The Wright man for the job: New London swears in new police chief
New London — New London police Chief Brian Wright was fresh out of college and in his hometown of Bridgeport when his sister pointed out a notice in the newspaper advertising a regional police test.
His sister was living in New London at the time and hinted to Wright that it would be great to have family nearby. Wright’s friend, a police officer, further egged him on and wagered Wright couldn’t pass the test.
Not a person to back down from a challenge, Wright proceeded to take and pass that test. True to his word, he applied for a job in New London and received notice of his hire in December 1994.
“That’s how it all started,” Wright said. “The rest is history.”
After nearly 27 years of service to the city police department, Wright was officially sworn in as police chief — the city’s first Black chief — during a ceremony Wednesday at City Pier. He was surrounded by city officials, police officers and police chiefs from around the region — including the last three chiefs here in New London. His sisters, Beryle and Cynthia, and two kids, Xavier and Brielle, were among family members and friends in attendance.
Mayor Michael Passero said he had high expectations for Wright and his appointment comes at a time when the city is looking to institute recommendations of a Public Safety Police Review Committee, which include formation of a Civilian Review Board and a public safety mental health response plan.
Passero said he expected Wright to “set the tone to ensure the community’s values are understood, and respected,” and has demonstrated he has the leadership skills to do so.
“When I first heard the news, I said, ‘New London is moving in the right direction.’ Who better than this man who has been invested in this city for the past 27 years,” City Council President Efrain Dominguez said. “He has demonstrated his passion for being a police officer with professionalism, commitment and vision and integrity. Many in the community look up to him. He’s always respectful, listens to you, pays attention to you, it doesn’t matter who you are.”
Councilor Curtis Goodwin recalled Wright teaching drug and gang prevention programs in the school district when Goodwin was an elementary school student. After school, Goodwin said, he was in the hospital after an altercation with his partner and Wright showed up to check in on him.
“Keep in mind he did not have to come. He was not the officer at the scene. But when you know your community, you stay connected and you are invested and show up when needed,” Goodwin said.
Of Wright being the first police chief of color, Goodwin said, "It's about time."
Wright said he was “grateful, honored and humbled,” and promised an open and transparent police department that acknowledges its shortcomings.
“When we mess up, we’ll fess up and we’ll fix it,” he said.
Wright took the opportunity Wednesday to acknowledge the work of the department throughout the coronavirus pandemic and presented a Distinguished Medal of Service to each sworn and civilian member of the department.
In an earlier interview, Wright acknowledged that his goals out of college did not initially include a career in law enforcement.
“Almost 27 years later, I can’t think of anything I’d rather have chosen in life. It’s provided me the opportunity to meet people, to learn about myself — my strengths and weaknesses. It’s allowed me to provide for my family,” Wright said. “The positive interactions I’ve had helped shape me as an adult. It’s rewarding, enriching but also a great responsibility that should never be taken lightly.”
As the city’s first Black police chief, Wright said he is proud to set an example for others heading toward a career in law enforcement.
“I think it’s a sign we’re making progress, though we still have a way to go,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m proud of it and I think law enforcement will and needs to be more inclusive — welcoming people of all backgrounds, cultures, genders.”
Wright said part of his focus will be on creating and maintaining relationships and building trust.
“We want officers who are compassionate, have empathy, are inclusive and professional," he said. "This will allow us to continue to grow and develop stronger working relationships in the community.”
Wright lives in North Stonington. He grew up in Bridgeport and attended the University of Rhode Island, where he played football and earned a degree in consumer affairs. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, where he earned a certificate in Police Leadership. He is also a nationally certified crisis negotiator.
In addition to a patrol officer, Wright has worked as a DARE and youth officer, investigator with the vice and narcotics unit, and he rose through the ranks to become a captain in 2012.
Wright was named acting chief, and later named chief, when former Chief Peter Reichard abruptly announced his retirement last month.
Passero said Reichard opted not to renew his expiring contract and retired shortly after learning about a secretly recorded audio of Reichard. Reichard, according to the people who have listened to the audio, can be heard making disparaging remarks about the city along with comments about being passed over for promotion in favor of minority candidates.
Wright declined to comment specifically on the events that took place prior to his being named chief.
“My focus is not on the past, it's on the future and moving this agency forward,” Wright said.
For a gallery of more photos from the ceremony,