-VIERA LIVING EAST EDITION, MARCH 2023. BY SUE DEWERFF PANZARINO. PHOTOS BY NERISSA JOHNSON, LADYBLUE PHOTOGRAPHY, LLC.-
Indian River Colony Club residents, Robert and Catherine McNeilly celebrated their 31st wedding anniversary on Valentine’s Day last month.
The couple, both career law enforcement officers, first met back in 1987.
They were both promoted to the rank of lieutenant within the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police on 10/9/87.
“My wife, Cathy, was actually the first woman to be promoted to the rank of lieutenant,” said Robert. They each served in various assignments as lieutenants.
Their professional and personal lives didn’t come together until Robert was promoted to the rank of commander in 1990.
“We ended up working together on the night shift that year,” said Robert. “I oversaw city police operations on the night shift and Cathy was in charge of recruit officers and their field training officers on that shift.”
Though their time together was limited for the following two years, as their schedules varied, their friendship led to dating.
Fast forward, Catherine’s brother, a catholic priest, ended up presiding while they tied the knot to a full church at St. Peters, in the North Side of Pittsburgh just two years later on February 14, 1992.
The McNeilly’s remember five priests celebrating the Mass during their wedding ceremony. According to Robert, the majority of guests were family and colleagues from the Pittsburgh Police, including the chief of police.
After high school, Robert attended Thiel College, in Greenville, PA, before enlisting in the United States Marine Corps. After discharge from the Marine Corps, he earned a BA in Psychology from Duquesne University and later studied Public Policy Management at the University of Pittsburgh.
Catherine’s accolades include earning her BA in criminology and her master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Pittsburgh. She set records with the Pittsburgh Police, as she was the first woman to command a patrol district, and the first woman to lead the Special Operations Division in the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, which included Traffic, SWAT, Bomb Disposal, and Mounted Patrol entities.
She served as a commander with the Pittsburgh Police from 1992 to 2015 before her retirement after 36 years of policing.
After 29 years with the Pittsburgh Police, where he served as the chief of police from 1996 to 2006, Robert spent the following eight years working in a suburban department 20 miles south of Pittsburgh.
During his time as chief of police in Pittsburgh, he led the department through the country’s first “pattern or practice” consent decree with the United States Department of Justice from 1997 through 2022.
After their retirement, the couple began looking for a home where the weather was warmer.
“I initially had thought about retiring to North Carolina. Cathy favored Florida since we had vacationed in Florida and sailed out of Florida’s ports. Cathy discovered IRCC, a community where residents are primarily military veterans, via internet searches. Since I had spent 2 years in the Marine Corps and 23 years in the Coast Guard Reserve, we agreed that this would be the perfect place for us.”
They moved to the Viera East IRCC neighborhood in 2016.
“In 2006, Cathy formed our consulting company, The McNeilly Group. We are both now working as consultants with municipalities on a wide variety of police matters; from custodial interrogations, photographic lineups, supervision, early intervention systems, performance evaluations and citizen complaint investigations.” said Robert. The majority of their consulting work over the past ten years has been with the New Orleans Police Department who are working through their own “pattern or practice” consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice.
“We feel that by consulting, we can help improve policing in more departments.” He said through his experience, while rising through the ranks in the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, revealed there were many inadequacies within departments.
“In an effort to relate my experiences and provide guidance for law enforcement agencies and the public they serve, I wrote a book entitled ‘The Blue Continuum; A Police Chief’s Perspective on What’s Wrong with Policing Today and How to fix it.’”
Robert currently is a member of the IRCC Board of Directors. Cathy previously volunteered at the Veterans Administration in Viera and has been a member of several committees in the IRCC community.
“We together raised my two children from my previous marriage, my daughter Anne, now 43, and my son Rob, 41.”
They have five grandchildren, their daughter’s two children, a 12-year-old grandson, Brayden, who is a soccer player, and a nine-year-old granddaughter, Brooklyn, who participates in a dance company, and their son’s three grandchildren, 19-year-old, Robby, and twin thirteen-year-old girls, Brittney and Brenna.
Robert enjoys weight training and Tae Kwon Do, and Cathy loves to practice yoga and ride her bicycle.
They now are parents to a five-year-old Pomeranian named Toby, and young Mi-Ki puppy named Ty. They have had many rescue dogs, and support Animal Rescue initiatives.
“The Indian River Colony Club neighborhood and community has so much to offer; we love living here and enjoy socializing with the neighbors and attending all the special events. We are thankful to have found such a great community where we can spend our retirement.”
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