Changes at the top coming for police, fire

Published on Friday, 5 January 2018 18:09
Written by LISA BACKUS


NEW BRITAIN – The year ahead will include changes in the command staff of the police department and the fire department. Police and emergency responders can also expect to continue to deal with the opioid crisis well into 2018, health officials warn.

The city hired the first deputy police chief in more than a decade from within the ranks. Deputy Chief Christopher Chute will augment the work done by Police Chief James Wardwell including focusing on community events which the chief feels are imperative to a good relationship with the citizens they serve. Chute is a pioneer within the department in digital forensics and polygraph. He most recently commanded the professional standards division.

The promotion of Chute, from the rank of captain, created a ripple effect in the number of vacancies within the command staff of the department. Officers are currently testing for Chute’s vacant captain’s position and for the vacant lieutenant position and sergeant position that will be created when someone is promoted to fill the vacancy in the rank above. The promotions are expected to be finalized after the New Year.

The police department is also working toward state accreditation – a lengthy and detailed process which requires a review of every single policy related to policing and the running of the department. Wardwell told police commissioners Tuesday night that they can expect to review the revisions of dozens of policies after the first of the year.

After a rocky summer with claims of discontent within the ranks, city officials are on track to hire a new fire chief. A dozen people have applied including three internal candidates. Three people from Arizona, New Hampshire and Delaware and six people from other parts of Connecticut also applied. Interviews will take place after Jan. 11 when the Civil Service Commission certifies the list of candidates. For the first time ever, candidates who were interested in the position had to have at least an Associate’s Degree and experience in emergency management. Mayor Erin Stewart said she expects to hire a new fire chief by early March.

Based on the first six months of 2017, state and city officials can expect that opioids and opioid overdoses will continue to plague Connecticut. The impact of an increase in drug overdoses is being felt locally with New Britain ranking two in the number of deaths from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2017. Police, emergency personnel, firefighters, court staff and health care providers will continue to struggle to deal with a vast number of people who have overdosed in 2018, according to Dr. James Gill, the state’s Chief Medical Examiner.

While Gill will have no final figures until mid to late February, from what he’s seeing, the number of fatal overdoses has not decreased. Based on the number of deaths from January to June, Gill predicted that 1076 people will die of drug overdoses by the end of 2017 – almost 160 more than those who died in 2016.

Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or

Posted in New Britain Herald, General News on Friday, 5 January 2018 18:09. Updated: Friday, 5 January 2018 18:11.