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History of the East Hartford Police Department
THE HISTORY OF THE EAST HARTFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT
EAST HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT


EARLY HISTORY

    The early history of the East Hartford Police Department is similar to the history of police service in all communities adjacent to a city.  For many years, East Hartford was an agricultural town and railroad center, largely self-contained because travel to the closest major city, Hartford, was a considerable undertaking over poor roads and across the old wooden covered bridge.

    Law enforcement in East Hartford began in 1699 when Daniel Bidwell was appointed as Constable for Hartford “East of the River.”  Records show that a Sergeant Thomas Spencer was constable in 1723.  On December 2, 1783, at the first town meeting held in East Hartford as an independent town, two constables, Kohn Wyles and Timothy Bryant, were named as the first constables for East Hartford.  Public whipping was prescribed for drunkenness, and travel on Sunday was forbidden.  In 1823, a workhouse was established in the Hockanum section “for the confinement of sentenced offenders…they were employed in farming operations, and in winter, were set to picking oakum.”

    From about 1875 on, police service was furnished by the arresting powers of constables and deputy sheriffs, with the administration of justice through a grand juror as prosecutor and a justice of the peace as judge.  Arthur P. Moore, acting as constable and a deputy sheriff, was the town’s chief law enforcement officer, available day or night for service as an arresting officer.  It was a powerful sight to see him, a strong man of great stature, answering a call for service in his low-slung buggy, drawn by a horse urged along by pushing the lines.  He seldom, if ever, carried a firearm, but depended upon his own powers of persuasion assisted by a small black jack or persuader to place his subject under arrest.

    East Hartford’s first unpaid patrolmen were appointed on August 17, 1891.  It is doubtful that the nine volunteers saw much real service.  The criticism of the town’s early form of police service was that it consisted of arresting law breakers after the crime had been committed.  As time went on, the citizens of the center of town felt the need of police patrolmen to protect their property and prevent crime.  A group of citizens voluntarily contributed to the support of a patrolman in the person of William Marlowe, a tinner by trade.  Marlowe, after a time, gave up the job because of the uncertain pay, which depended upon the voluntary subscriptions of private citizens.  He was succeeded by William Hartley.

ORIGINS OF THE POLICE DEPARTMENT

    The old bridge road, with its many small bridges, was a choice spot for holdups, and a series of them culminating in the robbery of Richard Watrous, of the Internal Revenue Office, at the old tool shed on the side of the bridge road, forced the town to take action.  On November 11, 1895, a special town meeting voted 23-20 to appropriate $800.00 for one or two persons to “act as watchmen or patrolmen to patrol the streets of the town during the night season.”  On November 25, 1895, John C. Bogue, a former Watchman at the State Prison in Wethersfield, was sworn in as Patrolman, becoming East Hartford’s first policeman.  His job was to patrol Main Street from Hartford Avenue to the railroad crossing.  Patrolman Bogue wore an old Hartford Police uniform, and the first East Hartford Police badge, which was an old Hartford Police badge, which still bore the Seal of the City of Hartford, with the top panel modified to read “East Hartford” instead of “Hartford.”

    In 1897, Patrolman Bogue was hired by the Hartford Police Department, and the town appointed its second police officer, Robert W. “Kap” Kappenberg.  In the same year, the first jail was built in Wells Hall, and the Town Court began to hear cases under its first judge, Justice John Stoughton.  Citizens in the Meadow District demanded police protection shortly after the Kappenberg appointment, and Thomas F. Lloyd was named as the third town police officer.  By 1905, the town had two regular policemen, Robert Kappenberg and Thomas Lloyd, and two supernumerary (part-time) officers, Thomas Galuly and Alexander Schmidt.  The patrolmen’s job was to walk the main streets from 8 PM until 4 AM, watching property and maintaining order.  At the time there was no need for a daytime policeman, but the patrolman was on call should an emergency arise.  Several beats were specified: on Main Street from Hartford Avenue to Linden Street; in the Meadow on Hartford Avenue from the bridge to Ash Street; on Governor Street from Hartford Avenue to Village Street; on Pleasant Street from Hartford Avenue to Ash Street; and in Burnside from 8 PM to 1 AM on Saturdays.

