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Exchange Club Honors 2020 West Hartford Police Officer of the Year

Off. John Begin was named the 2020 West Hartford Exchange Club Police Officer of the Year. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford Police Off. John Begin has been named ‘2020 Police Officer of the Year’ by the West Hartford Exchange Club.

From left: Town Manager Matt Hart, Mayor Shari Cantor, Exchange Club 2020 Officer of the Year John Begin, Exchange Club President Martin Keena, Chief Vernon Riddick. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Exchange Club’s “Officer of the Year” celebration was postponed this spring, but the organization found a way to safely and appropriately recognize West Hartford Police Off. John Begin during an outdoor, physically-dinstanced event held Friday morning on the steps of police headquarters on Raymond Road.

Members of Begin’s immediately family – including his 4-month-old son – as well representatives from the police department and town officials attended the ceremony, the first of two over just the course of a few days in which Begin will be recognized. Effective Monday, he will be promoted to the rank of sergeant at an event scheduled to be held at Town Hall.

Town Manager Matt Hart speaks at the Exchange Club Officer of the Year ceremony honoring Off. John Begin. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford Town Manager Matt Hart thanked the Exchange Club for their long-standing support of the town’s public safety efforts.

“Off. Begin, this is a tremendous honor for you,” Hart said, urging him to treasure the moment. “We appreciate you, your service to our community, the career you’re having here. I hope it’s a long, extensive, extensive career.”

Hart said the work that Begin and his fellow officers do is so much of the part of what makes West Hartford such a wonderful town.

Mayor Shari Cantor speaks at the Exchange Club Officer of the Year ceremony honoring Off. John Begin. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor also thanked the Exchange Club for their support of the town, and noted that the West Hartford Police Department is such a strong brotherhood, appreciated by all.

Cantor also read aloud a proclamation, naming Friday, Nov. 20, 2020 as “Officer John Begin Day.”

“These are the great times to be in leadership, to recognize good work, to recognize loyalty, to recognize excellence,” Chief Vernon Riddick said, as he shared bit of Begin’s background and his achievements. “Off. Begin, that is what you signify and personify.”

Police Chief Vernon Riddick speaks about Exchange Club Officer of the Year John Begin, pictured at right. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Begin, a Connecticut native, grew up in Newington. He was active in town sports, and captain of the Newington High School football team as a senior in the fall of 2003. “The lessons of teamwork, dedication, and overall hard work gained from his athletic endeavors helped shape Off. Begin as he entered college,” Riddick said.

Begin attended Endicott College and ultimately graduated from Central Connecticut State University with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Throughout college, he participated in internships with the state Department of Corrections as well as local police departments, and decided on a career as a police officer.

Begin joined the West Hartford Police Department on Jan. 18, 2009, and was assigned to the Patrol Division following his graduation from the Connecticut Police Academy in Meriden. In 2011, he was selected to become a Field Training Officer, assisting in the training of new officers.

“Off. Begin quickly realized the importance of the position and worked hard to help produce quality officers for the West Hartford Police Department,” Riddick said.

From 2012 through 2015, Begin served as a member of a Drug Enforcement Administration Taskforce based out of New Haven.

“During this time, Off. Begin was credited with making numerous state and federal level arrests as well as seizing over $100,000 in drug-related assets,” Riddick said. He led or assisted with narcotic enforcement cases not only in Connecticut but also in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New York, and had the opportunity to attend multiple federal training courses focusing on narcotic crimes and asset forfeiture at the DEA Academy in Quantico, VA.

Following his DEA assignment, Begin rejoined the Patrol Division, and also served in the Traffic Division, investigating multiple incidents include a fatal motor vehicle crash.

He has been assigned to the Patrol Division’s C-Squad since 2017, has continued to train new officers, and “has either made or assisted with numerous arrests for stolen vehicles, burglaries into vehicles, burglaries into businesses, and DUIs,” Riddick said.

Begin has received multiple Unit Citations and Police Merit awards, and can now add “2020 Exchange Club Police Officer of the Year” to his collection of awards.

Exchange Club President Martin Keena (left) poses with 2020 Officer of the Year John Begin. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Martin Keena, president of the West Hartford Exchange Club, presented Begin with a plaque naming him the organization’s 2020 Police Officer of the Year.”

“Recognizing you is congruent with the message of the Exchange Club,” Keena said. “We too work very hard within our community to create a strong America, to help create safe communities, and to inspire the communities to become better places to live. We’ve done this for many, many years and we look forward to continuing this mission.”

Keena said the award “confirms Off. Begin’s individual commitment to the cause of community service and keeping us safe.” West Hartford is a great place to live, work, play, and retire, Keena said – all of which he has personally experienced.

Low crime and the collaboration of stakeholders across the community are key reasons for the accolades the town has received, Keena said.

Begin thanked members of the police department, for their support. He also thanked the town manager and mayor for providing such a good working environment. He said most importantly, he appreciates the support of his family.

“I look forward to continuing to serve this town and keeping everyone safe,” Begin said.

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Exchange Club Officer of the Year John Begin and his wife, Amanda, outside police headquarters after the award ceremony. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Exchange Club Officer of the Year John Begin poses for a photo with his newest family member. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Exchange Club Officer of the Year John Begin poses with his parents after the award ceremony. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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