Connecticut U.S. Attorney's Office Celebrates Community Policing Awards
To commemorate National Community Policing Week, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut hosted a Community Policing Awards Ceremony this afternoon in New Haven that recognized 22 law enforcement officers and community members from cities and towns across the state.
“At heart, Community Policing is a philosophy that each of us, members of law enforcement and communities alike, have a stake in keeping our cities and towns safe and secure places to live,” said U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly. “During National Community Policing Week, we celebrate our commitment to supporting the practice of community policing. Police can never solve public safety problems alone. We encourage active community collaboration to improve safety, build public trust and deepen understanding between police and the communities they serve. The officers and community members recognized today are excellent examples of the best in community policing and community relations. I am confident that their efforts are making meaningful and lasting progress, and it is my great privilege to honor each of them and to thank them for their invaluable work.”
Below is a list of the award winners and the nominations that were submitted on their behalf.
The United States Attorney’s Office is charged with enforcing federal criminal laws in Connecticut, and with representing the federal government in civil litigation in the District. The District is composed of approximately 64 Assistant U.S. Attorneys and approximately 60 staff members at offices in New Haven, Hartford and Bridgeport.
Beacon Falls Police Department
Officer Caroline O’Bar
Officer Caroline O’Bar is a 16-year member of the Beacon Falls Police Department who goes beyond the call of duty. Officer O’Bar networks with businesses and service organizations in town in order to provide for those families in need.
Officer O’Bar currently collects food at Thanksgiving, Easter baskets at Easter, backpacks for children going to school and runs a toy drive at Christmas. In addition, she helps Veterans and their families with their most immediate needs, O’Bar’s first priority is to make sure that everyone is fed and that children have something to open on Christmas.
In the past several years, Officer O’Bar’s hard work and dedication in the Town of Beacon Falls has changed lives for the better.
Officer O’Bar is always exploring new ways to protect and enhance the lives of those who are most vulnerable--juveniles, the elderly, minorities, the poor, and the disabled.
Bristol Police Department
Officer Jace Deluca
Officer Jace Deluca began his law enforcement career with the Bristol Police Department in 2008. In the 8 years since he was hired, he has immersed himself into several community events. Officer Deluca is assigned to the night shift. He devotes his days (while most other night shift officers are sleeping) to volunteering to put together community policing programs in the City of Bristol.
Officer Deluca is a volunteer advisor to the Bristol Police Explorers Program, a youth program that exposes those under 18 to the law enforcement profession. He has also organized “Cop on Top,” a weekend fundraising event that benefits the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Lastly, Officer Deluca is the Bristol liaison to the Special Olympics and as such has organized the Torch Run, Tip a Cop and Car Shows. These events raise money for the Special Olympics and educate the public about the good work of the organization.
Officer DeLuca is a credit to the Bristol Police Department. While on duty he is the true professional. What makes him special is that he takes professionalism a few steps further while he is off duty. Though you won't hear it from him, he truly believes in giving back to the Community he serves. Officer DeLuca is extremely humble. When you praise or acknowledge his performance, he will routinely respond that he doesn't deserve any credit. That the credit goes to the people around him and the Bristol Police Department. That the credit goes to the “kids,” usually referring to the Bristol Police Explorers, because they are the ones doing the “work.” Officer DeLuca has a remarkable way of bringing people together to do good things on and off the job. It’s his actions that speak for him. Officer DeLuca is an exemplary Police Officer and the Bristol Police Department is proud to have him among the rank and file. He and like-minded Officers are projecting us towards excellence and for that we thank him.
Connecticut State Police
Trooper First Class Stephen Pickett
Killingly Resident Trooper
The Connecticut State Police is not your ordinary state police force in that there are approximately 68 towns throughout the state which have no organized municipal law enforcement agency to provide police services; as a result, Connecticut State Troopers are responsible for providing all police services in these jurisdictions. One such jurisdiction is the Town of Killingly which has approximately 16,400 residents and is approximately 358 square miles in size.
Trooper First Class Stephen Pickett is the Killingly Resident State Trooper and has held that position since January of 1997. As a Resident Trooper, the equivalent of a Community Policing Officer, TFC Pickett is heavily vested in the quality of life for all Killingly Residents, has established a respectful rapport with all residents to include habitual criminal offenders, has immersed himself in the day to day happenings from the seemingly inconsequential to the significant, all while fostering a strong relationship with town officials, business owners and the community at large.
