Norwich vigil honors Dallas officers killed, calls for better police-community relations

Norwich — More than 150 people gathered at the City Hall plaza on Tuesday evening to once again honor victims of violence elsewhere in the nation and to offer strong support, assistance and empathy with local and state police.

“Again,” Mayor Deberey Hinchey said of the gathering, less than two weeks after a similar ceremony was held in the plaza to memorialize the 49 people killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

Hinchey and others said they were tired of continually gathering to mourn the victims of what the mayor called “horrible, indescribable crimes.”

She reminded the dozens gathered on the perfect summer evening that the many police officers in their midst also had their eyes and alertness on the surrounding streets and buildings around City Hall.

“This cycle of violence must stop,” said a frustrated Jacqueline Owens, president of the Norwich NAACP branch.

State Rep. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, read off a stream of emotions that followed the Dallas shootings: “Trauma, horror, unimaginable pain, hyper vigilance, paralyzing anxiety, depression, anger, rage, feeling unsafe, feeling targeted, disbelief, grief and terrible sadness.”

Several speakers read the names of the five Dallas police officers gunned down July 7 while protecting peaceful protesters during a rally against police killings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota.

Msgr. Robert Brown of the Diocese of Norwich added the name of Connecticut state Trooper Russell Bagshaw, ambushed and killed 25 years ago and the names of several Norwich police officers who died on duty over the years.

Owens called the Norwich police department “the best police department in the United States.”

She worked throughout her 30-year tenure to forge ties with Norwich police, through three police chiefs and countless meetings, public forums and heart-to-heart talks.

They didn't always agree, she said, but they always agreed to talk.

“We expect so much of our police department,” Owens said, “and we offer them so little.”

Acting Police Chief Patrick Daley thanked Owens and the many anonymous people who have brought meals, flowers, cards and letters to the department in the week since the Dallas shootings.

He briefly recounted the events of that day from a police officer's perspective: Eleven officers went to work that day to protect a gathering of citizens exercising their right to peacefully protest actions by police elsewhere, when 45 shots rang out.

Daley called for more than vigils and memorials.

He asked for action, including the need for police departments to become more diversified and for the public to become more a part of the system of public protection.

Norwich Police Sgt. John Perry, newly appointed supervisor of the city's community policing unit, described the mission of the unit and asked for residents' support.

The cover of Tuesday's vigil program carried the words of the law enforcement oath of honor.

Police Capt. Christopher Ferace told the crowd that all Norwich officers carry the oath with them every day.

“On my honor,” he read, “I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for my actions. I will always uphold the Constitution, my community and the agency I serve.”

Col. Alaric J. Fox, commander of the Connecticut State Police, also thanked the public for support over the past week.

Fox urged police and civilians of all backgrounds to try to find common ground — “acknowledging that 'us versus them' is a lie,” he said.

All parties want to go home at the end of the day to their loving families, he said.

“I am a better person when I can see into your reality, and you are a better person when you can look into mine,” Fox said.


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