Therese Rocco, first female assistant chief of Pittsburgh police, dies at 97

PITTSBURGH — The first female assistant police chief in Pittsburgh has died.

Therese Rocco died Monday at the age of 97, her family announced early Tuesday morning.

Rocco had an over 40-year career in law enforcement in Pittsburgh, eventually becoming the first female assistant police chief in the city and the country under Mayor Sophie Masloff in 1989.

Her family says she made an impact on thousands of families during her time in law enforcement, partially because of where her career began. Her time with Pittsburgh police began in 1949 as a clerk for the Missing Persons Unit. She was later promoted to Captain, taking charge of the department, and her family credits her with locating thousands of missing people and reuniting them with their families. One of the high-profile cases she worked on was Mary Ann Verdecchia.

The highlights from her career don’t end there. Her family calls out contributions to the F.B.I Law Enforcement Bulletin, a 1987 Feature in Newsweek magazine and solving a cold case in 2018 while retired. In 2009, the bureau dedicated a conference room in her name.

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In 2017, Rocco released a memoir with personal stories and exciting cases. In 2019, a documentary titled “The Rock” debuted at Heinz History Center.

Channel 11′s Rick Earle spoke with Rocco in early 2021, and she told him she didn’t set out to become a police officer, but she was good at her job and felt it was her calling.

Pittsburgh Police Chief Larry Scirotto in a statement said the department owes Rocco a debt of gratitude.

“With her courage and tenaciousness, Therese Rocco blazed a trail not only for women, but for all those who may have once believed a career in law enforcement was out of reach for them. We owe her a debt of gratitude for helping lead the way,” Scirotto said.

Allegheny County Sheriff Kevin Kraus also released a statement on the passing of Rocco:

“Like many others, I consider it a privilege to have served alongside Therese. Her work ethic, attention to detail and dedication to using her position to help those in need are qualities we should all strive to emulate. Her family, friends and colleagues can take pride knowing that her ongoing legacy will be the path she laid down for all women who aspire to be law enforcement officers and leaders in their field.”

Funeral arrangements for Rocco will be announced at a later date.

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