The West Hartford Police Department held a ceremony March 23, welcoming newly-hired officers and celebrating the promotion of two members.
By Ronni Newton
The West Hartford Police Department held a combined swearing in and promotional ceremony at Town Hall on Thursday, March 23, as family, friends, and colleagues gathered at Town Hall to recognize a cohort of five new officers as well as two department members who have been promoted.
Among those promoted were Capt. Peter Juda – a nearly-21-year veteran of the department – and Lt. Sara Nagle, who has been a member of the West Hartford Police Department for 10 years.
The five new officers who have joined the department are Brian Goncalves, Ryan Chieffo, Sebastian Sanzaro, Emanuel Pantano, and Ryan Bobrowiecki.
West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor welcomed the new officers and congratulated those who have been promoted.
“I just wanted to say what an honor it is to be at this ceremony, to recognize people that have achieved a certain level and are being bestowed more responsibility and the confidence of the administration – your leadership,” she told Capt. Juda and Lt. Nagle.
Cantor also thanked the new officers for choosing West Hartford. “We value you so much, and while your families are here it is really important for us to say that we think about you, we understand that you are supportive of this police officer and the way that they serve, and we need your support and we will support you, and we are so grateful that you have chosen this profession that really, really keeps our community one of the top communities in the country. Without you we could not be that,” she said.
Town Manager Rick Ledwith also noted the importance of public safety to the town. “We really do appreciate these opportunities to celebrate our police officers and police department,” he said. In West Hartford, families, colleagues and honored guests have traditionally been honored and celebrated through each milestone, he said.
“Each of you and the department you are part of are incredibly important to our community,” Ledwith said. He noted that earlier in the week West Hartford was recognized as the best town in Connecticut to live in for the sixth straight year.
“A very important reason for us being at the top of that list … is because of our public safety. It is truly the foundation of all the services that we provide to our residents here in town,” he said, including education.
Chief Vernon Riddick said a slew of officers have been hired over the last four or five years, some brand new and some coming from other police departments. “We are extremely grateful and humbled for you choosing West Hartford,” he said. “You have a plethora of opportunities and for you to choose West Hartford is not lost on us.”
Riddick urged the new officers to “never forget discretion” and understand that just having the badge doesn’t make them “better” than somebody else. “Yes you have an awesome responsibility, 100 percent, but you should also embrace the fact of humility, discretion. Don’t forget what it was like when you were not a police officer, that feeling … of being nervous when an officer approaches your car.”
Riddick said today there is a “plethora of services” available to help officers, and urged them not to be too proud to ask for help if needed. It may have been different in the past, but “now the weak person does not seek out help,” he said.
He also congratulated the newly-promoted and urged them to embrace their new responsibilities. “Sometimes the most difficult decision you have to make is the decision you have to make. Make a decision. Don’t just stand by and allow something to happen,” Riddick said. “You will be that person. You must be that person.”
Riddick said he believes that despite what might be reported in the media, the “silent majority” is in favor of law enforcement, in urban as well as suburban environments. “Without us, chaos ensues.”
Grit, he said, is key – “the tenacity, perseverance, resilience, and the willingness to keep you going despite obstacles,” said Riddick, urging the new officers and the promoted to “be that light at the end of the tunnel.”
Assistant Chief Larry Terra shared biographical information about those who were being honored for their promotions, as well as the new department members.
Juda, a Simsbury native, Eagle Scout, and former volunteer firefighter, earned a degree in history and certification in education from College of the Holy Cross, but decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, retired Hartford Police Lt. Michael Juda. He was hired by the West Hartford Police Department in 2002, and has served in the Patrol Division, Traffic Division, and Detective Division, and as a Field Training Officer.
Juda was selected in 2006 to become a member of the department’s Underwater Recovery Team (scuba team), becoming a certified public safety diver and later leading the integration of West Hartford’s URT with the Capital Region Emergency Services Dive Team (CREST). In 2009 he was selected as a member of the Hartford Police Bomb Squad, and in 2011 he graduated from the FBI Hazardous Devices School in Huntsville, Alabama.
He was promoted to detective in 2011, to sergeant in 2014, and to lieutenant in 2o18. Juda navigated the Patrol Division’s C-Squad through the COVID-19 pandemic, Terra said, getting quite a few laughs when he said the squad appreciated and embraced the outdoor roll calls he instituted on the roof of the Memorial Parking Garage during COVID.
Juda also commanded the Traffic Division, and supervised the Accident Reconstruction Team that investigates fatal incidents. He helped modernize the team’s equipment, including integrating use of a drone. Juda is also the Connecticut Intelligence Center (CTIC) Information Liaison Officer for the West Hartford Police Department, and a POST-certified instructor.
Nagle, a Manchester native, was a standout soccer player at Manchester High School and a scholarship student-athlete at Stonehill College in Massachusetts where she played every minute of every soccer game during her college career, Terra said. She captained the soccer team, and graduated a semester early, magna cum laude, with a degree in criminology. She later (2017) earned her master’s degree in public administration from UConn.
Nagle was hired by the West Hartford Police Department in February 2013, and worked in the Patrol Division and as a bicycle officer with the Community Relations Division.
She was promoted to sergeant in 2019 and became a POST-certified instructor, and is a human trafficking and use of force instructor as well as fitness testing instructor with West Hartford Police, as well as a member of the honor guard and commendation committee. She has received the department’s Life Saving Award as well as a unit citation.
The daughter of now-retired West Hartford Police Ofc. Tom Nagle, Lt. Nagle is married to Ofc. Cory Fullana of the Manchester (CT) Police Department. She and her husband also train and coach at a local CrossFit gym that they own, and welcomed a baby boy in 2022.
Goncalves and Chieffo are both joining West Hartford Police from other departments.
Goncalves, whose family is from Portugal, grew up in Newington and was captain of the soccer and wrestling teams at Newington High School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology from Central Connecticut State University, and in August 2018 joined the Waterbury Police Department where he served with the Crisis Intervention and Emergency Response teams, as a Field Training Officer and with the Crime Prevention Unit.
Chieffo, a native of North Haven, earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology with a minor in political science from Stonehill College. He joined the Cromwell Police Department in 2020, and received the MADD Award, was a bicycle officer, and trained in crisis intervention.
While both Goncalves and Chieffo will undergo training in West Hartford, as brand new officers Sanzaro, Pantano, and Bobrowiecki will enter the Police Academy in Hartford on April 3 before receiving training locally.
Sanzaro grew up in Glastonbury, and after graduating from Glastonbury High School earned a bachelor’s in criminal justice with a minor in cybersecurity technology from Central Connecticut State University. He previously attended West Hartford’s “Behind the Badge” College Police Academy Internship Program.
Pantano grew up in Canton and after graduating from Canton High School in 2007 worked as a master automotive technician for 14 years, specializing in Volkswagen and Subaru. He has also been a member of Canton Fire and EMS for almost a decade.
Bobrowiecki is from New Britain, and graduated from Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy. He went on to earn a B.S. in marine affairs from the University of Rhode Island.
Sgt. Amanda Martin served as emcee for the event. West Hartford Police Department Chaplain Eric Peoples, lead pastor of Legacy Church, gave the invocation.
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