New London honors 'everyday heroes' at swearing-in ceremony

New London's Chief of Police Peter Reichard, left, takes the oath with City Clerk Jonathan Ayala during his swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, at New London High School. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
New London's Chief of Police Peter Reichard, left, takes the oath with City Clerk Jonathan Ayala during his swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, at New London High School. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

New London — Newly minted police Chief Peter G. Reichard has promised tighter bonds between his department and the New London community and better recognition of the work of his officers.

He wasted no time in honoring that pledge Wednesday, when he took time out from his own swearing-in ceremony to recognize life-saving efforts of an officer and a community member.

After he was heaped with praise for his own work in the city over the past five and a half years, Reichard called to the stage Dunkin Donuts assistant manager Nicholle Maynard and Officer Alexander Dyer. He honored Maynard with a life-saving award for administering naloxone to an overdosing patron earlier this month at the Broad Street coffee shop. Reichard issued Dyer a meritorious service citation for pulling a child from the third-floor bedroom of a burning home in April.

Both received thunderous applause and a standing ovation from the crowd that had come out to the New London High School auditorium to see Reichard officially sworn in as the new chief. The ceremony was attended by members of the public, city officials and employees, a contingent of city police and firefighters and law enforcement personnel from across the region.

Firetrucks and police vehicles had lined up outside the high school, and the ceremony began with a presentation of colors by the New London Police Department Color Guard and New London Fire Department Pipes and Drums.

Reichard’s 10-year-old son, Joshua, pinned the chief’s badge to Reichard's lapel with Reichard's wife, Colleen, standing close by.

Following a nationwide search that had elicited more than a dozen applicants, Mayor Michael Passero earlier this month had named Reichard, the city’s deputy chief, to succeed retired former Chief Margaret Ackley.

“Chief Reichard, in every part of the process, came out on top,” said Chief Administrative Officer Steve Fields, who helped organize the application and interview process.

Reichard had been acting chief for the past year, a time he said he considered part of an extended job interview. His leadership has helped to quell some of the turmoil that local police union President Todd Lynch said was caused by Ackley.

“People are being treated fairly. The morale has changed in such a positive manner for us,” Lynch said.

Reichard is a retired assistant chief from the New Haven Police Department, where he worked for more than two decades. He was named deputy chief here in 2012.

Reichard grew up reading super hero comic books in Wisconsin and said he realized at a young age that heroes and police officers had something in common: “They were just everyday people doing extraordinary things.”

“Being a cop was all I ever wanted to do. I never wanted to be anything else,” he said. “It is who I am. It is what I love and always has been.”

Reichard said part of his focus as chief will be to help ingrain the department into the community, “showing some of your compassion as a police officer to members of the community and treating everybody how you wish your family members would be treated,” Reichard said at a recent community forum.

“My goal is to move this police department one step forward and initiate community policing to the whole city,” he said.

Community policing, Reichard said, involves developing relationships and building trust with residents. The city’s youth are an important part of that, he said.

He would like to boost the size of the department and said he intends to work with the mayor’s office and City Council to increase resources to allow for more officers on the road and targeted patrols of neighborhoods to address quality of life issues in a proactive manner.

Reichard backs the idea of a regionalized emergency dispatch center, a multiphased project that started several years ago when the city contracted with Waterford to share a radio system. In the future, Reichard said the two departments, and perhaps others, could standardize their computer-aided dispatch systems and work toward forming a governing body to oversee the regional center.

He called it a “no brainer” to be working with bordering municipalities whose fire and police departments often cross paths.

Reichard, who helped write and institute an updated use of force policy at the department, said while body cameras for officers at the department are on the horizon, the city still lacks the basic technological infrastructure to support a video management and storage system.

“We’re working towards this,” he said.

Reichard said the city has budgeted for a deputy police chief, but a timeline for filling that positon is unclear.

Reichard started his more than two-decade-long career with the New Haven Police Department in the mid-1980s, a department more than five times the size of New London’s. He rose through the ranks, led the department’s detective bureau and eventually was promoted to one of four assistant chief positions.

Published reports in 2010 show Reichard had applied for the retiring New Haven chief’s position but had retired that same year following some complaints about his managerial style. Reichard is collecting a pension and still receives medical benefits from New Haven, a fact that he said saves New London roughly $20,000 a year.

The City Council approved his four-year contract with a starting base salary of $124,500. The contract runs through June 30, 2021. Reichard has agreed to live in the city as part of the agreement and is subject to yearly performance reviews by the mayor.

“Policing has undergone many changes and it continues to evolve every day,” Reichard said Wednesday. “The New London Police Department continues to embrace these changes and we’re getting better at it all the time. Moving forward, our goal is to recognize the heroic roles of our officers more often. We will support the regional efforts to reduce crime. We will create a system to better understand the needs of our residents and continue to open lines of communication with the residents of New London.”

“I am truly honored to be your new chief. I am looking forward to writing the next chapter of the New London Police Department and working with the everyday heroes that work at the New London Police Department,” Reichard said.

g.smith@theday.com

New London's Chief of Police Peter Reichard, right, is greeted by his son Joshua, 10, and wife Colleen during his swearing-in ceremonies on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, at New London High School.  (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
New London's Chief of Police Peter Reichard, right, is greeted by his son Joshua, 10, and wife Colleen during his swearing-in ceremonies on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, at New London High School. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
New London Chief of Police Peter Reichard, center, speaks with the longtime NLPD Chief's Assistant Brenda Muriel, left, who recently retired, and his wife, Colleen, after his swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, at New London High School.  (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
New London Chief of Police Peter Reichard, center, speaks with the longtime NLPD Chief's Assistant Brenda Muriel, left, who recently retired, and his wife, Colleen, after his swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, at New London High School. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
New London's Chief of Police Peter Reichard, right, laughs with new London Mayor Michael Passero during his swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, at New London High School.  (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
New London's Chief of Police Peter Reichard, right, laughs with new London Mayor Michael Passero during his swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, at New London High School. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

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