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Cheektowaga Police chief dies suddenly at age 55

A black and white bust shot of Cheektowaga Police Chief Michael Sliwinski in uniform with an American flag to his left
Cheektowaga Police Department
Cheektowaga Police Chief Michael Sliwinski was a 30-year veteran of the force.

Cheektowaga Police officers are grappling with the sudden death of Chief Michael Sliwinski.

Just last week, the 30-year veteran of the department had made sure the memorial stones in front of Police Headquarters and a statue of an officer with a small boy were just right. Now they are flanked by flags at half-staff in memory of the chief himself.

"He was so proud to get that finished last week," said Assistant Chief Brian Gould Monday. "There's a monument to our K9. There's a monument to our fallen officers. There's a bronze statue of a police officer and a young child, that he made sure got done, got out there."

Inside the department is now a museum, also pushed by Sliwinski, who died Saturday of an apparent hear attack at age 55. He became chief in January of last year, after working his way up from a rookie officer in 1991.

"One of the things we have always stressed, and we will definitely stress it over the next couple days, is officer wellness," Gould said. "Police officers deal with tough stuff. We see the stuff people shouldn't have to see. We've done the death notifications, but it means a little bit more when it's someone you know, someone you work with every day, and we are making sure that we are keeping an eye on each other, offering each other support."

A head shot of Cheektowaga Police Chief Michael Sliwinski, wearing black glasses, in a dark blue shirt in front of multicolored background
Michael J. Sliwinski Funeral Home
Cheektowaga Police Chief Michael Sliwinski will be buried Thursday at St. Stanislaus Cemetery in Cheektowaga.

Speaking to reporters, Gould said his boss was everywhere in the town, everywhere in the department and even making sure feral cats were rescued and taken care of, like his own two cats.

"He's got a big smile on his face in all the pictures," Gould said. "He cared about the men and women in this police department. We were his family. He had a very small family, but to us, he had a very large family. He would always be here, making sure that everything was going well. If a call happened overnight, he didn't need the captain to call him in the morning and let him know because he heard it."

There will be a wake for Sliwinski Tuesday and Wednesday at his family's funeral home, where the chief also worked. A Mass of Christian Burial will be Thursday at St. Louis Roman Catholic Church in downtown Buffalo, with burial in St. Stanislaus Cemetery in Cheektowaga.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.