Acting chief one of two final candidates for top New London police position

Chief of Police for the City of New London candidate Philip Smith, left, answers a question as Peter Reichard looks on during a public interview on Thursday, November 9, 2017, at Science and Technology Magnet High School in New London. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Chief of Police for the City of New London candidate Philip Smith, left, answers a question as Peter Reichard looks on during a public interview on Thursday, November 9, 2017, at Science and Technology Magnet High School in New London. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

New London — And then there were two.

The city has narrowed a field of 14 applicants for the city police chief’s position to just two candidates, and the names of the finalists were revealed for the first time publicly on Thursday.

Philip Smith, police chief in Roswell, N.M., and Acting New London Police Chief Peter Reichard squared off during what was dubbed a “public interview” on Thursday, answering questions that touched on everything from diversity and use of force to union negotiations and budgeting.

Attended by about three dozen people, the forum was a way to introduce the candidates to the community. The community submitted questions, and Kevin Hogan of WFSB Channel 3 news served as event moderator at the Science and Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut.

Mayor Michael Passero will have the final say on who becomes the next police chief.

Smith has been the chief in Roswell since 2013, heading a department of about 100 sworn officers serving a community of 50,000, about half of whom are Hispanic. With a police force only about 10 percent Hispanic, Smith said his goal has been to drastically increase diversity.

He said getting Hispanics involved in the recruiting process has created a comfort level for minority recruits, improving the department’s ability to “draw the same demographics we serve.”

The department also instituted a body camera program two years ago and has a Police Service Aid Program taking recruits as young as 19, grooming them for a career in law enforcement.

Smith was a lieutenant at the Salem, N.H., police department from 2001 to 2006, the chief of police in Alton, N.H., from 2007 to 2009 and was employed as the town administrator in Atkinson, N.H., for two years before being hired as deputy police chief in Roswell in 2011, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Reichard took over for retired chief Margaret Ackley and has endeared himself to locals and police union members, reversing what had been an icy relationship between Ackley and the mayor’s office.

He was named deputy chief in New London in 2012 following more than two decades at the New Haven Police Department.

In New Haven, Reichard worked his way up the ranks and was at one point in charge of a crime analysis team and the chief of staff for the investigative services division. He ended his career abruptly there as assistant chief and has been acting chief in New London for the past year.

“My goal is to move this police department one step forward and initiate community policing to the whole city … and police the city and people of New London how we want our family members treated,” Reichard said on Thursday.

Both Reichard and Smith extolled the benefits of community policing and interactions with the community.

“Community policing is a partnership,” Smith said. “It could be called collaborative policing. It could be called cooperative policing. What it is is problem solving policing. ... Everyone has to be involved in it.”

Reichard said community policing is based on partnerships and relationships with the community that build trust and improve the flow of information.

“I believe every police officer that puts on a badge in the city of New London is a community police officer,” Reichard said. “They come here to work in the community. They put their lives on the line day in and day out. The friendships and bonds they’ve built during their time on the job here will last their whole lives.”

g.smith@theday.com

Chief of Police for the City of New London candidate Philip Smith answer questions during a public interview on Thursday, November 9, 2017, at Science and Technology Magnet High School in New London. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Chief of Police for the City of New London candidate Philip Smith answer questions during a public interview on Thursday, November 9, 2017, at Science and Technology Magnet High School in New London. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Chief of Police for the City of New London candidate Peter Reichard answers a question during a public interview on Thursday, November 9, 2017, at Science and Technology Magnet High School in New London. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Chief of Police for the City of New London candidate Peter Reichard answers a question during a public interview on Thursday, November 9, 2017, at Science and Technology Magnet High School in New London. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

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