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Groton City Police Chief to retire after more than three decades in law enforcement

Groton — City of Groton police Chief Michael Spellman said what has driven him in his more than three-decade career in law enforcement is helping people.

He likes interacting with the public and wants people to feel like they can easily approach him and talk to him.

"You want to solve problems, and you want to keep the community safe," he said.

Spellman, who joined the Groton City Police Department in 2014 and became police chief in 2017, has announced plans to retire in May.

"It's my time. I've been on this for 34 years, and it's been a very rewarding career," Spellman said of his decision to retire. He said he has been very blessed in his career and expressed his deep thanks to the people of Groton City.

Spellman, who graduated as a member of the 96th Training Troop of Connecticut State Police, spent 25 years with the Connecticut State Police and served in a variety of roles, from resident trooper in East Lyme to leadership positions in Troop D in Danielson, Troop K in Colchester, the former Casino Unit and statewide narcotics. He also worked in the corporate world as a consultant.

He said working in the state police prepared him to have a very broad base of skills and knowledge to serve in the chief of police position. He first worked in patrol in the Groton City Police Department before becoming chief in 2017.

Spellman also volunteers in different capacities and served as Stonington selectman from 2014 to 2017.

During his time in Groton City, the 2016 rescue of a woman who inadvertently drove her vehicle into the Thames River stands out to him. The rescue, in cold waters off Eastern Point Beach, made the national news and Capt. Erick Jenkins, Accreditation Officer Scott LeSage and Spellman received the department's Lifesaving Award for their role in saving the woman's life.

But Spellman also said day-to-day work, such as stopping by Buford's Family Restaurant or Dunkin' Donuts or Cumberland Farms to interact with the public and "solve the little problems before they become big ones" can be equally rewarding.

Looking back on his proudest accomplishments in the City of Groton, he noted that the city has a very diverse department: "We've hired well," he said. "We worked to retain our personnel."

The department joined the state radio system and implemented body cameras, and staff went through certified de-escalation training. The department also has embraced the Autism and Law Enforcement Education Coalition concept and has the only ALEC-certified instructor in the state, he said.

The department also is planning to modernize its locker rooms to give equal accommodations to male and female personnel, he said.

City Mayor Keith Hedrick said that under Spellman's tenure, the city continued diversity on the police force, continued Autism awareness programs and started the Police and Community Together committee to address issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement regarding police engagement in the community. Spellman was responsible for implementing police body cameras, new portable radios and connecting the city police department to the state police radio system.

"These last events are instrumental in maintaining the City of Groton's police structure," Hedrick said.

"He is a good chief, and he's going to be missed," Hedrick added.

Spellman, who will turn 58 in May, said in a Facebook post announcing his retirement that while he's unsure of what the future holds, he is young enough "to seek other opportunities, and mature and experienced enough to bring something to the table." He said he looks forward in the immediate future to spending more time with his wife and adult son and daughter.

"It's been a great career," he said. "I've met some great people."

He said it's been an honor and privilege to be the chief of police for the people of Groton City. He said he's leaving an accredited department in great condition and the transition to the next police chief will be smooth.

"It's been very rewarding," Spellman added. "I can't thank the people of the City of Groton enough. They've been incredibly supportive of not only the department but me personally and I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for the people in Groton City."

k.drelich@theday.com

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