Although the official swearing-in and promotions had been conducted in early February, the Wilton Police Commission held a badge-pinning ceremony on Friday, Feb. 24 to formally celebrate promoting Wilton Police Chief Thomas Conlan and Deputy Chief Robert Cipolla in front of a standing-room only crowd in the Wilton Library Brubeck Room.
Present were the honorees’ family members; Wilton town and school officials and employees; current and past Wilton Police Department officers (including former chief John Lynch who returned to Wilton from his new home in Block Island, RI to surprise Conlan and Cipolla); Wilton Fire Department firefighters; Wilton residents; Our Lady of Fatima‘s Father Reggie Norman; police chiefs from several neighboring towns; and other federal, state and local law enforcement officials.
Police Commissioner Chris Giovino remarked on how unique it was that the the highest level appointments were being made from within. “It says a lot about the breadth, the depth, and the quality of the men and women of the local police department. We’re pretty fortunate as citizens to have you all in this community protecting us.”
First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice reflected on getting to know both honorees during her time in office, most critically during the town’s COVID pandemic response.
“Even though I was in my second term, I did not understand really what police officers in this town and what the chief and the deputy chief deal with until that experience. I just am so, so proud of the two of you, and I know this community is very proud…. It says a lot about the leadership, a lot about this department that there was no question that we didn’t need to do an outside search, that we had Tom and that fortunately we had Rob,” Vanderslice said.
Deputy Chief Robert Cipolla
After Cipolla’s grandmother and sister pinned on his badge, he thanked the people who helped shape his professional abilities since he began his police career in Wilton more than 17 years ago, an experience he said he was “blessed” to have.
“[Starting] at 22 years old, I literally grew up in this police department, and fortunately I had some tremendous mentors. And I don’t mean people that just teach you how to police. These were people that had my best interest in mind, professionally and personally. They vouched for me. They brought my work to the attention of the right people, and most importantly, they redirected me… they recognized my potential and showed they cared,” he said, adding he was grateful the Wilton community embraced him.
Cipolla’s remarks touched an emotional chord for everone in the room as he said, relationships, both personal and professional, are “what it’s all about.”
“This is coming from someone that likes a good case, a good arrest, a good investigation. But those things have a clear start and finish. What endures is the relationships. I’m fortunate for those that I’ve been able to have in the Wilton community, and my family before this career. When it’s all said and done, you are the ones that have been and always will be there. Talk about blessings, I’m thankful for my family,” he said.
The badge ceremony was the third consecutive joint promotion for Cipolla and Conlan, a fact he referenced in his speech as he talked about Wilton’s depth of talent and experience.
“Chief Conlan and I look at the current makeup of the department’s administration — Lieutenants [Gregg] Phillipson, [David] Hartman and [Steve] Rangel — all five of us for at least a few years were patrolmen together. We know each other’s strengths. We let each other know our weaknesses, and we work together cohesively. We’re not afraid to challenge each other’s views at a productive and professional dialogue so then in the end, we can reach a consensus that is guided by what is best for the department and the town of Wilton,” Cipolla said.
“To our officers, detectives, sergeants, you’ve heard me up here thanking so many for the opportunities and support that I’ve been privileged to have over the course of my career. Let me be clear that a priority of mine will provide those same opportunities and support to all of you so you can realize your fullest potential,” he added.
Cipolla encouraged the members of the department to take inspiration from his and Conlan’s promotions from within, and promised to ensure Wilton would enjoy the privilege of having a department built from the ranks up.
“Together we’ll continue to provide professional and modern service to all those who reside, work, visit, or are simply passing through the Wilton community. Let us always be guided by our values of teamwork, innovation, accountability, knowledge, and growth. And undoubtedly for those times when we are stuck trying to determine the best path forward, we will never fail when we simply do what is right and just,” he said.
Chief Thomas Conlan
Conlan’s nephews, both police officers — Milford Police Ofc. Daniel Hemperly and Stamford Police Ofc. Tim Speer — were given the honor of pinning on the chief’s badge.
Among the many people involved in Wilton’s municipal government that Conlan thanked, he gave special credit to former police chief John Lynch (revealing Conlan’s sense of humor as he read from prepared remarks referencing his former boss “not being able to make it because he’s the chief up in Block Island” after Lynch surprised everyone with his in-person appearance).
“He allowed me to gain the experience to get to this next step of becoming chief. He relied a lot on his command staff and he taught us a lot. He taught us that it was a team effort and he took everybody’s input and I really appreciate that.
Conlan also showed his leadership style, making sure to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of all the present and former officers of the Wilton department, asking them to stand and be recognized.
“I’m sure all these chiefs would agree with me that the men and women of the police department who go out in all kinds of weather, encounter people at their greatest time in need, they’re what makes the police department. oOfficers who spend countless hours away from their families to protect and serve the residents of this great town,” he said, as the room applauded.
Conlan also had a message for the family members of Wilton’s police officers.
“I want to thank you personally for letting your loved ones come here, day in and day out, to protect the town of Wilton. Your sacrifice doesn’t go unnoticed. Obviously it’s a real tough job. Countless hours, doubles, getting a call in the middle of the night saying, ‘I gotta stay another four hours because someone’s sick.’ You really make a big difference. Thank you for letting your husbands, wives and partners come here and do such a great job for the town,” Conlan said.
He added that he looks forward to working with business owners, residents, community leaders, boards and commissions “as we promote safety and provide services to all.”
“I feel extremely privileged and honored to lead and be part of this department. I trust that we will continue to work together for good and for the safety of this community. Thank you again all for this opportunity,” Conlan said.