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Mayor to promote acting Chief Brian Wright as New London's top cop

New London — Mayor Michael Passero did not have to search too far to find the city's next police chief.

He plans to promote 26-year law enforcement veteran and acting Chief Brian Wright to fill the vacant position by next month.

“I’ve worked with Brian Wright closely since I’ve been mayor. He has impressive leadership skills. He knows the agency well. He knows the community. He’s developed the relationships we need to have,” Passero said. “We’re pleased to be able to give this opportunity to someone who's moved up through the ranks, and I don’t see a need to look outside.”

Wright, 52, a father of two, has worked his entire career in the city, has served as a captain since 2012 and was already the highest-ranking officer in the department prior to news of the promotion. He will become the city’s first Black police chief following the official retirement of Chief Peter Reichard. Reichard surprised the rank and file at the department with the announcement of his departure last month after nine years in the city. His contract with the city expires on June 30.

Wright, in an interview Wednesday, said he was humbled to be recognized for his years of hard work in the city and for the opportunity to bring a “unique perspective to the position.”

“I look forward to not only advocating for progressive thought amongst my peers but also fostering community connections that build trust,” he said.

During a time when the public is demanding more accountability in law enforcement, Wright said his pledge is to build a department that is “fully committed to become collaborative, transparent and a learning organization that leads the way as a model 21st century policing agency.”

He said the department cannot grow stagnant and his focus will be on connecting with the community “to listen and gather insight and perspective I may not have considered and try and make those things a part of the process as we develop and grow."

“Insight is a valuable thing. There will be some things that have to change because you have to continue to evolve, while keeping that strong tradition of protecting and serving our community,” he said.

Wright also has the endorsement of New London Chief Administrative Officer Steve Fields, who retired from the state police as a lieutenant colonel and whose late father, Thurston Fields, was chief of the Jewett City Police Department.

Police officers are in a challenging environment and Fields said Wright has a good grasp of community policing standards and "good ethical and moral policies."

Wright is a Bridgeport native who attended the University of Rhode Island, where he played football and earned a degree in consumer affairs. He took the test to become a police officer on a wager from a friend in law enforcement.

He won that wager and was hired by the New London Police Department in 1994, rising through the ranks over the years and working in a variety of roles that have included everything from school resource officer to the head of the investigative division.

He said a career in law enforcement was something he hadn’t seriously considered after school but a profession he quickly came to love and appreciate. He said he thinks his rise to chief might help to inspire more diversity in the profession.

“I think law enforcement will and needs to be more inclusive, include more people of different backgrounds, cultures, genders... ,” he said. “I recognize my role in law enforcement as a person of color to be more critical than ever. It’s a testament to where we’re heading as a profession and where we need to be."

“Many times in this profession there are groups or individuals that don’t have the same opportunity or don’t understand the process," he said. "We’re going to work hard to expose as many people from many diverse backgrounds as possible.”

Wright lives in North Stonington and said he always has been available to respond to incidents in the city throughout his career.

And while the City Charter requires department heads live in the city, Passero said he will continue to opt for the best individual for the job over the residency requirement, which he feels is outdated and in this case “absolutely unnecessary.” Wright said he hadn't ruled out a move to the city but it would be a family decision. He has a son in college and a daughter in high school.

Passero said he expects an official promotion ceremony to occur sometime next month.

g.smith@theday.com

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