Vernon Riddick, former police chief of Waterbury, was sworn in Tuesday before a large crowd as West Hartford’s new chief of police.
By Ryley McGinnis. Photos by Ronni Newton
“Today is a great day” was the message echoed by the many presenters Tuesday at the Oath of Office Ceremony for West Hartford’s new police chief, Vernon L. Riddick, Jr.
Riddick, former police chief of Waterbury since 2013, was given high praise by all who offered remarks, including Asst. Chief Daniel P. Coppinger, who served as interim chief following the retirement of Chief Tracey Gove in November 2017, Mayor Shari Cantor, and Town Manager Matt Hart.
“Today is a historic day,” said Coppinger, “where the town of West Hartford will swear in its 10th police chief in our almost 100-year history.” Coppinger went on to welcome Riddick and his family to West Hartford. “All of you are gaining a whole new police family here in West Hartford,” said Coppinger.
Cantor echoed the same welcome to Riddick and his family. “Chief Riddick is an experienced and respected leader with almost 30 years of service,” said Cantor. Cantor recounted her first time meeting Riddick and said she was “taken aback” that he knew her whole life history. “He did his homework, not only about me but about our community.”
Hart spoke on the reasons why the search committee chose Riddick for this position. “Chief, I was very impressed by your passion for your field and for public service and your strength of character and integrity,” said Hart. “My colleagues in West Hartford and I are very excited to add you as a key member to our management team and we look forward to working with you in service to this wonderful community.”
Hart and Cantor both thanked the many people who helped with the selection process and the police department, “Much of today is about you as well, we are here to celebrate your service and your future,” said Hart to the large number of West Hartford Police officers in the crowd.
Riddick was sworn in by Town Clerk Essie S. Labrot and was pinned by his father Vernon Riddick, Sr. and his wife, Sandra. Coppinger noted that Riddick’s father has pinned him at each promotion ceremony, for his entire career.
A clearly emotional Riddick gave many acknowledgments while pointing out that it is impossible to acknowledge everyone. He thanked God, his pastor, his wife Sandra, his father, and the rest of his family, including his mother who died 40 years ago and his brother who passed away 10 years ago from cancer. His youngest daughter, Vanessa, was in attendance along with many other members of his extended family.
He thanked Hart, the police department and the rest of the people in attendance. He also thanked Coppinger for serving as interim chief. “Folks that is a true gentleman right there,” said Riddick, “He led this police department in interim, and he could’ve had a chip on his shoulder, but he embraced me.”
Riddick also thanked the mayor of Waterbury, Neil O’Leary, who served as chief of police in Waterbury before Riddick for almost 30 years, for putting his confidence in him and promoting him through the ranks from patrol officer to chief of the Waterbury Police Department.
After the reception, Riddick spoke with We-Ha.com about how excited he is, and how grateful he was for the large turnout at his ceremony today. “It was overwhelming. I didn’t anticipate the amount of people here,” said Riddick. “I was taken aback with appreciation, I could feel the warmth in the room, and I was truly humbled by the people who sacrificed their time.”
Riddick told We-Ha.com that it will take some time to figure out his biggest challenge as the new chief. “You have to understand what’s going on, talk to people, get their input and then go forward.”
Chief Riddick’s official first day of work in West Hartford is June 4, 2018.
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