Reichard takes reins as New London police chief

New London police chief candidate Peter Reichard answers a question during a public interview on Nov. 9, 2017, at Science and Technology Magnet High School in New London. City officials announced Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, that Reichard has been selected for the job. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
New London police chief candidate Peter Reichard answers a question during a public interview on Nov. 9, 2017, at Science and Technology Magnet High School in New London. City officials announced Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, that Reichard has been selected for the job. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

New London — Peter Reichard, a former assistant chief from the New Haven Police Department who was hired as New London’s deputy police chief in 2012, is officially the city’s top cop.

Mayor Michael Passero announced Friday that he has chosen Reichard to succeed Margaret Ackley as the police chief following a nationwide search that drew 14 applications that eventually were whittled down to two: Reichard and Roswell, N.M., police Chief Philip Smith.

Passero expressed confidence in Reichard, who before coming to New London served 22 years in New Haven and later worked as vice president of corporate protective services at Bank of America.

“I’ve been very pleased, as has the community, with the chief’s performance and his leadership and I expect we will see even greater things in the future,” Passero said.

Details of what is expected to be a four-year contract still are being hashed out and a formal swearing-in ceremony has not yet been scheduled.

“I’m excited we can move forward and that I’m now in a position where the changes being implemented for the betterment of the city can be permanent,” Reichard said.

Reichard said he has short- and long-term goals, one of the first being a push to build up staffing levels in the department to better sustain community policing initiatives citywide. He said the initiatives, some already in place, will lead to more proactive police work and better connections with citizens.

He also said there will be a push to update the department’s social media presence and rebrand the department while providing better access for residents. He said grant funding and bond money already is set aside that would allow the department to purchase body cameras for officers. That initiative is on hold until the city can find the resources to update its technology infrastructure.

He said his family will maintain a residence in the city and he expects that will be a requirement of his contract.

Reichard’s appointment was not altogether unexpected. Echoing the sentiment of some in the community, one resident at a recent forum prominently held up a sign asking that the word “acting” be removed from Reichard's title immediately. The local police union agreed and delivered a letter to Passero in August asking that he be appointed immediately.

The letter from union executives said that Reichard has scored high marks with rank-and-file officers, had restored relationships with surrounding law enforcement agencies and started building bridges within the community.

Former Chief Ackley, whose long career in the city had climaxed when she was chosen as the city’s first female chief by former City Manager Martin Berliner in 2009, almost instantly had clashed with union leaders at the department, leading to an avalanche of grievances.

Her retirement in January was not mourned by union leaders.

Reichard was a known quantity when he was named acting chief after Ackley's retirement. He has served as acting chief on and off throughout the past several years, including a 10-month period that started in 2014 and carried into 2015 when Ackley was placed on paid administrative leave. Former Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio had during that time investigated Ackley for improprieties. The investigation had cleared her of any wrongdoing.

And while some in the community had expressed disappointment in the job search, City Councilor John Satti said the city “owed it to the citizens to go out and get the best candidates.”

“I agree with the process. There may have been somebody better out there,” Satti said.

Martin Olsen, a Republican recently re-elected to the City Council, called Reichard “eminently qualified” and someone who has “steered the ship through some pretty turbulent waters.”

“I’m glad we have a new chief and it’s time to move forward,” Olsen said.

g.smith@theday.com

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