TFC Pickett is an individual who carries himself as a consummate professional, day in and day out, routinely outperforming his/her peers and quietly/humbly leading by example, ultimately having an indelibly positive impact on the community he serves. Throughout his almost 22-year tenure assigned to serve the Killingly Community, he has responded to almost 25,000 calls for service and investigated approximately 1800 criminal incidents. And today, just like his first day in uniform on January 23, 1992, he is proactive, enthusiastic, energetic, tenacious, “spit and polished,” physically fit and a role-model which all law enforcement officers should strive to emulate.
Coventry Police Department
Sergeant Michael McDonagh
Sergeant Michael McDonagh has been a member of the Coventry Police Department for 27 years and is the senior member of the agency. He is assigned as a patrol sergeant. Sergeant McDonagh has been an integral part of the community his entire career. He knows thousands of people in the community and uses his knowledge as both an investigator and a problem-solver. Everyone in our town either knows Sergeant McDonagh, or knows of him. He is active on his off-duty time in many community activities including high school sports. Sgt. McDonagh regularly works at the high school football games. He often goes into the grandstands with the band members and will play various instruments to the amusement of the students and the attendees. The high school band even has a song they dedicate to Sgt. McDonagh at each game.
Sergeant McDonagh maintains close ties with the Coventry School District and regularly communicates with the administration, principals, teachers and students. On a regular basis, he goes into each school and has lunch with the students. He has a special connection with members of the community, especially children and has a great sense of humor which often puts people at ease.
As a strong advocate of our agency and community policing, Sergeant McDonagh’s email signature includes: “Citizens never forget their experiences with Police Officers. You represent not only yourself, but the entire department and the community.”
Farmington Police Department
Officer Joseph P. Capodiferro
Officer Capodiferro recently retired after 26 years of service to the Town of Farmington. He is a 3rd generation Farmington Police Officer and has remained with the Department as a Supernumerary Officer.
We hear so much today about the need to embrace community policing as a department wide philosophy in order to repair relationships with our citizens. At Farmington PD we have lived that philosophy for decades. It’s engrained in who we are as an agency and are proud of the close relationship we have with our community. Officer Capodiferro has been an integral part of developing that relationship; I can comfortably say that he exemplifies the face of community policing in Farmington. Officer Capodiferro truly understands how important it is to be up close and personal with the community he serves.
Officer Capodiferro’s personality, demeanor, and commitment to Farmington made him the perfect choice when we were looking to reintroduce our K-9 program that had been active for decades. It was a position where he truly perfected his community policing skills, carving out his legacy at Farmington PD. We knew we wanted someone who could seamlessly integrate a K-9 into our community. We wanted a dog that could perform all the typical police K-9 functions, yet be social enough to promote a positive feeling among our residents, especially the children, the elderly, and special needs individuals. Some handlers and trainers said it couldn’t or shouldn’t be done, but Officer Capodiferro took on the challenge and excelled. Side by side with his partner Drak, they spent years as a team, building strong bonds between the police department and the community.
Hartford Police Department
Lieutenant Michael Cacioli
Lieutenant Gabriel Laureano
Hartford Police Department Lieutenants Gabriel Laureano and Michael Cacioli are longtime members of the Department who continually strive to improve police and community relations. These individuals bear policing responsibility for uniformed patrol and community service efforts in North & South Hartford and, as such, have dedicated themselves to public service, outreach and a commitment to making the City a safer place. Although constantly on call with 24/7 area responsibility, Lieutenants Laureano & Cacioli have embraced their positions and do so at the sacrifice of their personal and family lives. They have formulated and maintained relationships with the faith based community, neighborhood leaders and organizers, business groups, youth groups and peacebuilding groups. Over the course of time, those relationships and the continual dialogue with those groups have decreased the potential for street level violence and anti-police sentiment and have increased the potential for better, constructive and goal oriented cooperation with the police.
Lieutenants Laureano and Cacioli constantly spearhead and oversee initiatives to combat gun and drug related violence, improve neighborhood quality of life and positively interact with area schools. They keep their fingers on the pulse of neighborhood activity, do so with zeal and enthusiasm and continually motivate their personnel to embrace the tenets of professionalism and effective public service. Their ongoing efforts continue to bring noticeable reductions in crime as well as improvements in neighborhood quality of life.
Ledyard Police Department
Officer Rick McSwain
Officer Rick McSwain serves as Ledyard Police Department’s Youth Officer and School Resource Officer. He is a great example of how effective one officer can be in a community while interacting with its youth.
Officer McSwain often can be found helping students and staff in Ledyard’s Public Schools. He has developed tremendous ties and relationships within the school community. He makes safety presentations, eats lunch with students in the schools, and is a 24/7 resource for Ledyard’s youth and families.
