Finkelstein sworn in as first police chief of new independent department in East Lyme

East Lyme — Michael Finkelstein was sworn in Monday as the first police chief of the town's new independent police department, which he said would be a model of law enforcement in the state.

Law enforcement from across the region along with local officials, and community members gathered at the swearing-in ceremony in the East Lyme High School auditorium to celebrate the town's upcoming transition from the resident state trooper program to an independent police force on June 30.

Finkelstein, a retired police lieutenant who worked for more than two decades with Ledyard's police department, joined East Lyme's police department after recently serving as mayor of Ledyard.

Police Commission Chairman Daniel Price said the switch to the independent police force has been "a long time coming" and thanked all those who worked toward it.

Price administered the oath to Finkelstein, while Finkelstein's wife, Maribeth Finkelstein, and children McKayla Finkelstein, 14, Conner Finkelstein, 13, Caden Finkelstein, 9, and Jordan Gardner, 24, joined Finkelstein on stage to pin the badge on him as the audience applauded.

Finkelstein said Monday was a "historic night" and thanked everyone who supported him to reach this point.

Calling the move to an independent force a "rebranding," Finkelstein said he was confident the high level of service the police community provides to the people of East Lyme would continue and grow greater.

"East Lyme Police Department will be visible, engaging, proactive and responsive," he said. "After we complete this transition on June 30, 2017, we will work to ensure that the East Lyme Police Department is viewed as a model of law enforcement in the state of Connecticut."

After his speech, Finkelstein swore in East Lyme's police officers.

During the ceremony, First Selectman Mark Nickerson thanked all those who worked to make the independent police force a reality.

Nickerson recognized the town's resident state troopers for their service to the town over the past five decades, but said the town has grown to a point where it makes sense to have an independent force.

"The fine men and women of the East Lyme Police Department who currently serve us are ready for this new chapter, this new beginning: a force they can call their own, managed by their own," he said.

Col. Alaric J. Fox, commanding officer for the state police, said "the state police have enjoyed a long healthy relationship with the town of East Lyme" and "looked forward to continuing the close collaboration" with East Lyme as it moves to an independent force.

The ceremony featured the Color Guard from the state police and Ledyard Police Department, an invocation by Father Anthony C. Dinoto, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church, and benediction by the Rev. Randy Hyde of Harvest Christian Fellowship. The East Lyme Police Cadets served as ushers.

East Lyme follows Ledyard, which switched to an independent police department last year.

The Board of Selectmen had endorsed the switch to an independent police force, after hearing recommendations from both a task force and the first selectman. Nickerson said the town has been discussing the move for decades. He said it was the right time to move to an independent police department, with the state raising the cost of the resident state trooper program and the town having 23 professionally trained police officers — now 24 with Finkelstein — who are capable of managing themselves.

k.drelich@theday.com

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