    At the annual town meeting in 1904, James Martin, publisher of the American Enterprise, a local newspaper at the time, moved to appoint a committee of six men to draw up to rules to regulate the police force.  The committee was approved and drew up police regulations in 1905.  The patrolman’s salary was $75.00 per month.

    The rules of police conduct were quite progressive.  Among them were that, “all members of the force must be quiet, civil, and orderly in their deportment at all times, and in the discharge of duty must show command of temper, discretion, and patience, and when they are asked questions they should not answer in a short and careless manner, but with all possible attention and courtesy.  They shall, in a respectful manner, give their names and numbers to all persons who inquire.  They shall use their clubs only in self-defense or in cases of forcible or violent resistance to them.  All the members of the force will carefully abstain from profane language, indecent expressions or illusions, and from real or apparent intimacy or familiarity with dissolute or vicious persons…the more gentlemanly the behavior of the member, the more they will be respected and sustained by public sentiment.”  A police officer had to be able to speak, read, and write English, and had to be a citizen and qualified voter of East Hartford.
If a citizen had a complaint about an officer, he made it in writing to the selectmen, who named a time for a hearing and gave notice to all interested parties.  After the close of the hearing, the selectmen had to render a decision on the case within 15 days.

ORGANIZED POLICE DEPARTMENT

    As traffic and business encroached on the town, the town’s Board of Selectmen joined with the Fire District in the establishment of a Board of Police Commissioners in 1914.  The Board was given full direction and control of the police department and the authority to enforce the general rules of the department.  The Board decided upon a day and a night patrol.  Police service in those days was a strenuous task, all on foot and with no system to summon assistance.  Drunken or subdued prisoners had to be carried to the lockup either on the back of the arresting officer, in a wheel barrow, or in a wagon if one was available.  At some point, Patrolman Robert Kappenberg was designated as the town’s Chief of Police.

    On Tuesday, September 19, 1916, Chief Kappenberg was directing traffic on Main Street near Bissell Street when he tried to divert a motorist driving on the wrong side of Main Street.  While trying to redirect the errant vehicle, Kappenberg was struck in the back by a second car.  Chief Kappenberg was taken to Hartford Hospital where he died on Sunday, October 8, 1916.  Chief Kappenberg was the first East Hartford police officer killed in the line of duty.  Chief Kappenberg’s name is memorialized on both the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the Connecticut Police Chiefs Law Enforcement Memorial in Meriden, Connecticut.

After the death of Chief Kappenberg, the police board organized the department, giving the department its own budget, and Patrolman William J. McKee was named Chief of Police on November 1, 1916.  Chief McKee professionalized the department with the issuance of new style uniforms, and breast and hat badges.  Police Headquarters was in the basement of Wells Hall, telephone number LAurel 324.

    By 1919, the police department had grown to four regular police officers and nine supernumeraries.  In 1929, fourteen full time officers patrolled East Hartford.

    Chief McKee’s men jokingly gave him the nickname of “sneak” for his love or organizing his officers to catch lawbreakers by crafty methods.  For example, after the weekly payroll car stopped at the railroad yards, many workers habitually gathered on a plot of land between the tracks known as “Gilligan’s Island.”  McKee would disguise his men as farmers or have them sneak up by other ruses.  Usually, though, one of the more sympathetic officers would tip off the raid by firing his pistol, and the railroad workers would scatter.  Passage of the Eighteenth Amendment, Prohibition, brought more work to local police, as they raided many liquor stills that made moonshine for the Hartford market.  Relatively quiet and secluded areas and tobacco sheds in East Hartford provided ideal distillery sites.

    In 1915, some “yeggmen,” or safe crackers, blew open the safe in the Burnside Post Office and escaped with a modest sum of money.  Ironically, they failed to see a sign inside which pleaded, “Safe Not Locked, Don’t Blow.”

