New London police to hire 2, promote 1

New London — The city police department will swear in two new officers and promote an investigator Friday, returning the detective division to its six-person capacity and bringing the force to 70 officers.

Warwick, R.I., resident Stephen Perry is coming from the New Haven Police Department, where he has worked since October 2016.

Juan Cruz, a New London native, will leave his job with Hartford police, which he began in February 2017. Cruz graduated from New London High School in 2011.

Investigator Ryan Griffin, who joined the department in February 2011, will be promoted to detective.

Because Perry and Cruz are certified officers, the new patrolmen will require less training than new recruits — they’ll primarily need to learn New London’s streets and computer system.

“There was a time not too long ago when our cops were leaving to work in other cities,” Mayor Michael Passero said. “Now cops want to work here. It’s a 180 (degree) turn, and I’m proud of that.”

The city had almost 95 officers in 2010, a year after former police Chief Margaret Ackley took the reins, but had just 65 by 2014.

Ackley sued the city in 2013 for violating the terms of her 2012 contract and in 2014 was placed on paid leave during an unrelated investigation into her behavior as chief. The 10-month investigation found no wrongdoing.

The city approved a $50,000 settlement in the suit in March.

Ackley retired in January last year and former Deputy Chief Peter Reichard has since become chief.

‘What do we do to move forward?'

At capacity for the first time since 2013, the detective division will be able to temporarily assign other officers to smaller tasks, police union President Todd Lynch said, which will help the younger officers learn new skills.

Under contract, detectives can’t do that when the division isn’t at capacity.

“That’s because we didn’t want the administration to be able to say, ‘Well, we’ll just go with four detectives and a rotation of younger officers,’” Lynch said.

Reichard said the new hires bring the department from 68 to 70 sworn officers, which is shy of the 80-officer minimum put into ordinance in 2014.

The deputy chief position Reichard vacated remains unfilled, and at least one officer is expected to retire this summer, officials said.

Passero said the city plans to hire enough officers to cover retirements and attrition and leave the department with one new position regardless of what happens with the budget, which the city approved in May but residents petitioned against in June.

Both new officers will make $64,233. Griffin’s salary is $78,017.

Lynch, often outspoken about a lack of manpower in the city of 27,000, said he, Passero, Reichard and Chief Administrative Officer Steven Fields worked together to bring the new officers on.

“It was the first time in a long time ... that we sat around a table, just the four of us, and said, ‘What do we do to move forward?’” Lynch said. “It was such a positive approach.”

Reichard said the department has scheduled a testing for noncertified officers and continues to seek officers from other departments. Passero said the city particularly is interested in finding New London residents who may join the force.

“We are anticipating retirements this year — there will be every year,” Passero said. “We’re trying to keep ahead of that and make sure we move forward in the number of police we have and don’t slip back.”

l.boyle@theday.com

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