In addition to his school based interactions, Rick gives tours of our police department to community groups, scouts, and other youth groups. He is involved with Ledyard’s “Stuff a Cruiser” toy drive in the holiday season. He has been invited to throw out the first pitch on opening day of little league, heads up our participation in Ledyard Children’s Day, and serves on the Ledyard Schools Crisis Team.
He makes appearances without compensation at Ledyard Lions Club meetings, and in June, he was invited to speak at the American Legion Boys’ State Leadership Program at Eastern Connecticut State University. He is also a member of Ledyard’s newly formed Juvenile Review Board for court diversion.
Middletown Police Department
Sergeant Michael Lukanik
In October of 2015, the north end of the city experienced a significant increase in violent crime. Sgt. Michael Lukanik was tasked with the assignment of addressing this problem. Sgt. Lukanik conducted an initial threat assessment. The main issues were stemming from a specific one block area known as Wharfside Commons (90+ unit housing complex). Sgt. Lukanik began by meeting with the citizens, NEAT (North End Action Team) and the management team of Wharfside Commons. He identified problematic areas and people. Sgt. Lukanik was critical in implementing directed patrols, adding cameras and fencing in areas of concern, and evicting problematic tenants. He continually meets with the citizens, NEAT and housing management on a monthly basis. He has assigned Police personal to attend meetings, established long term beats and personally monitored his strategy. Sgt. Lukanik deployed a community policing approach in which he encourages citizen partnership, community policing through environmental design and officer involvement. Since the inception of Sgt. Lukanik’s many contributions, violent crime in this area decreased significantly.
Sgt. Michael Lukanik’s passion for his work has resonated throughout the community and made the north end of Middletown a safer and better place to live. Further, his efforts have expanded beyond the north end and are being used as an example for other areas of the City of Middletown.
New Haven Police Department
Officer Elsa Berrios
Elsa Berrios is a 21-year veteran of the New Haven Police Department. Recently, she “adopted” an 80 year-old Veteran who suffers with mental health challenges. She made regular visits with his clinician and was instrumental in getting him into the VA for treatment and later into the Mary Wade Home where he resides today. Before Officer Berrios intervened, the Veteran had no family support, and was living in squalor in a third floor apartment where he had to crawl up the stairs each day after going to Tip Top Deli for food. The toilet and shower were not in working order and he had holes in his shoes and clothing. He was often taunted by kids on the street and sometimes pushed to the ground.
Due to his mental illness, he was afraid of people and would not accept any food or clothing except from the owner of Tip Top. Once the veteran became familiar with Elsa, who made regular visits to the VA and now the Mary Wade Home, he looks for her to visit. Elsa has purchased much needed items for him, without Elsa, the Veteran would not have any visitors or the “comforts” of home.
There are many families in the Hill that Elsa has helped including one on Asylum St. After meeting the mother, she discovered that her children were lacking in bedding and other essentials. She contacted the Police Academy and recruited the cadets to help this family and provide them with much needed items.
Many kids in the Church Street South Housing Complex have hats and mittens due to Elsa’s kindness. She is always the first to volunteer to help out needy families, especially at the holidays.
Elsa is always, and continues to be, a “go to person” for any resident, officer or supervisor.
Norwalk Police Department
Lieutenant Terrence Blake
Sergeant Sophia Gulino
Officer Felipe Taborda
Beginning in January 2016, the Norwalk Police Department (NPD) partnered with Pathways, an alternative high school to create a curriculum to educate its students about policing in a fun and positive manner. The inaugural class was offered as a semester-long elective for 11 students that met for a weekly 2½ hour seminar. The class is taught entirely by members of the NPD, and is principally led by Lieutenant Terrence Blake, Sergeant Sophia Gulino, and Office Felipe Taborda. Scholastically, the program provides the students with insight into law enforcement as a career. More importantly, the program seeks to bridge a gap between the police and younger members of the community, many of whom did not previously hold a positive opinion of law enforcement.
Over the course of the 17-week program, the students have participated in police officer training through academic and practical offerings. For example, the students spent three weeks learning about different roles within the NPD by investigating a mock homicide. This scenario–a domestic violence homicide–was also used as an opportunity to discuss family violence, which is a pervasive issue in many of the kids’ homes.
The NPD team also arranged for the students to meet with key participants in the justice system, including a state’s attorney, a public defender, police chiefs, a Superior Court Judge, and a U.S. District Judge. All of these individuals met with the students in informal settings to discuss the educational and career choices they had made and the hardships they overcame along the way.
The sincere commitment by the NPD to connect with its city’s youth in such a constructive and innovative manner has been an inspiration to all. The program is built on hard work, trust and understanding, and enhanced by healthy doses of laughter and fun. With these critical cornerstones securely in place, the officers and students have begun to tackle the heady and all too often polarizing issue of car stops–but this time in an atmosphere of respect.
