Watertown salutes police chief, retiring after 51 years


WATERTOWN, Conn. (WTNH) — Chief John Gavallas has been showing up to work for 51 years wearing the badge for the town of Watertown. When he showed up Wednesday, he was surprised with an emotional “last call” over the department’s radio system.

It was emotional because it came from his son, who is a lieutenant with the department.

“46 years ago, you held me in your arms,” said Lt. Tim Gavallas. “Your last 25 years, we’ve stood as brothers in blue. Today, you received many thanks. The department thanks you, the people whose lives you’ve protected and served. Thank you. And I thank you for being the best role model a son could ask for.”

That was just the beginning.

As Chief Gavallas got out of his car and walked to the front of police headquarters, he saw a sea of fire trucks and police cars flashing their lights and blaring their sirens. He also saw town residents in line in their cars waving their hands, flashing their smiles, yelling things like, “Thank you” and “Good luck”.

It was a parade to send the chief off into retirement — in style and in appreciation.

“You have personified community policing, as you are well-recognized as a friendly, encouraging and supportive member of our town,” said State Rep. Joe Polletta, Jr.

Other police departments showed their respect, too. New Milford sent their helicopter to hover over the parade. Wolcott sent their police chief.

“I had to be here for Chief Gavallas,” said Wolcott Police Chief Edward Stephens. “He’s a fantastic man. He’s a great mentor.”

Watertown’s acting chief listed off a number of accomplishments for a man who started as a patrolman and rose through the ranks to attain the “Top Cop” status in 2007.

“Chief Gavallas has been awarded the Watertown Police Distinguished Service Award, Meritorious Service Awards,” said Acting Police Chief, John Bernegger.

At the end of the day, the man who saw him as chief and as dad echoed what many feel about Chief Gavallas.

“I’m proud of him,” Lt. Tim Gavallas said.

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