Waterbury mayor, police chief talk difficulties of police work; recruiting people of color

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WNTH) — It was an annual ceremony held each year outside Waterbury City Hall — honoring the 20 Waterbury police officers and 50 Waterbury firefighters who have died in the line of duty.

“We will never, ever forget,” said Mayor Neil O’Leary in front of a crowd of onlookers. “Learn the history of these individuals who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

As the ceremony continued, the mayor addressed current members of the police and fire departments, talking about how difficult it’s been serving and protecting during the pandemic.

He mentioned the past year of divided politics, social unrest and anger aimed at police departments across the country, sparked by protests over police killings of people of color, notably the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“We learned so much from those instances that we are very aggressively staying in front of the curve to provide the necessary training, the necessary equipment, the necessary accountability so that we don’t fall under that umbrella of fear, anxiety, and mistrust,” Mayor O’Leary said.

Waterbury Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo tells News 8 his department has been on a mission to build trust in the city. Officers have attended several neighborhood meetings and have been engaged in training with African-American community leaders to foster better ways to engage with the community.

Chief Spagnolo says his officers’ efforts are also helping in efforts to recruit more minorities to the department.

“Waterbury is a huge melting pot and we want this police department to reflect the community that we serve,” said Chief Spagnolo. “We are having members of color who are applying for the job right now. We’re in the process. We do have a list in place. There’s a good balance.”

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