    On Christmas Day, 1923, Mrs. Mary Monsell was beaten to death at her Silver Lane home, allegedly by John Cook, during a robbery attempt.  Mrs. Monsell’s home was at the Northwest corner of Silver Lane and Forbes Street, in the rear.  Cook escaped with $12.00 for his efforts.  A milkman reported seeing Cook hanging around the shadows of Monsell’s home early on Christmas Eve.  Chief McKee and Hartford County Detective Edward J. Hickey went to visit Cook, who had a long police record.  They searched his room and found an old button box.  Cook had apparently grabbed the box in the dark, thinking it was filled with coins.  A neighbor later identified the box as belonging to Mrs. Monsell.  Before police could arrest Cook, he left town.  Cook was never found, despite possible sightings both inside and outside the country, and a police manhunt which continued for more than a quarter century.

    The first police patrol car was utilized by the East Hartford Police in 1929.  Prior to this, patrols were performed by motorcycle and on foot.

    In 1934, the department consisted of Chief McKee (annual salary $2610.00,) Captain Timothy J. Kelleher, Lieutenant John W. Foley, Detective Lieutenant Maxwell P. Knie, Sergeant William M. Cooney, eleven regular patrolmen, and seventeen supernumerary patrolmen.  The department had a complete Gamewell signal box system with central control at Headquarters; a photograph and fingerprint bureau with identification system; two police cars, and three police motorcycles.  1935 saw the first police radios go into service.  These were one-way radios and East Hartford police units were dispatched by the Hartford Police, who told East Hartford Police units to “Call Your Station” for dispatches.

    Officer John Eugene Callahan, known commonly as “Gene”, was on motorcycle patrol on Connecticut Boulevard on Friday, May 18, 1934.  At approximately 3:45 PM, a truck driven by Peter Perretto suddenly pulled away from the curb to make a u-turn.  Officer Callahan struck the truck and was thrown from his motorcycle.  Police blotter entries show that Perretto was arrested for Reckless Driving and Failure to Follow the Rules of the Road.  Officer Callahan was taken to St. Francis Hospital where he was treated until October 22, 1934.  Officer Callahan returned to limited police desk duty on October 1, 1935, and died of a heart attack on Sunday, November 12, 1939.  Dr. F. Wellington Brecker directly attributed Officer Callahan’s death to his accident in 1934, and in June of 1940 his death was certified by the State Police Association of Connecticut as having occurred in the line of duty.  Officer Callahan was the second East Hartford police officer to give his life in the line of duty.  Both the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and Connecticut Police Chiefs Law Enforcement Memorial declined to add Officer Callahan’s name to their respective memorials, as he had passed away too long after his initial accident, and from apparent natural causes, which do not meet enshrinement requirements.

    The Town of East Hartford, in 1936-1937, saw the construction of a new Town Hall at 740 Main Street, under President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA.)  The Police Department moved from Wells Hall to its new quarters in the basement of Town Hall.

    In 1940, the Department was increased in size to deal with the “abnormal traffic situation created by enlarged employment at the aircraft” (Pratt and Whitney Aircraft, the aircraft engine manufacturer.)  The department had the chief, four supervisors, and eighteen fulltime patrolmen, utilizing three police cruisers.  In 1941, the year of greatest change to that date, the number of patrolmen jumped to thirty four, the department purchased two new police cruisers, Chief McKee retired on July 1, 1941, and Captain Timothy J. Kelleher was named Chief of Police.  1942 saw the installation of the first two-way police radio system connecting officers’ cruisers with a base radio at police headquarters.  The department then operated on a Low Band frequency of 37.18 Mhz.

    East Hartford had the worst traffic safety record in the state in 1947, with twelve persons having been killed in the previous three years.  The police department initiated a safety program, lecturing to students in the grammar schools, supporting driver education in high school, and sponsoring a bicycle safety program.  The result was a dramatic change.  East Hartford became the safest community in the state, going more than two years without a traffic fatality through October of 1949.  The safety program won several awards.

    In response to the post-World War II cold war era, Chief Kelleher formed the East Hartford Civil Defense Auxiliary Police unit in 1951.  The unit was formed under the federal government’s Civil Defense initiative and also operated out of Town Hall.  The unit was active until the late 1960’s.

