East Lyme’s police force going independent

New London

EAST LYME, Conn. (WTNH) — A lot has changed since the resident state trooper program first arrived in East Lyme more than 50 years ago.

Police used to be located in a small brick building near town hall and there were only a couple of part time constables along with the trooper. Since then, the force has grown to 22 full-time officers, including two detectives and two canine units with a fully staffed dispatch center.

“When we started the program we were a town of 3,500 people,” says first selectman Mark Nickerson. “We have 19,000 full time residents and another 15,000 summer residents.”

Nickerson believes East Lyme has outgrown the resident state trooper program meant for more rural towns. The board of selectman agreed voting unanimously to establish the town’s own independent police department.

“It’s really just a management change from a resident state trooper to our own employee which would be a chief of police,” says Nickerson.

“When you have your own force you know your people,” says Nina Franco who supports the change. “They’re not from someplace else. They know you.”

Like many, Melinda Graus the owner of GumDrops & Lollipops has been happy with the state trooper in town but a new one comes in every few years.

“The town has just grown so much over the past few years that we need to have that stability I think in this town,” says Graus.

A police commission will be established to hire the new chief. The town expects to run the department for about the same $212,000 the trooper now costs and that cost was expected to rise again.

“I think that gave us the motivation to look into it.”

The first selectman is hopeful the new chief will be hired and the independent police force will be fully up and running by the next fiscal year.

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