Government Police/Fire

Waterbury Chief Tapped to Lead West Hartford Police Department

Vernon Riddick will be West Hartford's new police chief. Photo from Waterbury Police Department website

Vernon Riddick, who has been chief of the Waterbury Police Department since October 2013, was announced Monday as West Hartford’s pick for the top job.

By Ronni Newton

Vernon Riddick has been extended a conditional offer of employment to become West Hartford’s new police chief, Town Manager Matt Hart announced Monday.

“I’m very pleased to extend this conditional offer of employment to Chief Riddick. Based on his character and integrity, his professional experience, training and formal education, as well as his passion for law enforcement and public service, I’m confident that Mr. Riddick will do an excellent job as West Hartford’s next Chief of Police,” Hart said in the announcement Monday afternoon.”The offer is conditioned upon the successful completion of a background check and other related requirements set by the State of Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council,” Hart wrote.

“West Hartford is a special place with a highly regarded police department. We were fortunate to have a strong pool of candidates, and I would like to thank each and every one of them for expressing their interest in this position. I look forward to completing the remaining steps in the recruitment process and to introducing Chief Riddick to the members of our department and to our community,” Hart wrote.

Hart told We-Ha.com that Riddick stood out for his ability to inspire as well as perform managerial tasks. “I think he’s both an effective leader and an effective manager, and you don’t always find both skill sets,” Hart said.

Riddick is humble, and very much a team player, Hart said. “We want all of our department heads to work in a collaborative way to serve the community, and he will clearly be interested in become a great teammate of our other directors.”

“I’m ecstatic,” Riddick said in a phone interview with We-Ha.com Monday afternoon. “I know it’s the first time that West Hartford has gone outside the department, and I am honored and humbled to have been chosen.”

“The Town of West Hartford is an awesome place,” Riddick said. He said he has been considered for other positions, but hadn’t wanted to leave Waterbury, where he has been for 24 years, until this job came along.

The energy and progressive vibe of West Hartford really appealed to him, Riddick said. “The potential is unlimited. It’s a wonderful place and I look forward to immersing myself in the community, and making sure it’s safe and secure for everyone.”

Riddick, who was sworn in as chief of the Waterbury Police Department in October 2013 after serving on an interim basis for several months, was chosen following a national search that began in January. A total of 38 applications for the position were reviewed by a search committee that included Hart as well as Fire Chief Gary Allyn, Executive Director of Human Resources Rick Ledwith, Assistant Superintendent of West Hartford Public Schools Andy Morrow, Director of Social and Leisure Services Helen Rubino-Turco, and three representatives from the police department.

A panel of three outside experts also reviewed the candidates, in order to provide an “inside and outside” perspective, Hart said.

Riddick will be the ninth chief to lead the West Hartford Police Department since its formation in 1920. He was the first chosen through a national search, and is also the first African-American to hold the position.

Since joining the Waterbury Police Department in 1994, Riddick rose steadily through the ranks, holding management positions in the areas of patrol, internal affairs, and administration. According to his biography posted on the Waterbury Police Department’s website, he was named deputy chief in 2009, and acting chief in January 2013.

Riddick graduated from Kennedy High School in Waterbury, and spent a post-grad year at Choate before attending Tuft’s University, where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in political science in 1989 and was a member of the basketball team. He also holds a master’s in public administration from Post University, and has graduated from the Senior Management Institute for Police and the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development course.

According to his biography, he is also a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), Connecticut Police Chief’s Association (CPCA), the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), and is a deacon at his church.

“In addition, Chief Riddick has received various awards throughout his career in recognition for his commitment to community policing, his support for the autism community, and for other professional and civic activities,” Hart said.

Tracey Gove announced in November 2017 that he would retire as chief of the West Hartford Police Department. He had served as chief for six years, and had been a member of the department for 22 years. He is now director of Corporate Security for The Travelers.

Assistant Chief Dan Coppinger has served as acting chief in the interim.

Hart praised the work that Coppinger has done over the past several months. “He’s done an outstanding job, and he’s helped hold the department together during a very challenging time,” Hart said, preparing the budget, being available 24/7. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Riddick is expected to begin work on June 4, and his swearing-in ceremony will be announced at a later date, according to Hart.

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  • They should have tried to get Paul Melanson, Farmington Police Chief and former West Hartford Detective.

    • I would disagree. As someone familiar with the shadier history of WHPD, I’m quite pleased to see they brought in an outsider.

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