    Chief Kelleher retired on May 1, 1955, and Assistant Chief Veto A. Bushnell was named the new Chief of Police.  In 1958, the Town built a new Police and Court building at 497 Tolland Street, at the corner of School and Tolland Streets.  The building was constructed so as to serve as a civil defense bomb shelter if needed.  The Department at that time consisted of 62 sworn officers and 3 civilian clerks.  Also in 1958, Chief Bushnell opted to change the department’s uniforms, adopting a triangle-shaped shoulder patch with the town seal in the center, new breast badges bearing the town seal, and new hat badges.  The wool choker coat was eliminated from the uniform complement.  The state abolished the Town Court system and replaced it with the Circuit Court system.  Judge John Brennan was the last judge to sit in the Town Court.  The patrol plan beginning in the early 1950’s consisted of six patrol car beats,  supplemented by three walking beats.

    In 1960, members of the International Association of Machinists at Pratt and Whitney Aircraft went out on strike.  This was the most bitter strike since the railroad walkout in the 1920’s.  The strike was over job security.  Shortly after the workers walked out in June, violence started.  With such large numbers of workers involved, the atmosphere at plant gates became highly charged and emotional.  Pickets mobbed the cars of those going into work, and sometimes cars hit picketers.  Windshields were broken, antennas ripped off, and cars were scratched and dented.  Eighteen state troopers assisted the department in keeping order.

    In 1961 Chief Bushnell designed a portable flashing caution / warning light to be placed at the scene of a traffic accident to warn motorists of the hazard.  Chief Bushnell submitted his design to Law and Order magazine, and he won the 1961 Law and Order Magazine Traffic Trophy for safety innovation.

    Under the direction of Chief Bushnell, Officer John Ruggiero and his brother, Supernumerary Officer Joseph Ruggiero, formed the East Hartford Police Marching Band in 1963.  This group was designed as a youth activity for high school-aged boys and girls.  The band wore uniforms; was equipped with drums, fifes, and glockenspiels; and practiced twice weekly with their instruments and in marching and maneuvering techniques.  The group participated in parades, events, and marching band tournaments throughout Connecticut until the late 1960’s.

    The year 1964 saw the department advertise for and hire its first policewoman, Patricia M. O’Neill.  Mrs. O’Neill worked from May to October of 1964, and resigned when she became pregnant.  The Department then hired its second female officer, Judith Brewster.  Mrs. O’Neill and Ms. Brewster were initially hired to work in the Juvenile Division.  Officer Brewster eventually rose to become a Lieutenant, the first female to attain a supervisory position over male officers in the New England area.  During the same year, department officers and supervisors formed the first affiliated labor union, under AFSCME (Association of Federal, State, County, and Municipal Employees.)

    Chief Bushnell retired March 11, 1969, and Assistant Chief Joseph J. Ciccalone was promoted to Chief of Police.  The phone number for the police department at that time was 289-5471.

MODERN ERA

    Chief Ciccalone left the department on October 30, 1973, to become Chief of Police for the University of Connecticut.  Clarence A. Drumm, an Inspector (one step below Chief of Police) with twenty two years of service with the Hamden Police Department in Connecticut, was hired as the first Chief of Police from outside the department.  Chief Drumm is credited with modernizing the department closer to what it exists today as compared to its roots.

     The East Hartford Police Explorer Post 497 was founded in 1973 by Officer Albert Kerling with the support of Chief Drumm.  The Post number was adopted from the department’s numerical street address at that time (497 Tolland Street.)  The Police Explorer program is part of the Boy Scouts of America, and provides young men and women from ages 14 to 21 with a chance to view a future career in law enforcement by assisting the police department in uniform at non-hazardous duties, such as traffic and crowd control at accidents and fires, parking cars at events, and community policing projects.  Post 497 was the first such group in the United States to allow a car patrol program utilizing a marked vehicle where explorers were unaccompanied by a police officer while patrolling parks and schools, assisting at fires, disabled vehicles, traffic accidents, medical calls, and checking vacant houses.  For several years the Post also had a very successful Ride-Along program where four days per week explorers were allowed to ride with police officers and accompany them on non-hazardous calls.  Numerous Post members have gone on to successful careers with the East Hartford Police as well as other federal, state, municipal, and military law enforcement agencies.  The Explorer Post disbanded in 2000.

