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Community Connection: David Schiralli
New police spokesman, a New Yorker, finds life cozy in Gwinnett

Officer David Schiralli isn't exactly pining for the famously inescapable snowdrifts of his native Buffalo, N.Y.

Although a hockey fanatic, Schiralli also fancies the January tee-times that Georgia allows. He likes his new job here, too.

In mid-December, Schiralli, 43, stepped in as Gwinnett County Police Department's second spokesperson. But the 10-year police veteran isn't totally green. Previously, he rubbed elbows with metro Atlanta media during his three-year stint on the crime prevention unit.

The avid traveler (he's been on vagabond trips to Italy, Hawaii and several spots in Mexico) read a newspaper ad about Gwinnett police a decade ago in Buffalo. At 33, he uprooted for Georgia and a new life in law enforcement.

Reporter Josh Green caught up with Schiralli in his sparsely decorated new office, where only an autographed Spider-Man photo colors the eggshell walls.

JG: Get back to Buffalo much?

DS: I get back about two to three times a year. I come from a large family. My mother still lives up there, and I have four other brothers and sisters up there.

JG: Quite a difference in climate, eh?

DS: Yeah, I can golf year around down here.

JG: That several feet of snow. I've seen it on the news.

DS: Buffalo in the snow was great if you kept yourself active. I did a lot of snow-skiing, snow-mobiling. We had a pond behind our house, where we ice-skated and played hockey. As you get older, you don't like the cold too much.

JG: Did you come from a family of law enforcement people?

DS: Nope. I'm the first one.

JG: Ground-breaker, huh?

DS: I'm a ground-breaker, yep. They liked (the career choice). They were very, very proud of me.

JG: What'd you do before this?

DS: I worked for Amtrak, in station services. Basically a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. I was pretty much on call with them on a territory from Niagara Falls to Syracuse.

JG: Sounds hectic.

DS: It was. One day you could work a day shift, the next you could be loading mail from the train at 11 o' clock at night. It was a great job. It gave me the chance to travel the United States. Any time I had the chance, I'd jump on the train. It'd take me wherever it stopped.

JG: Where are some cool places you ended up?

DS: Colorado, Boston, Chicago. I used to head down to see the Macy's Day Parade almost every year. Headed out to Vegas one year. It's just all the small towns - the larger towns are neat - but the smaller ones you pass by, that's where you see the culture.

JG: All free of charge?

DS: Yeah. Free rail pass.

JG: Let's start at the beginning. When did you realize you were interested in police work?

DS: I've been interested in police work since I was young.

JG: Ten years into your Georgia stint, you say you haven't regretted it a day. What keeps you complacent?

DS: Number one is the job. I love being a police officer. The county itself is fantastic. The police department is great. The weather. The friends I've made down here. It just all came together. Doing a job you really like is not really working.

JG: Does anybody give you a hard time about your Buffalo accent?

DS: Yeah, they do. But when I go home to Buffalo they hear a little bit of a Southern accent.

JG: So you get it on both ends?

DS: Back home, when I say 'Y'all', they kid me about that. Fortunately, there are a lot of transplants here in Gwinnett County, a lot of people from the Northeast that work for the department.

JG: Other than golf, what keeps you busy outside work?

DS: Remodeling my house. I do a lot of work myself on the inside.

JG: Handyman, huh?

DS: I try to be. It keeps me out of trouble.

JG: Almost a month into the job, other than people like myself badgering you at all hours, how are things going?

DS: They're going great. It's a whole new avenue of police work. I'm learning as I go along, and so far I think it's a great job.

JG: Being that most of what you deal with is bad news, does it ever kind of bring you down?

DS: For the most part I'm used to it, unless it's really tragic. When anybody in this department gets hurt in the line of duty, it brings you down. Also, when children are involved in crimes. I try not to get down. I have to leave my work life at work.

JG: You a Buffalo Bills fan?

DS: Big Bills fan, bigger (Buffalo) Sabres fan.

JG: So you haven't adopted the Falcons yet?

DS: Well, I watch them. But I've actually grown to more of a Gladiators fan. I love watching the Gladiators play - just a great outlet to get out and watch them.

JG: Do you get into any of these reality TV cop shows?

DS: No, I can't say that I have.

JG: That's probably part of leaving work at work.

DS: Basically, that's what it is. Unless it's like a "CSI" show, just for the pure entertainment. As an officer, when you watch cop shows, you try to pick out all the things people are doing wrong. (Mockingly) Oh, you wouldn't hold a gun that way, or you wouldn't walk in a room that way.

JG: There's a fascinating show on A&E called "The First 48."

DS: I've heard about that. Isn't that where they follow homicide units? I'll watch that. That's real-life stuff. I like to see how those departments work it. Mainly, I watch a lot of the History Channel. You know, I'm a science buff. I like the Science Network, things of that nature.

JG: Where'd you go in Italy?

DS: Rome, Venice, Florence, Pisa. I plan on going back in the next couple years. My grandfather was actually born in southern Italy.

JG: So did he then cross the pond to Buffalo?

DS: He crossed the pond to a little place in western New York called Bolivar. It's an oil town. He worked in the oil fields there, and he also had a huge farm he built up with his hands. He had cattle, sheep, chickens, a huge garden, cornfields, hayfields. It was an experience growing up, having fun on the farm.

JG: Sounds like he made the most out of America.

DS: Absolutely.

JG: What would he say, seeing his grandson behind the badge, doing what he likes to do?

DS: It think he'd be very, very proud. There's no other Schiralli that's in law enforcement. He was always a no-nonsense, hard-working person, just like my father. I try to live up to their standards and expectations.

JG: Is there anything you do that's distinctly Italian?

DS: Yeah - I make spaghetti sauce from scratch (laughs). It's my grandmother's recipe. People who've had it say it's very, very good.