Norwalk Police Department
Officer Cesar Ramirez
On August 3, 2016, in the wake of officer-involved shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota and the subsequent murders of five police officers in Dallas, the Norwalk Department of Police Service sought to find ways to ease tensions and to promote unity between the community and law enforcement. To that end, Police Officer Cesar Ramirez, a Norwalk resident who has also been a member of the Norwalk Police Department for over 25 years, planned an Interfaith Prayer Vigil.
On the day of the vigil, more than 200 people gathered on the courtyard in front of the police department. The widely diverse crowd joined hands, prayed, and sang together in a great show of solidarity. Representatives from twenty of Norwalk’s faith-based institutions spoke and prayed in English, Spanish, Italian, French, Creole, Hindi, and Hebrew. The event not only fostered a positive dialogue between law enforcement and the community, but also joined together different segments of the community who displayed a great respect for one another’s cultures and beliefs.
Norwich Police Department
Officer Christopher Chastang
Officer Chastang has been a member of the Norwich Police Departments’ Community Policing Unit since its start in 2011.
Officer Chastang engages with a broad spectrum of community members and helps to create a sustainable atmosphere in which the citizens of Norwich can work, play, and raise families. Officer Chastang’s comprehensive approach includes the community in which he serves, and together they focus on the root of problems. He builds partnerships in which officers and citizens are the “problem solvers.” Officer Chastang’s work has been creative and empowering — and as a result has resonated throughout the Norwich Police Department and the City of Norwich. Through his efforts, Norwich Police Department has become a proactive and highly collaborative department.
Officer Chastang has volunteered as a Police Athletic League (P.A.L.) basketball coach and spent his off duty hours away from his family to coach 5-6-year-old Norwich children in the fundamentals of team support, friendships, good sportsmanship, and athletic abilities.
Officer Chastang has spearheaded the National Night Out Event in the City of Norwich for approximately three years. Some of his duties were to plan the entire event, raise donations from local businesses, coordinate the efforts of the vendors, and evaluating each years’ events. The 2016 NNO event was a huge success which brought in over 3,000 citizens which is a direct result of his efforts.
Officer Chastang attends monthly Neighborhood watch meetings and assists those citizens solve problems within their area. He has repeatedly recognized by The St Vincent DePaul “Soup Kitchen” for assisting citizens in need.
Town of Southington
Smokin With Chris
Chris Conlon, a former West Hartford and Southington Fireman continually gives back to his community. Having worked as a career first responder, he knew he wanted to thank those who protect and serve his community. While he had been thinking about putting on such an event for four years, he knew now was the time to act. On August 29, 2016, Chris Conlon, the owner of Smokin with Chris Restaurant in Southington, held a First Responder Appreciation Night. In an effort to accommodate all shifts of personnel, this event was held throughout the day from 2:00 pm through 8:00 pm. Smokin with Chris provided free food and drink to Southington Police, Fire and EMS personnel and their families. Even his employees volunteered to work on their day off to support local first responders. Overall, Chris served meals to 200 first responders and family members at the event that brought together community and first responders in a genuine show of appreciation.
This is not the first time Chris Conlon has been honored for his community service. In March of 2015 he was awarded the Southington Stars Community Service Award by the United Way of Southington for continually donating food from his restaurant to support local organizations like the Southington Chamber of Commerce, Southington High School Marching Band, the United Way and many others. During that award ceremony, Conlon stated “I’m humbled because there are so many people that do so much more than I do,” said Conlon. “One grain of sand does not make the beach nor does one tree make a forest, but together we are a community, and this is what it’s about.”
Stamford Police Department & Domus Kids, Inc.
Sergeant Joe Kennedy
The Stamford Police Department has had successful community outreach programs with longevity that improve each year such as our School Resource Officer Camp(co-ed), Mighty Mite basketball(co-ed), Domestic Home Visitation, and a host of others but the girls deserved and needed their own program.
The Stamford Police Department therefore partnered with Domus Kids, Inc. — together they have had a long history of collaborating on many youth initiatives. The Young Girls Leadership program unites middle school aged girls from Domus Chester Addison Community Center with female police officers. The core principal of the program is to promote positive youth/police relationships by promoting positive youth development by enhancing life skills competencies. It seeks to build trust and mutual respect between the youth and officers. The program includes activities designed to increase the opportunity for youth and officers to proactively engage with the larger community through community service events. The youth are expected to assume leadership roles in planning and implementation of these events. One of the most impactful outcomes of the community service events is to make the youth realize that they possess the capacity to be agents of positive change in our community. For youth, program activities will significantly enhance their life skills, competencies and promote better life choices that lead to better outcomes at school and at home, as well as improved interactions with their peers and the larger community.
