Fallen police saluted in New Britain, Berlin

Published on Wednesday, 15 May 2019 21:12
Written by Charles Paullin


It’s symbolic of what’s between the bad elements in society and law-abiding citizens: the thin blue line.

“We hold the line,” said New Britain Police Chief Chris Chute. “We’re the guardians, we’re the protectors. There’s not a lot of us, but we’re holding back and being the guardians for the rest of the community.”

On Wednesday morning, the New Britain and Berlin police departments honored officers lost in the line of duty. The ceremonies were part of National Police Memorial Day, which is part of Police Memorial Week.

The holiday and week were designated in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy, according to nationalpoliceweek.org.

Patrolman James Skelly and Sgt. William Grabeck, of New Britain, and Officer Jeffery Casner, of Berlin, were honored as the only members of their departments who have died in the line of duty.

Skelly was killed on Oct. 12, 1914, while attempting to halt a burglary at the Davidson & Leventhal store on Main Street in New Britain.

Grabeck was killed on Nov. 5, 1951, while responding to a hold-up call at the A.Y.O. Packing Co. on Washington Street.

“The calls for service these heroes responded to that ultimately took their lives, are the same types of calls our officers go on every day,” said Chute during the ceremony. “We must not wait for tragedy to strike to acknowledge the daily commitment and sacrifice our heroes make every day.”

“I’m asking everyone to acknowledge, wave, smile or thank a police officer when you encounter them, because I believe the best way to honor our fallen New Britain heroes is to acknowledge the ones that are doing the job every single day,” Chute said.

Police Chaplain Thomas Mills, pastor of Grace Church, led a prayer and Mayor Erin Stewart read a proclamation as city and elected officials were present during the ceremony. Recently retired Chief James Wardwell was also present at the New Britain ceremony, held in the “pocket park” around the corner from the police station.

Berlin police honored Casner at Maple Cemetery on Worthington Ridge, by placing a wreath at his gravesite. The ceremony also included the playing of taps by members of the Berlin High School band and sharing a moment of silence with family and friends of Casner.

Casner was killed in 1985 at the age of 21 while directing traffic on the Berlin Turnpike. He was hit by a drunken driver who went off the road.

“It’s not just a social issue,” said Casner’s sister, Kathryn Casner, of drunken driving.

Also in attendance was her sister, Dr. Ann Aresco, brother, Bill Casner, and mother, Gene Casner.

Officer Daniel Ithier received the Casner Award this year, which is given out to the officer who leads the department’s efforts in combating drunken driving. He contributed to 15 percent of the department’s DUI arrests in the last year.

“It’s all about being responsible,” said Ithier. Combating drunken driving is how police can make the most impact on their community and is at the forefront of his efforts, Ithier said. The department’s newest police dog is named Casner in honor of Jeffery.

The Casner family received a Blue Heart Medal, which is intended to be similar to a military Purple Heart.

Members of the New Britain department who have died this past year were also honored: Officer Richard J. Caroll, Officer William B. Coyle, former Police Commissioner William V. Dworski and Supernumerary Patrolman Bronislaw “Ben” Jakubowski.

“It’s very important to come here every year, to honor the fallen officers and (Sgt. William Grabeck),” said Grabeck’s, great-niece Maria Grabeck, who was in attendance with her father, Bernard.

Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or cpaullin@centralctcommunications.com.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Berlin, New Britain on Wednesday, 15 May 2019 21:12. Updated: Wednesday, 15 May 2019 21:15.