Police honor their own














The Stratford Police Department recently swore in seven rookie officers, celebrated seven promotions, recognized four retirees, and distributed citations and awards to 12 members of the force for outstanding work.

“It is important for us to recognize individuals who have done some exceptional things during the course of the last year,” Chief Patrick Ridenhour told The Star. “By giving these awards we let them know their efforts are greatly appreciated and go a long way toward making Stratford a safer community.”

“For those who have been recently promoted, this is also a tremendous accomplishment,” Ridenhour said. The ceremony is an opportunity to give the “deserved formal recognition” in front of their family, friends, peers, and the community at large.

This year’s ceremonies were held in council chambers at Town Hall on June 27.

Captain Gregg Proudfoot, who conducted the ceremonies with the chief and Mayor John Harkins on hand, said, “We don’t expect the public to remember our names, but we do remember our own. We are all family.”

“Police officers touch lives,” Proudfoot said, “and we must not forget how police risk their lives for others.”

The oath of office was administered by Town Clerk Susan Pawluk to the newly hired officers: Matt Ackerman, Marc Halper, John Facto, Kyle Lavin, Omar Jimenez, Jose Escobar and Edwin DeJesus.

Those who have been recently promoted swore to the oath of their new office: Detective Heineman Gonzalez, Detective Jason Creator, Detective Jonathan Policano, Sergeant Robert Rosenbaum, Lt. Fred Wilcoxson, Lt. Melissa Niemiec, and Captain Paul DosSantos.

As Proudfoot was reviewing some of the worked that led to the promotions, he was also reminding the audience about the wide array of duties taken on and skills employed by Stratford police. Just a few examples of what the captain highlighted are Gonzalez and his knowledge of the streets; Creatore as a taser instructor, arrester of drunk drivers, Special Operations Team member, and an undercover narcotics detective with the most feared criminals on the street.

He spoke of Policano removing felons from the street, mentoring children, quelling domestic disputes, being three-time Stratford Exchange Club Police Officer of the Year, and a certified paramedic.

Rosenbaum has also been an Officer of the Year, a school resource officer, and a burglary detective.

Wilcoxson is a SWAT member, has a high rate of convictions per arrests, and has been recruited to work with the FBI and DEA Drug Task Force.

Niemiec has been an undercover narcotics cop, on the marine boat unit, a patrol supervisor, a leader of the police explorer program, and is now working on reinstituting a Police Athletic League.

DosSantos has been a patrol officer, was credit with saving the life of a child in 2000, has been a detective division sergeant, lieutenant and a training division commander.

Four men who retired in the past year were called up and commended for their service. Captain Kenny Bakalar, Lt. James Heffernan, Sgt. Ted Walewski, and Officer David Mullane.

Detective John Therina received a Merit Award for Excellent Arrest with ATF Special Agent Michael Oppenheim for arresting two convicted felons and recovering hand guns stolen from the Smith & Wesson Firearms Company.

Special citations for valor and effectiveness were given to members of the Narcotics, Vice, and Intelligence Unit: Detective Sgt. Shawn Martinez, Detective Therina, Detective James Lofton, and Detective Policano.

Sgt. Rosenbaum and Detective Jason Delauri received merit citations for the Burglary Unit.

Certificates of recognition were earned by Officer Joseph Maida, Officer Glen Ponganis, Animal Control Officer Rachel Solviera, Assistant Animal Control Officer Sterrett Pixley, and Assistant Animal Control Officer Angelique Fitzmorris. Particular credit was given for having an emergency plan in place for animals to be sheltered during Superstorm Sandy.

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