Wallingford police chief to retire, head safety operations at Choate

Wallingford police chief to retire, head safety operations at Choate

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WALLINGFORD — Police Chief William Wright announced Tuesday that he will retire to head safety operations at Choate Rosemary Hall.

Wright, 57, has spent the last six years as police chief and more than 25 years in law enforcement, mostly in the Wallingford Police Department.

His retirement is effective July 1. He became eligible for his town pension after 22 years.

Wright has accepted the position of director of operations at the prestigious private school, a position that encompasses a variety of duties.

“I wasn't looking to retire,” Wright said. “I wanted to continue to work. I truly enjoy my job here … But this opportunity presented itself. It's a very unique position, which I believe fits my skill set.”

Alison Cady, Choate communications director, said Tuesday that when the previous director of risk management left Choate, “we did a little bit of reconfiguring and posted that position.”

In general, she said, the position involves drafting and implementing safety policies and procedures, planning and practicing for safety drills, overseeing the Community Safety team, as well as some other operational duties around some other smaller departments.

Cady said that Choate staff were familiar with Wright, having worked with him over the years in various capacities, from training and reviewing safety protocols at the school, to working out traffic issues, to running big events

“He's been great to work with, so we really felt like he would be a good fit for the position,” she said.

’Striving to do better’

Wright was Wallingford’s deputy police chief in February 2015 when he was promoted to police chief, replacing Douglas L. Dortenzio who had been in the position for 24 years.

Wright began his career as a police officer in Wallingford in 1995. He spent nearly three years as a patrol officer, before moving into the town's community police unit in 1998. Later that year, he was transferred into the detective division, where he worked until 2001, when he was assigned to the FBI.

Wright said he worked with the FBI for two years and transferred back to the police department in 2003, after Dortenzio promoted him to lieutenant.

From 2003 to 2007, Wright served as a patrol commander. He was reassigned to an administrative lieutenant position through 2012, and then was promoted to deputy chief.

“I think what remains consistent is the values that the town demands from our operation,” he said. “I think if you were to ask our community members how they feel we function, I'm confident that that they, by and large, would say that we do a good job. But we also recognize that we're always continuing and striving to do better. I think that's fair to say (that) we're not perfect, but certainly hard-working.”

He praised his co-workers and peers in town government.

“I've been fortunate to be surrounded by a group of wonderful people, dedicated, committed to the mission, hard working. This is not an easy job,” he said. “And I've been equally as fortunate to be surrounded by a wonderful group of department heads, who are always willing to lend a hand where they can, just by a simple ask.”

He reflected on the nonprofits, businesses and individuals that have made donations to the department, including the funding to acquire the department’s K-9, Tate.

“We're very, very fortunate here that we're surrounded by good groups and individuals,” he said.

Although Wright will have to step down from the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association — currently he’s a member of the organization’s board of directors — he hopes to remain a member of the statewide Police Accountability and Transparency Task Force.

“There's been a lot of work done there to bring greater accountability and transparency to law enforcement,” he said.

 “There are a small number of chiefs, there are community members, there are state agency members. It's a good group, there's a lot of good work that's going on there.”

Search for new chief

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said Tuesday that Wright has been an excellent leader and protector of the Wallingford community, “a very straightforward, intelligent, capable person.”

“I really feel he's one of those rare individuals who takes his work very seriously,” he said, “but has an understanding and a compassion, with regard to all citizens … Certainly I am, and I'm sure many are, very sorry to have him retire, but he leaves a great history of good judgment, captaincy of the police department, and a great example for all of the members of the police department.”

The search for a new police chief has not started, but will be open to both internal and external candidates, Dickinson said. 

Wright’s retirement is another recent departure of a long-time police department employee. Lt. Cheryl Bradley, who retired in January after 23 years, and Capt. Richard Homestead, who retired in March after 24 years, both took positions at Connecticut state universities with campus police.

The town’s fire chief, Richard Heidgerd, also announced his retirement last week.

Wright said Tuesday that he “wouldn't trade a minute” of his career in Wallingford “for anything.”

“It's a community that expects a lot from its police department,” he said. “I’m grateful for having the opportunity to work here for 25 years. I can't believe how fast it's gone by.”

LTakores@record-journal.com 203-317-2212 Twitter: @LCTakores

Police Chief William Wright at his desk, March 2018.
"I really feel he's one of those rare individuals who takes his work very seriously, but has an understanding and a compassion, with regard to all citizens."

-Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.
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