Three former New London officers join Waterford Police Department

Waterford - Continuing a recent trend of migrations from the New London police force, the Waterford Police Department on Thursday swore in three former New London officers.

Waterford Police Chief Murray Pendleton welcomed Officers Leigh Bonkowski, David Ferland, and Jake Nickerson during a ceremony at the police department.

Pendleton said it was a rarity for the department to hire certified officers but after reviewing applications for vacant positions, he had jumped at the chance to hire three qualified officers "who really want to be here."

Hiring certified officers saves the town money and allows the officers to start work immediately after some town-specific policy and procedure training, he said. New hires can cost upwards of $100,000 and take up to a year before they are able to hit the streets on their own.

Ferland, 31, a married father of two children, was a New London officer for seven years before leaving. He declined comment on what some officers have publicly called tumultuous and uneasy times in New London, but said he looks forward to better opportunities to use some of his specialized training in Waterford. Ferland is a DUI education instructor and trained in accident reconstruction.

Bonkowski, 29, of Groton, and Nickerson, 27, of Oakdale, were in the same police academy class and started in New London in 2011.

Nickerson, a Torrington native who spent many summers at a family beach house in Niantic, earned an accounting degree from Eastern Connecticut State University but only worked as an accountant for two years before making the switch to law enforcement.

"I decided I couldn't stand sitting behind a desk anymore," he said.

Bonkowski, who graduated from Ithaca College with a recreational management degree, is licensed to operate a 100-ton vessel and for several years captained the schooner Argia in Mystic, along with some private yachts.

Waterford First Selectman Dan Steward joked that there wasn't room in the budget for a 100-ton vessel for the police department. Pendleton said the department is likely to make use of Bonkowski's talents with the regional marine patrol.

The three are among 11 former New London officers to leave or give notice to the city within the last month, according to the local police union. The Norwich Police Department has hired six former New London officers in recent years.

g.smith@theday.com

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