police officer in the city of New Orleans and being a deputy in Pearl River County, but says he feels his experience has equipped him with the tools he needs to do the job he has undertaken.

“I want to put my experience to use in a positive way in this county… My biggest priority is to make sure the entire department understands our mission, and then set goals and benchmarks to achieve that mission…. We want to take the department to the next level. These men and women today are leaders of the future,” he said.

Vaccarella said he thinks one key to being successful is to make sure communities are safe and secure, which in turn invites industry and people to that area.

“If criminals feel like a neighborhood is being neglected, they feel like no one will see them when they commit a crime,” he said.

Vaccarella also says it is key to remember that as a police officer, he is in the business of customer service and citizens depend on him to be treated as such. He stresses the importance of good relationships between the department and the citizens, saying that the support of the citizens will yield the “highest quality of production possible.”

Sheriff David Allison says Vaccarella will be an asset to the department, and commends him for his Christian values.

“We’re excited to have him on board. He brings Christian values to the table, and we are trying to build a Christian base of leadership here. He also brings a ton of experience, as well as a lot of energy to the department. I feel like he will be a huge asset, and look forward to working with him,” Allison said.