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To serve his community, Groton man wears many hats

Groton — When Rashaad Carter was growing up in Poquonnock Bridge, a police officer used to drive around and stop every chance he could to play football or shoot hoops with the neighborhood kids.

The officer made an impression on Carter and his twin brother, Raheem, and piqued their interest in law enforcement.

“My brother and I always respected that and wanted to represent the profession in that light,” Carter said. “I’ve always looked at law enforcement as a helping profession that serves the community.”

But as a kid, Carter remembers not seeing a lot of Black people in law enforcement, and he said he wanted to become a state trooper to change that.

Now, he is fulfilling that goal and more. He has lived in Groton most of his life and moved back to the community after going to college at the University of Rhode Island on a football scholarship.

After college, Rashaad's brother, Raheem, got a job as an officer with the New London Police Department. When his brother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and later died, Carter wanted to preserve law enforcement as his brother's legacy and instead pursue his passion for helping at-risk youths and adolescents.

Carter decided to obtain his master's degree in social work and worked at the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and then at the Department of Correction as a transitional counselor. But, with his personality, being out and about and engaging with the community, he felt he could do more. So, he ultimately decided to fulfill his childhood dream of going into law enforcement on a full-time basis, while still finding time to help youths.

The 39-year-old Groton City resident is a state trooper, Democratic city councilor, father and licensed clinical social worker with his own private practice as a therapist primarily working with youths and adolescents. He said his passion is to help people, and he looks at policing as a way to do that and make the community safer.

A desire to help others

Carter's desire to help others is rooted in his upbringing and his faith, he said. His mother, who has a career in the human services field working for Sound Community Services in case management, and his grandmother inspired him to be involved in service and help people.

Having grown up around diverse types of people and being a mental health professional, Carter finds it comes naturally to him to engage with the community and talk to people of all different ethnicities and backgrounds.

“I think that goes to my upbringing just treating everybody with respect no matter what color they are,” he said. “That’s just the type of person I am.”

When he goes on calls as a state trooper, he said he approaches situations by communicating with people and using his “verbal judo,” in law enforcement speak. He said he’s able to recognize when someone is having a rough day, feeling anxiety or experiencing mental health issues.

Carter said he takes pride in being a trooper and representing the profession as a Black man. “Our agency is a fine agency where I can proudly call the people I work with brothers and sisters,” he said.

He said his first thoughts after the death of George Floyd in May was that it “was absolutely without a doubt wrong in all ways,” and he said there isn’t one person he works with who feels otherwise.

With the ensuing social unrest, he said peaceful protests are welcome and he’s very happy that people were fulfilling their rights to demonstrate. Carter, who calls himself a “peacemaker,” added that he doesn’t condone any type of violence or criminal behavior.

As a law enforcement professional of color, his biggest worry was the thought of having to show up in riot gear in a situation where a local protest potentially became unruly. “However, that didn't happen and I'm proud of my community that we didn’t allow any of these local protests to go down that path,” he said.

He said the protests bring people to the table to talk, and it’s important for people in law enforcement and civilians to communicate.

“Once those conversations happen, I think we have to be receptive to each other’s stories,” he said. “That’s one of the ways that we’re going to get a deeper understanding.”

Over the past several months, he said those conversations are happening and people are listening to all facets of what is going on: “I know that many agencies around here have taken necessary steps to make things better,” he said.

Being a minority in politics helps him engage with other minorities' concerns in the community, he said. He thinks many people of color have a lack of trust in politicians because they feel they are not being represented. Similarly, they may feel a lack of trust in police because of the lack of people of color in uniform, which is another reason he takes pride in what he does. He believes active, nontraditional recruitment can help bring more diversity into law enforcement.

He noted that more Black troopers graduated in the last state police academy class than in past years.

Guiding youths

When he’s not working as a trooper, Carter can be found helping youths and adolescents — and even more so during the pandemic. The state police have given him approval to work as a therapist as long as it doesn't impede on his job as a trooper, and it hasn't, he said.

In addition to spending time with his children, he’s managed to make time for his clients.

With the start of school, and especially with the spike in COVID-19 cases this fall, Carter started taking on new clients who felt overwhelmed and were experiencing anxiety and chronic stress amid the uncertainties of the pandemic. He said he probably gets two or three new calls a week from parents looking for a therapist for their kids, whereas before he would reach that number over a three-week period. He said he works with his clients on breathing and relaxation techniques and helps them develop positive coping skills.

Reginald Stanford, a fellow city councilor and family friend who has known Carter since he was a teenager, said Carter is multifaceted and has impacted the community as a father, a law enforcement official, an elected official and a mental health service provider. As a coach, he has helped youths develop athletically and apply what they learn in team sports to getting along with their siblings and learning leadership skills.

Stanford added that Carter is determined to achieve whatever he puts his mind to and is compassionate and listens to people and encourages them. “He’s always been hardworking, very motivated and determined,” Stanford said.

He said kids that Carter coached are still playing team sports years later because of the influence he had on them.

“He told them to understand obstacles will happen, but you’ve got to still be persistent and pursue your dreams and never give up,” Stanford said.

City Mayor Keith Hedrick said Carter came from humble beginnings and is committed to the community. “He has achieved things due to his willingness to work for them and his vision, and I think that makes him a role model for others,” Hedrick said.

Just as his brother left a legacy, Carter also wants to make a mark.

“I’m one of those type of guys who never wanted to leave this area because I just love my community that much, and I care about how well the youth and adolescents in my area do,” Carter said.

k.drelich@theday.com

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