Two new West Hartford Police officers were sworn in by Town Clerk Essie Labrot on Wednesday evening at Town Hall.
By Ronni Newton
West Hartford Police Chief Vernon Riddick presided over a swearing-in ceremony Wednesday evening at Town Hall, welcoming the department’s two newest officers.
The two new officers are Robert Bona, a Waterbury native who is embarking on his second career after retiring from the Connecticut Department of Corrections, and Lamar Bowsky of New Britain, who has been working as a judicial marshal in New Haven Superior Court.
Riddick expressed his sincere thanks to the families of the new officers who were in attendance at the ceremony, “for allowing your loved ones to be part of our family … You can trust that your loved one will be trained appropriately, you can trust that we will give them the tools to do their job each and every day, and you can trust that we will not put them in situations they are not ready for.”
In return, Riddick said, he asked the family members to let him know if the new officers exhibit changes in behavior, if they get cocky about their position.
“We have a difficult job that we do … but for law enforcement what would our world look like, what would our country look like,” Riddick said.
He asked the new officers to work hard every day, and just as important, he added, “Don’t tarnish the badge.” While everyone makes mistakes – and he joked that his own wife keeps a list – “most mistakes aren’t fatal.”
Riddick also handed the new officers each a personal letter from Mayor Shari Cantor, who was unable to attend Wednesday’s ceremony.
Town Manager Matt Hart thanked the new officers for their commitment and service. “The career you are about to embark upon is most challenging, but really gets at the hallmark of what we do and is an integral part of what the town does for its citizens,” he said.
There will be stressful days, but many more rewarding ones, Hart said.
Bona just retired this week from the Department of Corrections, where he had served for more than 22 years and earned the rank of captain. He has a bachelor’s in criminal justice from Central Post University.
Assistant Chief Robert McCue, who shared the new officers’ bios, noted that Bona had received several certifications and specialized training designations during his career, including as a chemical agent instructor, and in behavior management, telephone monitoring, and leadership development.
Bona said that he comes from a family that has a long history of working in law enforcement. When he graduated from high school, he wasn’t old enough to obtain a pistol permit and become a police officer, so he went to work for the Department of Corrections.
As he was getting ready to retire, he began looking into opportunities to become a police officer, and is excited for this to be his second career.
Bona lives in Woodbury with his wife, Jennifer, and four sons – Zachary, Jacob, James, and Nicholas.
Bowsky, who was born in Brooklyn, NY, is a 2013 graduate of New Britain High School where he was a running back on the football team. He earned a bachelor’s in criminology and political science from Central Connecticut State University in 2017.
Bowsky said that when he was in college he was torn between going to law school and becoming a police officer. As a senior, he had the opportunity to intern with New Britain Police and the Connecticut Attorney General’s Office.
When he went to work right after college as a judicial marshal, “I fell in love with law enforcement,” Bowsky said. “I’m really proud to be here.”
Both men were sworn in by Town Clerk Essie Labrot, taking an oath of office to support the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Connecticut, and support laws and town ordinances.
Lt. Eric Rocheleau, who heads the West Hartford Police Department’s Training Division and will supervise the new officers, gave each of them a “Miranda card” to keep handy in the tops of their hats until they memorize the script.
Rocheleau said that since he took over the Training Division, he has really emphasized that the members of the department are family, and has worked to instill that in the new officers. “We are family, we need to support each other in every way.” Rocheleau said that the officers will lean on their own families, but all officers “are here to support you … and help you out in any way possible.”
Several other cadets, who were sworn in earlier this year, also attended the ceremony and pledged to support the new officers.
Bona and Bowsky will have orientation on Friday and on Monday will begin a six-month training program at the police academy in Milford. Riddick said that following their graduation, the new officers will begin the West Hartford Police Department’s 12-week Field Training Officer program under Rocheleau’s direction before being assigned duties on their own.
With the two new officers, the West Hartford Police Department has now filled 123 of its 131 available positions, Riddick said. “We are still actively recruiting.”
McCue said that 12 new officers have joined the department in 2018, whereas the usual number of new officers is six to eight annually. “It’s a good year,” he said.
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