    Chief Drumm implemented the four days on / three days off patrol work schedule in 1974.  Chief Drumm also began assigning “employee numbers,” rather than badge numbers, as a control number for his sworn officers.  The employee number retires along with the officer.  Officers assigned to the Detective Bureau were allowed to use the title “Investigator,” until 1980.  In 1975 Chief Drumm abolished the existing foot beats and patrol districts and implemented “Team Policing,” which involved all officers actively patrolling the whole town and answering calls by rotation.  This patrol plan lasted for five years, at which point the Chief implemented a new beat system comprised of the current eight patrol districts.

    The department, under Chief Drumm, purchased its first portable two-way radios in the mid-1970’s.  These radios were large and unwieldy, with a long telescoping antenna which had to be manually pulled out and pushed in.  In 1980, the department’s two-way radio system switched to the UHF band with a frequency of 460.250 Mhz, call sign KCA-460.  Also in 1980, the Circuit Court moved out of 497 Tolland Street to a renovated supermarket building in Manchester, and the department took over the whole structure at 497 Tolland Street.

    Due to increased training costs and liability considerations, the department retired the supernumerary, or part-time, officer program in April of 1984.  Supernumerary officers had been used in the department since the early 1900’s, and in the early days this was the first step for a man to seek employment as a full-time officer, prior to the implementation of the Civil Service system.  John P. Lavoie and Romano I. Ratti, Jr. were the last two supernumerary officers appointed.  

     Chief Drumm retired on October 1, 1984.  Deputy Chief George F. Dayton, Jr. was promoted to Chief of Police on January 17, 1985.  During Chief Dayton’s tenure, under the direction of Assistant Chief Anthony Land, the computerization of the department began.  Initially the computer system was an IBM mainframe, which included Computer-Aided Dispatching, and eliminated the punch-card system of case logging and dispatch.  The computer system has evolved to a Microsoft Windows-based system with report writing, records management, dispatching, and many other capabilities.

    In 1988, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) undertook a study of the East Hartford Police Department which, upon its completion, named several ways in which the department could improve itself and its service levels.  Chief Dayton retired on August 25, 1988.  David L. Gorski, Chief of Police in Appleton, Wisconsin, was named Interim Chief of Police and began serving on September 19, 1988, until a search could be conducted to find a new chief.  Chief Gorski left on December 10, 1988.  Sergeant Kathleen McNamara was elected President of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO), Local 386, which the officers and supervisors union had affiliated with.  Sergeant McNamara was the first female police officer voted to a police union presidency in Connecticut.

    Grover Howell, the Director of the New York City Police Communications Center, was hired as Chief of Police after a nationwide search, on April 3, 1989.  After a shots fired incident at night on Tolland Street, Chief Howell decided to have officers change from wearing light gray uniform shirts to dark blue for officer safety.  White shirts worn by Lieutenants and above at the time were eliminated.  Police cruisers changed from gray to two-tone white over dark blue, returning to a more traditional look.  Chief Howell served for eleven months, leaving on March 30, 1990, and was succeeded by Acting Chief Richard Brazalovich.  The department started a formal Field Training Officer (FTO) program in 1989, whereby a recruit officer, upon graduating from the police academy, would ride with a police officer / trainer and eventually increase his level of participation and decision-making to the point of being self-sufficient.

    Interest in a police canine program at the East Hartford Police Department began as early as 1962.  After an incident where a shotgun was fired at a domestic dispute, a local resident, Viola Anderson, offered to purchase a police dog for the department to train and use.  The offer was not acted upon at that time.  In 1970, Officer John Wright and his personal canine, “Shep,” a German Shepard, attended and completed the Glastonbury Police K-9 Training Program, at his own expense.  It is unknown how often Officer Wright utilized Shep before he left the Department in 1971.  In 1987, Officer Robert Kornfeld began researching the feasibility of the department having a police patrol canine program.  Officer Kornfeld obtained his first patrol dog, a German Shepard named Luke, and after completing training with the Connecticut State Police, they began patrol on December 21, 1990.  The department has had several patrol and narcotics or explosive canine / handler teams since then.  The
handler / canine teams and the year they started have been:

