Groton Town Police Chief Louis J. Fusaro Jr. sworn in

Groton — Groton Town Police Chief Louis J. Fusaro Jr. was sworn in Tuesday and said he would use the best examples he'd learned from in the Connecticut State Police to move the town department forward.

"As I told many of my new coworkers, I left an organization that I knew and loved. The Connecticut State Police helped develop and shape me professionally, and I know that my selection as chief is a direct result of the training and experiences I gained there," Fusaro told an audience of nearly 100 people at the Groton Senior Center.

"I will always remember fondly the people I worked with, and will use the best examples I learned there to help move this department forward," he said.

Fusaro's wife, Heather, pinned his badge as their two sons watched. Fusaro said it was the first badge pinned by anyone other than his father, Norwich Police Chief Louis Fusaro Sr., who also attended the ceremony, along with many other family members.

Police officers from Clinton, Madison, Norwich, Ledyard, Coventry, R.I., Waterford, Montville, Groton Long Point, the U.S. Navy and the state police attended, among others.

Fusaro said he would work with the department's public service partners and work to make Groton "a community that is a safer place to live, work and visit."

He said he appreciates officers' daily hard work.

"They often go unrecognized for the hard work that they do and the sacrifices they make on behalf of their department and their community," he said.

Fusaro served for more than 21 years with the state police, retiring as a major and assigned as the director of the Office of Counterterrorism and the commanding officer of the Connecticut State Police Emergency Services Unit.

Earlier in his career, he held field commands including deputy commanding officer of the Eastern District, commanding officer of troops in Montville and Colchester, the Casino Operations and Licensing Unit, and the Eastern District Major Crime Squad.

Fusaro is one of four state troopers accused in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed July 16, 2014, that claims the troopers provoked a suicidal Poquonnock Bridge firefighter to kill himself in 2012 by repeatedly firing nonlethal ammunition at him.

John J. Rich, commander of the Madison Police Department, served with Fusaro in the state police and supervised him starting in the mid 1990s.

"He's always been very, very bright and extremely personable, and he's very, very professional," Rich said. Fusaro also carries a family tradition of policing, Rich said. "I wish him the best in his endeavor and I'll be there to support him all the way," Rich said.

Fusaro said he wanted to give a speech that would capture a new chapter in his professional life yet also acknowledge his pride in being a trooper with the state police.

He thought about the message, then in talking with his wife, realized it wasn't really about him, he said.

"It's about the department and moving it in a positive direction," he said.

"It's also, more generally speaking, about police work and the people that we have in this profession. Regardless of the color of uniform, the type of hat, the shape of badge, it's about service and it's about people," he said.

"We face considerable challenges in law enforcement. We see it played out constantly in the press," he added. "But it isn't all bad news. There is good news out there."

Since he arrived in Groton, Fusaro said officers have solved complex cases and "we even had an officer save a person's life through his quick thinking and action."

Fusaro is a graduate of The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina and holds a master's degree in criminal justice administration from Western New England University.

He also graduated from the FBI National Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School/Center for Homeland Defense and Security's Executive Leaders Program. 

Kenneth Edwards Jr., an inspector with the state's division of criminal justice who has known Fusaro for many years, said Fusaro has held a variety of assignments and has many contacts in law enforcement, both of which are assets.

"He's not one-dimensional in his career," Edwards said. "A chief doesn't have to be an expert in everything his people do, but he's got to have a good working knowledge of everything his people do."

The chief also noted strong community support for the department. Last week, the department received a letter after a woman and her daughter heard a news report where a bounty had been placed on police officers, Fusaro said.

The woman's daughter wanted to do something to make officers safe, so the 5-year-old wrote, "If I make them hearts, they will know they're in my heart and I can keep them safe, then they can keep my family safe and we can all love each other, because that's what good girls and boys do."

Fusaro continued, "How profound and how remarkable is it, to know that level of support exists in this community?" The girl's mother also said she appreciates and respects the risks officers take every day, Fusaro said.

Town Manager Mark Oefinger said he has high expectations of the new chief and the department. "I'm absolutely convinced we made the very best decision in hiring the chief," he said.

d.straszheim@theday.com

Twitter: DStraszheim

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