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Two veteran Norwich police officers promoted

Norwich — Two veteran Norwich police officers, each with multiple commendations, were promoted last week in a low-key ceremony amid COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings.

Anthony Gomes, 49, a 20-year Norwich police veteran, was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant, and 11-year Norwich police veteran Officer Steven Schmidt was promoted to sergeant to fill Gomes’ position.

Gomes grew up in Norwich and has been active in the community as a youth sports coach. He graduated from Norwich Free Academy in 1988, attended St. Thomas More Preparatory School and earned a full basketball scholarship to Merrimack College. He graduated in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He graduated from the Hartford Police Academy in 1995 and served four years with the Hartford Police Department before joining the Norwich police force.

Gomes, who is Black, said Wednesday he always found Norwich to be a welcoming, comforting and supportive community. He said Norwich is a great place to grow up and live. He has three children, Alec, AJ and Ashlyn, and a grandson, Jazz. Gomes served as the Norwich DARE officer and as a school resource officer. He coached youth basketball and served as president of Little League.

Gomes has received several letters of commendation, two Norwich Police Medals of Meritorious Service, a city proclamation for dedicated service for his work on school safety and is an NAACP National Police Honoree.

Gomes said Norwich police have been proactive in efforts to improve community relations. The department was the first in the state to train all officers in de-escalation strategies, has embraced community policing and tries to reach out to local youths, he said.

Gomes mingled with the several hundred protesters who filled the streets on June 2 in the wake of George Floyd's death in police custody in Minneapolis. Gomes said young adults who remembered him as the DARE or school resource officer invited him to walk with them. Gomes praised police Chief Patrick Daley for standing with and listening to the protesters.

“I was talking to people during the demonstrations,” Gomes said. “People can become upset for a reason and you have to hear them out.”

Gomes also agreed with Chief Daley that Norwich police must find new ways to reach youths with positive interactions now that school resource officers and DARE programs have ended.

“One of the key ingredients missing right now is the lack of contact with police officers from a young age,” Gomes said. “When we separated that, we lost touch with a chunk of the community. I had people come up to me at the rally and said, ‘Come on, Officer Gomes, join us.’ They got to know me. When a child meets a police officer at a young age, it can change their whole outlook.”

Gomes said police are working to be more visible at block parties, youth sports and at local community events. He said officers on patrol also will be looking for ways to foster positive interactions with local youths.

“That’s the future,” he said. “You’ll see police officers interacting with the community more, not just talking, but at events. It’s a great way to change someone’s perspective, to have fun with them: block parties, sports teams. Five officers on a basketball court. You remember how you beat Officer Jones on the basketball court.”

Sgt. Schmidt graduated from Ledyard High School in 1993 and attended Three Rivers Community College. He worked for the Defense Department for 12 years, including six overseas as a security manager until 2007. He graduated from the Connecticut Police Academy in 2007. He served two years with the Bristol Police Department and received numerous letters of commendation prior to coming to Norwich.

During his tenure in Norwich, Schmidt completed numerous training courses, received extensive training from the New York Police Department and FBI in violent crime response, homicide investigation, de-escalation and interview and interrogation.

He and his wife, Margaret, live in Oakdale. He has four children, Sean, 23, Elizabeth, 17, Maddox, 6, and Cooper, 4.

Schmidt was not available for comment Wednesday.

c.bessette@theday.com

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