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Fazzino comes full circle: Chief court inspector to retire and head back to New London schools

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New London — Law enforcement has been good to Philip Fazzino III, but after 35 years, he's looking forward to not getting out of bed for every homicide or major crime that occurs in the region.

Fazzino is retiring at the end of the month from his position as chief inspector in the New London State's Attorney's Office. In that job, he's responded to major crime scenes to guide police investigations, prepared cases for trial, investigated police officers involved in shootings and supervised the other inspectors. He also has forged unbreakable bonds with his co-workers, who rely on him to tell it like it is when a case looks weak or bring a can of gas when they run out on the road.

"I've had an amazing career here," Fazzino said during an interview this past week in his office at the Huntington Street courthouse. "This is a great office."

He won't be sitting at home in Old Lyme, at least during the school year. He's accepted a position as a school safety officer at New London High School starting April 6.

It's a civilian assignment but, in a way, Fazzino, who is 62, is circling back to the beginning of his career in law enforcement. He started New London's Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE, program and taught the program in nine schools while working as a city police officer from 1985 to 1995. 

In 1990, he was named New London Police Officer of the Year and was photographed standing among smiling schoolchildren and playing touch football during an after-school program for a story in The Day. 

"People can think what they want about the DARE program, but it got cops back in the schools," he said. "It's been 30 years and people still know me as their DARE officer and they're grown-ups. That makes me feel good."

As an inspector, Fazzino has handled most of the region's sexual assault cases with Senior Assistant State's Attorney Theresa Anne Ferryman. The inspectors help prepare cases for trial, meet with victims and witnesses and sit with the prosecutor in the courtroom. 

"A lot of horrible things happen to kids," he said. "I feel a need to kind of protect them."

Ferryman said she was shocked by Fazzino's abrupt decision to retire, and that her job will be "very, very different without him." She said they have made a great team, despite being polar opposites in habits and temperaments.

"Phil is direct and delivers observations and directions without a lot of delicacy," Ferryman wrote in an email. "I often play the role of toning down and tempering Phil's assessments and opinions for the sake of his audience — the police, the staff, other attorneys and the public. We laugh about it all the time — 'what really Phil means to say is this. ...'"

Fazzino has three sons, all of whom live and work in the area: Nicholas Fazzino and Philip Fazzino, who are 28 and 30, respectively, and stepson Rob Perry, 34, with whom he remains close.

He's married to Debra (Edgecomb) Fazzino, and together they are catering to every whim of French bulldog Lucy, working hard to stay in shape and enjoying summer days at the town beach. In his new position, Fazzino won't be working summers and won't have to call his boss, State's Attorney Michael L. Regan, in the middle  of the night to alert him of the latest major crime.

"It's going to be a big loss to the office," Regan said. "Myself and the other prosecutors rely on Phil for his knowledge and insight, and also we rely on the relationships he has with the local and state police departments."

Regan said he's requested permission to post Fazzino's position within the inspectors' bargaining unit. Fazzino's departure leaves the office with three inspectors, two of whom are likely to retire within a couple of years.

k.florin@theday.com

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