By Alan D. Baker, Chief of Police, Danbury, Connecticut
Photo courtesy of David Antedomenico, Police Officer, Danbury, Connecticut, Police Crime Scene Unit
he City of Danbury, Connecticut, has a storied past in U.S. history. The community was settled in 1685 and served as an arsenal for the colonists during the American Revolution. During Britain’s early efforts to quell the revolution, British soldiers burned Danbury to the ground. Furthermore, one of the first major battles of the Revolutionary War was fought just outside of the city’s borders.
An organized police department in Danbury dates back to April 1889. At that time, the city received its charter from the State of Connecticut that made the mayor the ex-officio chief of police. A common council resolution at the same time created a police force that consisted of “a captain, a sergeant, and not more than eight patrolmen.”
The Danbury Police Department suffered its first line-of-duty death on August 8, 1896. Police Officer Florence B. Sullivan succumbed to injuries suffered on December 1, 1895, when he was severely beaten by five intoxicated men while attempting to take one of the men into custody. Danbury’s new police building, built in 2009, bears the name of Officer Sullivan. Over the years, three others have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to the people of Danbury: Robert Keating (October 16, 1955); Steven Michalko (November 11, 1976); and Dennis Cooney (September 12, 1994).
With such a rich history and such a great tradition of service, Police Week is a solemn and important time for the Danbury Police Department. Planning for Police Week activities begins in January of each year. All employees are asked to reflect on the actions of their fellow officers during the previous year and submit nominations to the awards board for formal recognition during the week. Similarly, the awards board considers the heroic actions and public service of citizens during the previous year in support of their police department.
Danbury service clubs then become involved in preparing for the Police Week celebration. The Danbury Sunrise Rotary Club and the Danbury Exchange Club both hold banquets prior to Police Week to honor an officer they designate Danbury Police Officer of the Year. The awards board faces difficult choices in selecting from the many instances of heroic actions, public service, exceptional devotion to duty, or just plain good old police work by officers in the previous year. Selection at the local level also allows officers to compete in a statewide competition sponsored by the same clubs.
Because the names of three Danbury police officers appear on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C., a delegation of Danbury officers always attends the National Police Week observance there. These officers don’t ever want to forget the sacrifices their fellow officers made for their country and for their community so that they can have the quality of life they enjoy in Danbury and in the United States. By their presence in Washington, D.C., Danbury officers recognize the sacrifices of their predecessors, support the survivors of fallen comrades, and participate in the rich brotherhood of the law enforcement community.
Local Remembrance Service
After the national Police Week celebration, Danbury turns to the local celebration, normally on the Friday following National Police Week (this year, it is May 21, 2010). Flags at all public buildings in Danbury fly at half-staff on the day of the local Police Week memorial service.
The local celebration starts with a memorial service outside of police headquarters. The Danbury Police honor guard leads the assembled ranks into the courtyard. The chaplain and the chief make brief remarks, the protocol officer reads the honor roll of fallen officers, and the honor guard fires a 21-gun salute. “Taps” and the presentation of a wreath at the flag pole conclude the memorial ceremony.
Participants then step inside police headquarters for the annual awards presentation ceremony: a time for peer recognition and the chance to celebrate accomplishments with family and friends. Besides the presentation of medals and plaques, those in attendance hear and read about some pretty amazing actions by Danbury police officers over the past year. After the ceremony, all adjourn to a luncheon, sponsored by the Danbury Police Union Local 891, at the Police Activity League (PAL) building.
So why does the Danbury Police Department spend almost five months preparing to celebrate Police Week? A few years back, I read an article that should help to explain. It was posted to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Web site, written by David Kerr of the Stafford County Sun in Stafford, Virginia. Kerr described law enforcement as “a different kind of struggle. It’s a war that may never end, but for centuries, men and women have readily and willingly put themselves in harms way, right here at home, to keep the peace.” That’s why we gather in celebration of Police Week, “to think about the sense of duty and self-sacrifice of an army, fighting a war that will never end, right here on the home front,”1 as Kerr said, right here in Danbury, Connecticut.
1David Kerr, “Soldiers in a War that Never Ends,” Tribute Stories, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, http://www.policegifts.com/TheMemorial/tributes/stories/stories_kerr.htm (accessed April 14, 2010).
Please cite as:
Alan D. Baker, "Police Week in Danbury, Connecticut," The Police Chief 77 (May 2010): 25,
http://policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display&article_id=2080&issue_id=52010 (insert access date).