LORAIN, Ohio — Former Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera had served at the department for nearly 50 years before retiring in 2019. Now, the department mourns his loss after Rivera died from a heart attack Wednesday night—but are already making sure his legacy lives on.
Rivera knew his calling was to make his community a better place from a very young age. His past served as inspiration for his future.
"He wasn't just a police chief, but he was a community leader. And he was very, very concerned about helping our youth because his background was being actually an orphan," said Lorain Mayor Jack Bradley. "He had it really tough as a young man, and he left high school, joined the Marines, went to Vietnam, served our country and then came back here and served the city of Lorain as our police chief for many many years."
Spending nearly 50 years as an officer in Lorain, Rivera climbed the ladder and in 1995 was named chief where he served for the next 25 years.
"I always knew him to be a very fair person and a gentleman. And he was well respected in our community. And he gave back so much to our community," Bradley said. "He gave of himself and he gave back to the community. And he was always there for any cause or anything that was happening in the city of Lorain. He could be called on and depended upon, and we're going to miss that."
Over the past few months, Rivera had been dealing with other health concerns but made sure in that time to be active in his community.
"Even after he left, so many of us who worked with him and for him would reach out to him for advice or guidance or even just a professional opinion because he's probably forgotten more than most of us will ever know about policing," said Lt. Jacob Morris. "He never lost that commitment to the community and the ability to pass that down to the rank and file so that we can accomplish the mission as best as we could."
Police raved about the kind of officer and chief Rivera was, boasting about his ability to connect with the community he spent his whole life in. That remained true even after his retirement.
"Cel and I had a meeting with each other scheduled for Monday, because he's been working on a memorial for Hispanic veterans in our city, and he wanted to come in and talk to me again, about that memorial," Bradley said. "I have Rick Soto, my chief of staff, who is also working on that, Ray Carrion, who is our sixth Ward councilman—they will continue to work on that. And it will probably be named the Cel Rivera Memorial for Veterans because again, he served our country in Vietnam and he is an institution in our city."
Meanwhile, flags at the department and City Hall have been lowered to half-staff in Rivera's honor.
"Everyone I've talked to is just so devastated by his loss, and they know what he meant to our community," Bradley said. "Our flags are flying in half-staff in honor of Cel Rivera because he deserves this honor."
And while Rivera's legacy is set to be honored in lowered flags and future memorials, it will also live on through the many officers he helped shape over the years.
"He didn't recognize that there was a blue line or a gray line or any kind of lines between anything. He recognized it as Lorain," Morris said. "His legacy will live on through the officers that he's impressed upon. And honestly, that's going to last for a long, long time."
The Lorain Police Department issued the following statement on Rivera's passing, delivered by Captain AJ Mathewson:
We're all very saddened to hear about the passing of Chief Rivera. He meant a great deal to the men and women that worked here at Lorain police. He was always a very caring person. He believed in his people, he believed in the people of the city. Any success we have had since he's left, and in the future, has a great deal to do with how he brought all of us up, from our chief down to every officer that worked with him. His compassion, his dedication, is unrivaled. He truly believed in the blue and gray and he's going to be sorely missed by all of us. Just a tragic loss for the Lorain Police family.
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