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    Friday, March 01, 2024

    From kids to the adults, New London needs reasons to trust

    New London — Imagine the task of asking about 40 adolescent boys, football players, no less, to share their deepest feelings with each other. And keeping them on point.

    Ha. Good one. You’d rather spend the day coal mining.

    But this was one day last month at New London High, when the football players were awash in their weekly pre-practice lesson on the qualities of true manhood. Juan Roman, now the former coach, sat his players in front of Patrick Sheehan Gaumer, a Violence Prevention Educator and all around good dude with Safe Futures.

    They talked about … life in general. It was what you might expect from a bunch of boys. Not easy to dig deep. A little clowning, a little comedy …

    Until it happened.

    It was as if the universe suddenly hit the cosmic pause button. Everything stopped. Everyone listened.

    That’s when one of the kids, making a point about his own life, unwittingly made one about seemingly everyone else in the room, too.

    “I have a hard time trusting,” he said.

    No more noise. Just nodding heads.

    And it was that moment that I realized the young man didn’t merely identify an issue critical to the lives of the kids in the city, but pretty much everyone else here, too.

    It’s hard to trust here in the 06320. Not just people. But policy, politics, the present and the future. It’s a New London thing.

    All of which makes the hire of new police chief Peter Reichard such welcome news. And it begins with the concept of trust. On many levels and layers.

    Reichard is a true C.O.T.P. (Chief Of The People). He’s at Muddy Waters every morning. He listens. He needles. He laughs as the gallery busts his chops, too. He’s just one of … us, you know?

    Reichard, sworn in officially the other night, had already transformed the police department as interim chief. They’ve never been more visible. Crime Prevention Officer Ryan Soccio, for example, ran “Coffee With A Cop” one morning earlier this month to great success.

    And this is how trust builds. One handshake at a time.

    They’ve never been more visible with the kids either. This is where Reichard and the concept of trust offers a glimpse into the hope and wonder of the future in the city. Last spring, New London police played basketball and dodge ball with the kids at the middle school. Basketball was my favorite event of the year. They called it “building bridges.”

    Everyone (except anybody from Central Office) was there.

    The kids and the cops — all of varying backgrounds, cultures and colors — played together. Got to know each other. Saw each other as equals. Just a bunch of people playing a game. Who knows, really, the tentacles of the residual effect? It surely fosters the concept of greater trust for no other reason than this: This country works best when we include everyone of all colors, religions, ancestries and orientations who learn with, play with and learn about each other.

    Reichard’s willingness to reach out — every day at Muddys or in the schools with the kids — makes him the kind of hire this city needs.

    Now can we rinse and repeat?

    Let’s find a Reichardian Superintendent.

    Maybe the new school board can practice compromise over obstruction.

    Maybe personalities stop getting in the way of progress.

    And oh yes … find the right guy to be the next football coach at the high school. It is a critical hire. There’s no better man than Roman, who resigned recently to spend more time with his family. Major void. Whaler football has an almost mythical appeal at the high school and throughout the city. The coach bears tentacles that exceed wins and losses. This has to be the right guy. With those Reichard qualities.

    It’s easy and frequently warranted to treat the 06320 as a punching bag. But the city is on a one-hire winning streak.

    Remember: Trust is not easily earned. Trust is about always being there, even when you get pushed away. And never, ever giving up on your person. Or people.

    Speaking of: We’ve got the Chief Of The People now.

    Now let’s keep the hot streak going.

    Turns out Billy Joel is right again.

    It’s always been a matter of trust.

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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