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Wright named acting New London police chief as Reichard retires

New London — New London police Chief Peter Reichard on Wednesday announced his retirement after nine years working for city, including four as chief.

Mayor Michael Passero on Thursday announced that veteran police Capt. Brian Wright, the highest ranking African American at the department, was to immediately start serving as acting police chief.

“Wright is a seasoned police officer, investigator, and respected leader and has been with the police department for more than 27 years,” Passero said in a statement. “His professional approach, leadership style, and vision of policing provides me with full confidence in him, and I look forward to working with him closely during this critical transition period.”

Reichard, whose contract with the city expires on June 30, informed city officials about his decision on Wednesday. In a letter, he said his retirement is effective June 30 but that he would begin to use his accrued vacation time on June 1.

Reichard is a former assistant police chief from New Haven, where he spent much of his 34-year law enforcement career. He was hired as New London’s deputy chief in 2012, served as acting chief after the retirement of former Chief Margaret Ackley and was named police chief in 2017.

“I’m grateful to the years of service he’s given to the city. He’s done some great work for us and he’s been great to work with for five years,” Passero said. “We’re happy he’s looking forward to starting a new chapter in his life.”

Reichard had offered some stability to the department following a period of tumult under Ackley, whose relationship with city administration was strained and had before her retirement filed a breach of contract lawsuit over terms of an agreement signed by former Mayor Daryl Finizio.

Reichard had immediately earned respect from residents for his efforts to enhance community policing in the city.

Passero said Reichard leveraged technology to predict and prevent crime and developed innovative policing practices to enhance the quality of life in the city.

Earlier this year the department instituted a body camera program at the department, something that had been talked about for several years. Complaints filed by the police union had dropped precipitously after Reichard took over as chief.

Reichard on Thursday declined an opportunity to be interviewed by The Day about his decision but shared a message he sent to the men and women at the police department, in which he announced his retirement and listed some accomplishments under his leadership: a crime rate reduction, reinstatement of a K-9 unit, infrastructure upgrades at the department, an updated use-of-force policy and continued work toward a regional dispatch center and animal control facility.

“The Department continues to make progress in the right direction and I am confident that the systems that were created will allow for a new leader to continue forward progress,” Reichard wrote.

“On a personal note, I would like to express my most sincere thanks for the opportunity to work with the NLPD,” he said. “I have learned a great deal from my experience here and know that many of you will rise through the ranks and will lead within our own department (or another) with a high degree of morality, professionalism, and compassion. I am here to support you in those endeavors any way I can. Together, you will continue to reinforce the honor and integrity instilled in each and every one of us to make NLPD the agency needed to preserve and protect the City.”

New London Police Union President Todd Lynch said the union was unaware that the chief was leaving.

“We certainly wish him and his family well on any future endeavors,” Lynch said. “Union and management don’t always see eye to eye, but he was always a gentleman. I enjoyed working with him for the betterment of the department and the city.”

The police department has come under scrutiny of late by social justice activists seeking reductions in police funding. A staffing ordinance that mandated 80 officers at the department — a goal never reached under Reichard — was repealed by the City Council earlier this year. The staffing ordinance is subject of a referendum scheduled for Aug. 10.

The department is also the subject of a federal lawsuit by a Black New London police sergeant who alleges he has been the target of racially discriminatory treatment at the department, though an investigation determined there was insufficient evidence to support those claims. Reichard listed an effort to promote and hire "underrepresented persons within our ranks" as one of his accomplishments.

News of Reichard’s retirement made the rounds on social media early Thursday with a Facebook post from his wife, Alison.

“Today we proudly celebrate Pete’s retirement from the New London Police Department. He has been on the job for 34 years, with 9 of those in New London. Retirement isn’t the end of the road; it’s a beginning of an open highway. I can’t wait to hit the road with this incredible husband of mine.”

g.smith@theday.com

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