NEW BRITAIN – As dozens of officers, dignitaries and families gathered Monday to pay an annual tribute to the city’s two fallen officers who died in 1924 and 1951, Police Chief James Wardwell told the crowd that this year police deaths in the line of duty have already increased 36 percent compared to 2016.
“Last July we saw the second deadliest day in policing with the horrifying events unfolding at an otherwise peaceful demonstration in Dallas, Texas,” Wardwell said referring to the ambush that killed five officers and wounded 11 others. “Since these figures were first recorded in 1971, 21,183 police officers in the United States have made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Each year, the New Britain Police Department honors patrolman James Skelly, who died on Oct. 12, 1924, as he was attempting to stop a burglary, and Sgt. William Grabeck who died on Nov. 5, 1951 while he was responding to a robbery in progress, along with any retired officers who died within the past year during National Peace Officers Memorial Day in a local ceremony that reflects one of the most significant 20 minutes of “our year,” Wardwell said. The men are heroes, along with the men and women who are currently serving the department and have served the department since its inception in 1871.
“Every day these brave men and women of the New Britain Police Department perform their duties with valor,” Wardwell said. “It is true that their daily actions may go unnoticed by the many, and misinterpreted by some, but we all know how much good our officers do each day. As a society we must never forget to appreciate the efforts and the courage they bring to this calling.”
Retired officers and supernumeraries Howard Cronin, Ronald DiMaggio, Stanley Januszewski, Alan Murphy and Lucian Mlynarczyk, who passed all away this year, were also recognized for their service during the ceremony.
Minutes before officers fired a ceremonial volley of shots and the bells from South Church rang out to mark the solemn event, Police Commission Chair Howard Dyson explained that he has been attending the ceremony for 15 years. “You support the officers, they need to feel your support,” said Dyson who has been a member of the commission for 15 years and chair for four. “No matter what year it is, or what’s going on, they need our support. They lay their lives out for every day for us. This is a memorial for fallen officers, but it’s for the community to show their support as well.”
Nationally, a police officer is killed in the line of duty every 61 hours, Wardwell said. From Jan. 1 to Monday, 49 officers have been killed in the line of duty – a 36 percent increase over the same period last year, the chief added.
“It is so important to note that the types of incidents that resulted in the deaths of officer Skelly and Sgt. Grabeck are not rare calls,” Wardwell explained. “In fact, these are the types of calls out officers are sent to as part of their routine duties every day.”
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.