Even after retirement, Groton Long Point police chief to serve community

Groton Long Point Police Chief Jeff Nixon is seen Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018.  He is retiring this month after a long career in public service but plans to continue to serve his community in other ways.  (Dana Jensen/The Day)
Groton Long Point Police Chief Jeff Nixon is seen Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018. He is retiring this month after a long career in public service but plans to continue to serve his community in other ways. (Dana Jensen/The Day)

Groton — Over the past 30 years, Jeff Nixon has been a teacher, advocate and fixture of the southeastern Connecticut law enforcement community.

And, although one chapter in his story is ending, he's showing no signs of losing that passion for public service.

"When I say, 'it has been an amazing journey,' I don't say that tritely ... it's time for me to give back," Nixon said.

At the end of the month Nixon, 52, will retire from his position of the past five years: chief of police at the Groton Long Point Police Department. It will be the end of a law enforcement career that has taken him to three police departments, spanned more than three decades and began in a rather peculiar way.

When Nixon was coming out of Fitch High School, a career in law enforcement really wasn't on his mind. Instead, he thought he'd be working in a shipyard. A Groton native, Nixon earned his certification as a pipe welder after graduating from Fitch. But, about 1984, just as he got his certification, thousands of welders were laid off and competition for jobs was fierce.

So instead he took a job as a maintenance worker with the city of New London, where he worked as a custodian at the police department.

He quickly found that there were a lot of really good, supportive people at the police department, and soon was encouraged to apply for an open dispatcher position. He got the job, and shortly thereafter he took an exam for an open part-time police officer position, which he also got.

"I'm very proud of my roots," Nixon said of beginning his career in New London. He also credited much of his success to the great people he's been fortunate to work with over the years. "I started my career at 18 and a half, and a lot of good people showed me the good and the bad."

"Justice is a byproduct of all those checks and balances and this was my starting point," he added.

After a couple of years in New London, Nixon then joined the Waterford Police Department, where he would spend the next 26 years of his career, starting as a patrolman. In 1996 he was promoted to sergeant, and then seven years later he was promoted again, to lieutenant.

About 10 years later, after leading the Accident Investigation Team and Crisis Intervention Team, Nixon retired from the Waterford Police Department and became chief of police at the Groton Long Point Police Department.

Nixon praised the gifted mentors he has had throughout his career, particularly Capt. Les Williams from state police, and Detective Lt. Donald McCarthy and Lt. Dan Nutt, both of Waterford, all of whom he called "amazing mentors for my career and life."

He also emphasized that continued education and training was a huge help to him as an officer.

"Society is constantly changing and if we stay stale ... it's not good for law enforcement and it's not good for the public," said Nixon, who also is a certified instructor for the Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council.

Police work was not the only thing that kept Nixon busy. He started a family with his wife, Kay, who he praised as the strongest person he knows. They have four children, Matthew, Lauren, Kelsey and Mitchell, who are the source of much pride.

He also became very involved in the community in other ways.

For 18 years, he has been an adjunct faculty member at Three Rivers Community College, where he has taught several courses, including criminal justice, criminal law and interpersonal dynamics. In retiring from Groton Long Point, he has accepted a full-time position with Three Rivers, which he is very excited about.

Another way Nixon is continuing to exercise his passion for teaching is through the consulting work he does alongside Ray Hassett, a former district commander with the New Haven police. Nixon and Hassett, who met through their involvement with the Connecticut Alliance to Benefit Law Enforcement, are consultants for the state of New York's Office of Mental Health and Department of Corrections.

"I have seen pieces of life and parts of the human condition that have changed who I am," Nixon said of the consulting work, which has taken him to prisons throughout the state. "That's why I say it's time for me to get out of this piece of the career ... there's a lot more out there."

Even before retiring, Nixon has been involved with a lot of the other things out there. He's been very involved with addressing issues related to domestic violence and has been honored for his work in that subject. He also currently serves on the board of directors for Safe Futures of Southeastern Connecticut and last year the Paul Tsai China Center at Yale Law School sent him to Beijing, China, to help educate police, social workers, lawyers and professors on assessment tools.

"I take it as an honor if they do," Nixon said, when asked how he feels about being viewed as a local advocacy leader on the issue. "I've tried to make sure people realize I am real when I pass information on to them and that the issues are real, and the concerns are very real."

Nixon added that part of what he is really looking forward to in retirement is having the ability to volunteer more time to help further educate about the issue.

Aside from domestic violence, another issue that Nixon has been an advocate for is self-care and mental health, especially among police officers and other emergency service workers.

"Every year you go and buy a new pair of uniform boots to make sure they're fitted and not worn out but we won't go out and get our head cleared out," Nixon said. "What we are seeing is called cumulative stress, and that cumulative stress is what is killing emergency services workers."

As he moves into the next chapter of his life, Nixon is very excited to continue his involvement with the community as a volunteer and have more time with his family. He's also excited to be a teacher and he has no shortage of lessons to share from his years as an officer.

"Never forget that people are human, even the biggest, baddest, toughest guy in the room," Nixon said. "You don't have to treat them with kid gloves, but treat them with respect and treat them as they are human."

c.clark@theday.com

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