        Officer John Wright and K-9 Shep                        - 1970
        Officer Robert Kornfeld and K-9 Luke            - 1990
        Officer Robert Kornfeld and K-9 Friday          - 1997
        Officer William Proulx and K-9 Bruno            - 1992
        Officer William Proulx and K-9 Dakota           - 1999
        Officer John Zavalick and K-9 Raven             - 1998
        Officer John Zavalick and K-9 Axel              - 2006
        Detective William Turley and K-9 Miranda        - 1996
        Officer Pietro Cortese and K-9 Meko             - 1999
        Officer Stephen Grossi and K-9 Odin             - 2001
        Officer Jay Malley and K-9 Max                  - 2005
Officer Todd Mona and K-9 Primo                  -2006
Officer David Rhoades and K-9 Charlie           - 2007

The handlers and their canines have been the recipients of many Connecticut K-9 Olympics awards over the years.  Officer Kornfeld and K-9 Friday placed 2nd overall in the 2001 Las Vegas K-9 Trials.

    In November of 1989, the first formal EHPD Honor Guard was established.  The original members of the Honor Guard were Kenneth Combs, Clifford Leonard, Ellen Stoldt, Frederick Paquette, and Timothy Juergens.  The unit is utilized to officially represent the Department at parades, funerals, ceremonies, and other occasions where a formal presentation of flags, or flags and long guns, is desired or requested.

    The East Hartford Police Department took over town-wide communications for all police, fire, rescue, and emergency medical calls in May of 1989.  Prior to that, the town hired “dispatchers” and “information technicians” (also called info techs or call takers) who could not cross-task their jobs.  The combined public safety dispatch center is housed within the police department.

    Over the time period of 1989 into 1990, the East Hartford Police Department began the transition from .38 caliber revolvers to Glock 9mm semi-automatic handguns.  Due to cost (pistols, leather gear, ammunition, etc.,) one-half of the officers were transitioned at a time, by seniority.  The transition was completed within two years.

    During the summer of 1990, Chief Brazalovich authorized the start of the first bicycle patrol officer program.  Officers Robert Kornfeld, Peter Slocum, and Ellen Stoldt were the first bicycle patrol officers whose job was to patrol Main Street, Connecticut Boulevard, and all Town parks, in addition to other areas assigned by the Watch Commander, during the summer months.  Although a specific bicycle patrol program no longer exists, the department uses bicycles for certain special events such as the Riverfest.

    Chief Brazalovich served from March 31, 1990 until January 13, 1991.  At that time Chief James W. Shay, a retired Lieutenant from the Connecticut State Police, was appointed head of the department.

    In the Spring of 1994, the East Hartford Police Department’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) was formed.  The team consisted of the Entry (Tactical) Team, Snipers, and Hostage Negotiators.  The ERT Team Leader was Lieutenant Paul Lakenbach.  The Department purchased a truck and command trailer combination to bring to the site of incidents.  The original ERT personnel were:

Tactical                                                Snipers
Sergeant Tom McDermott                          Detective Juan Rivera
Officer Jon Stosuy                                      Officer Charlie Sandberg
Detective Curt Stoldt
Officer Jim Leonard                                     Negotiators
Detective Gary Willett                          Sergeant Tony Lupacchino                
Officer Tony Piacenta                           Officer Rick Rohner
Officer Steve Syme
Officer Tim Juergens
Officer Phil Serkosky
Officer Jilber Altounian

The team trained monthly, was involved in several incidents during its lifespan, and was disbanded in 2001.

    The Centennial of the founding of the East Hartford Police Department was in 1995.  The Department formed a Centennial Committee which consisted of its Chairman, Sergeant Jack Egan, along with Lt. Greg Zigmont, Sgt. Bob Rioux, Sgt. Rich Vibberts, and Officers Gerry Tomkiel, Jim McElroy, Tim Juergens, Mike Morelli, Sharon Eiter, and Town Councilwoman Marylee Hickey.  Sergeant Egan drew up a Centennial logo, which Officer Juergens had made into a cloth patch.  Other items such as coffee cups, t-shirts, baseball caps, and bumper stickers, were made up using the logo and sold by the Centennial Committee.  Sergeant Juergens began to document the history of the Department.  Articles on the centennial appeared in the Hartford Courant and the Journal Inquirer newspapers.  The Department held a Centennial Ball on Saturday, November 11th, at the Marco Polo Restaurant at 1250 Burnside Avenue, which was attended by approximately 100 people, including Chiefs Bushnell, Drumm, Howell, Brazalovich, and Shay.

