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New London woman 'scratches itch' with hire by police department

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New London — Christina Nocito has thought about a career in criminal justice or law enforcement ever since she was a kid growing up in New London.

It was an incessant itch that had stuck with her through a series of life events that included the birth of her son at a young age and later the death of her son’s father. Years went by.

“Life happens,” she said.

On Wednesday, Nocito ended a 22-year career at Chelsea Groton Bank to begin what she called a “new adventure”: the start of training to become a New London police officer.

“I guess I’m scratching that itch now,” she said.

Nocito was sworn in as one of six new recruits at the department on Tuesday, a proud day attended by members of her family and an event she said left her smiling for the entire day.

She starts training Friday with most of her classes virtual, as has become commonplace in this age of the coronavirus. They will be administered by the Police Officer Standards and Training Council online at the New London Police Department instead of the Connecticut Police Academy.

To the delight of city officials seeking better diversity at the department and more female officers, Nocito enters a male-dominated profession with few hesitations.

She’s aware that at the age of 42 she is likely to be older than most of her fellow recruits but that doesn’t seem to faze her much.

“I bring a little life experience with me,” she said.

Nocito also hopes to inspire.

“Don’t think you’re too old or it’s too late to try something new. It’s not,” she said. “That’s what I’ve said to myself. It’s now or never.”

Nocito is a New London High School graduate who went on to earn several degrees, including a bachelor's degree in criminal justice studies. She recently finished up requirements for a master’s degree from the University of New Haven in investigations of financial crimes. At Chelsea Groton she had been working as a Bank Secrecy Act manager, keeping an eye out for suspicious financial transactions and things like attempts at money laundering.

She's stayed athletic since her days of high school sports and has been involved as a player and board member at Shoreline Roller Derby, among other activities, such as hiking, mountain biking and working out.

She’s also been involved with the local community, joining the board of the nonprofit Opportunities Industrial Center of New London County in 2017. She is presently chairperson of the board of directors at OIC, an organization that provides a variety of free job training service and certification programs, supportive counseling and job placement services aimed at reaching lower-income residents.

Nocito became a certified emergency medical technician last year and continues to help out at the New London Community Meal Center as part of her charitable work with the roller derby league. She attended a Citizens Police Academy in New London in 2016 and in 2019 visited a seminar held as part of a state police effort to recruit female officers, with thoughts of a law enforcement career still on her mind.

It was in September that she saw the posting by the city seeking police officers.

“I thought about it for about three weeks. Am I too old? Can I do it? I went for it. I told myself it was now or never,” she said.

She passed both the physical and written test. The test was hosted and administered by the city as part of a new outreach effort.

New London police Chief Peter Reichard said the department typically uses www.policeapp.com for recruitment and the Law Enforcement Council of Connecticut for a list of people interested in taking the regional entry exam. Most area police departments use the same process, which means 20 area departments all receive the same list of potential officers.

“We know we needed to expand our reach and streamline the testing processes as they took place over several days, prohibiting some individuals from participating,” Reichard said. ”It was decided that we would post our hiring testing for a longer time and reach out to even more avenues to advertise our hiring testing.”

Additionally, the department conducted in-house testing, presenting the opportunity for the written and physical agility phases of the test on the same day to accommodate schedules. Testing fees were waived to help expand the applicant pool.

Nocito was among a group that passed all phases of testing conducted by New London police staff: a written exam, physical agility test, oral interviews, polygraph test, psychological test, medical exam, a thorough background investigation and finally an interview with the chief.

Based on the success, Reichard said the city is discussing with the personnel department the possibility of running a similar process to attract future hires.

New London Chief Administrative Officer Steve Fields, a retired state police lieutenant colonel, said he was proud of the partnership between the police and personnel departments that has stimulated interest from within the community.

While Fields said there is work to be done to attract more officers that reflect the racial makeup of the community, the new hires are a good, diverse mix and include one bilingual recruit, two females and two New Londoners.

Nocito said she looks forward to serving the community in a new and different role and, based on her background, would like to someday work on investigations as a detective.

“I know I have to do what I have to do to get there,” she said.

g.smith@theday.com

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