Stamford Police Department
Officer Jerry Junes
One of the Stamford Police Department’s largest volunteer programs is the Mighty Mites Basketball Program. This program involves hundreds of Stamford children ages 5 through 16 in a variety of programs that are administered by police officers in conjunction with community members, and the corporate world. The main part of this program is basketball where kid’s families act as coaches, and to get the whole family involved girls are the cheerleaders. The corporate world helps in part to subsidize our program. Each year approximately 200 boys and girls participate many of whom are repeat participants in the Mighty Mite Basketball league. Over 50 girls participate as cheerleaders. As you might imagine, the gymnasiums bring together the police officers who act as coaches, mentors, and referees, the families including older siblings, and the guardians cheering and rooting for each other. A good time is had by all during the game and the games are talked about all week long.
By getting to know each other in a relaxed environment, a positive view of law enforcement personnel is reinforced for these youngsters and their families will become more comfortable confiding in officers and sharing concerns with them. The Police Officers benefit too. Spending time with these families gives officers insight into their personalities, backgrounds, struggles and needs that come in handy in future encounters.
Mighty Mites basketball is run for 4 months of the year in two different parts of town in their respective community centers. Each child is given a uniform (which they proudly wear everywhere including to school), backpacks, a basketball, and a trophy.
Suffield Police Department
Sergeant Geoffrey Miner|
Dispatcher Nicholas Fasano
Dispatcher Fasano and Sergeant Miner are lifelong residents of Suffield and have been friends for several years. In an effort to implement some of the recommendations from the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, they were asked to take charge of our social media accounts.
After last April’s snow storm, Sergeant Miner and Dispatcher Fasano posted booking photos of Chuckles the state groundhog on the Suffield Police Department’s Facebook page indicating that they had arrested him for false statement about predicting an early spring. These postings on Facebook went viral throughout the country and media stations from throughout the area wanted to interview them. They furthered the idea and turned it into a fundraiser for the Lutz Children’s Museum, where Chuckles lives, by having sponsors “Post” his bond. Chuckles was eventually pardoned by the Suffield First Selectwoman. The project drew a large amount of media attention and raised nearly $970 for the museum.
Sergeant Miner and Dispatcher Fasano also started a community policing event called “Chill with a Cop,” which is hosted at our local ice cream shop. Instead of “Coffee with a Cop,” this idea was formed to allow people to come out and join us on hot days in the summer. Sergeant Miner also hosted a Pokémon Go Event, which drew hundreds of people out of their houses to take part. Sergeant Miner is a fellow Pokémon player and was able to interact with the attendees in ways that most of us cannot. This was a safe event for all ages to spend some time with Suffield Police Officers. Sergeant Miner and Dispatcher Fasano are two young and outgoing members of the Suffield Police Department and their community policing contributions have helped bring a lot of positive feedback to the Suffield Police Department.
Windsor Police Department
Officer Joshua Amaro
Since taking his role as School Resource Officer (SRO) at Windsor High School, Officer Joshua “Josh” Amaro has quickly become the “ultimate” community policing officer to students, faculty and staff, family members, and all community members in Windsor. Even prior to his appointment as SRO, Officer Amaro began developing ways to communicate in a timely and transparent manner to all members of the community, young and old, via social media. He developed and implemented a “WindsorHighSRO” public Facebook page and @WindsorSRO Twitter feed. Most recently, during August 2016, SRO Amaro received the happy endorsement of Windsor Public School District administrators to create and maintain a webpage on the Windsor Public School website. On these social media applications, SRO Amaro has discussed laws relevant to teenagers and their families such as Teen Driving statutes, Texting and driving laws, Halloween safety tips, bicycle safety, and seatbelt laws among other topics.
A recent video which SRO Amaro created and distributed prior to the start of the school year, depicts various members of the Windsor Police welcoming students back to school. Another video reminds parents of traffic patterns at Windsor High School.
SRO Amaro not only promotes and attends as many community events as he possibly can, he also creates them such as a Video Game Tournament night for students.
SRO Amaro seeks out every opportunity to engage his school based community and the larger community of Windsor. SRO Amaro is not just the well-recognized face of the Windsor Police Department. More significantly, SRO Amaro has fostered relationships and built bridges with youth and community residents through his use of social media and his community involvement. His postings have allowed citizens, especially youth in the multi-cultural community of Windsor, to see police officers as “people” too.