    Officer Brian A. Aselton, employee #251, was working the evening shift on Saturday, January 23, 1999, when, at 9:15 PM, he answered a Noise Complaint at 454 ½ Main Street.  Unbeknownst to Officer Aselton, he was walking into a home invasion robbery at an apartment.  Officer Aselton confronted two suspects in the hallway as they tried to leave the scene.  A female suspect fled out the rear stairwell.  Officer Aselton was able to grab hold of the male suspect, Alex Sostre, and the two struggled.  Sostre pulled out a .38 caliber revolver from his pants pocket, which he had stolen during the robbery, and shot Officer Aselton once in the head, killing him.  Sostre then fled the scene.  Officer Aselton’s funeral and burial was held on Thursday, January 28, 1999, with over (estimated) 10,000 law enforcement officers from across the United States and Canada in attendance.  After a joint investigation by the East Hartford Police and Connecticut State Police, assisted by numerous other law enforcement agencies, Sostre and three accomplices, Erica Vilchel, Nency Forty (who had been in the apartment with Sostre,) and Jose Gonzalez, were arrested in less than a week.  Sostre pled guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole; his accomplices all received long prison terms.  Officer Aselton was the third East Hartford police officer killed in the line of duty, and his name is memorialized on both the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the Connecticut Police Chiefs Law Enforcement Memorial in Meriden, Connecticut.  Numerous positive activities, including a Red Cross blood drive, charity motorcycle run, and scholarship fund, have been established in Officer Aselton’s name.

    Chief Shay departed on March 22, 2000, and Commander Mark J. Sirois was named acting Chief of Police.  Chief Sirois was sworn in as the full time Chief of Police on February 16, 2001.  In 2001 Chief Sirois implemented a new shoulder patch, and in 2002 new badges for the Chief, Commanders, Lieutenants, and Sergeants.  He also allowed Commanders to resume wearing white uniform shirts.  Chief Sirois also reinstituted the title of “Investigator” for personnel of the rank of officer assigned to the Criminal Investigations Bureau.

    In 2000, the department transitioned from Glock 9 millimeter pistols to Glock .40 caliber pistols, to improve the performance provided by the department’s issued handgun.

    On Monday, September 13, 2004, the new East Hartford Public Safety Complex at 31 School Street was opened.  The complex consists of the renovated former Burnside School plus new wings for police Operations, and Fire Station 3 / fire administration offices.  The formal dedication of the complex occurred on Thursday, June 16, 2005, with a dedication ceremony, open house and tours, and refreshments.  The old Police Headquarters at 497 Tolland Street was torn down, and the land became part of the grounds of the Public Safety Complex.

    The department held its first Citizen Police Academy in the Spring of 2006, coordinated by Sergeant Timothy Juergens.  Twenty three town residents and business owners attended a three hour class every Wednesday for twelve weeks from March to June, each week taking up a different topic of police work as related to the East Hartford Police Department.  The class was well received by the attendees, the media, and the department.

    In April of 2007, the rank of Commander was eliminated, and the three remaining Bureau Commander positions were retitled Deputy Chiefs.

Bibliography

Goodwin, Joseph O.  East Hartford: Its History and Traditions.  Camden:  Picton Press, 1879.

Paquette, Lee.  Only More So: The History of East Hartford 1783-1976.  East Hartford:  The Raymond Library Company, 1976.

The East Hartford Police Benevolent Association Souvenir Program 1934.  East Hartford:  The Gazette Publishing Company, 1934.

The East Hartford Police Benevolent Association 25th Annual Ball.  East Hartford: 1958.

In addition, this history was compiled with information supplied by:
Chief Veto Bushnell (Ret./Dec.)
Assistant Chief John Gompper (Ret./Dec.)
Lieutenant Albert Kerling (Ret.)
Sergeant John Egan (Ret.)
Sergeant Timothy Juergens
Officer Roger Guminiak (Ret.)
Officer Robert Kornfeld (Ret.)
Officer Michael Morelli
Auxiliary Police Officer Lawrence Carrozza (Ret./Dec.)





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