The 2020/2021 Police Awards. Ofc. Brandon Harris was awarded the 2021 Officer of the Year. (photo: GMW)

After a two-year pandemic-related hold on the Wilton Police Department‘s annual awards ceremony, the department celebrated the heroic and hard-working police officers who set themselves apart in 2020 and 2021.

The event was held in the Wilton Library’s Brubeck Room, and the mood in the room was upbeat and elated. From the way he explained each awardee’s accomplishments and actions, it was clear that Chief John Lynch was very proud of the dedication of his department’s officers.

First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice was on hand to thank the officers for their dedication as well and also thanked their families. “I want to say thank you to all of the officers for your service over the last two years there, not two years that you ever signed up for. … And in those very early days, recognizing the risk that all of you were taking, but your family members were taking, … they carried the burden too. They were at risk also. They’re also the people that provide you with the support so that you can do the job that you do to serve our community.”

Several commendations were given for the detailed investigative work required to solve cases involving identity theft. Other officers were recognized for their efforts that resulted in a life being saved — including one instance where Ofc. Eric Patenaud saved his own father’s life using the Heimlich maneuver.

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Given that the time period which these awards covered was the COVID pandemic, some of the awards acknowledged the unusual nature of police work during the first intense year. Lynch announced that both the Community Police Officer of the Year and the Police Officer of the Year awards for 2020 were being awarded to every officer in the WPD.

Similarly, Lynch announced that the 2020 Civilian Blue Angel Award was being given to Wilton residents for their assistance and support during the pandemic.

“We were overwhelmed by the generosity and support our Wilton families bestowed upon us. In 2020, there were many individuals and groups who continued to support us. Their support consisted of donations of PPE, handmade masks and shields, monetary support for the officers and the families, cookies, cakes, donuts, pizza and food delivered nearly on a daily basis. Some assisted with delivering much-needed test kits and supported our vaccination clinics,” he said.

For 2021, Sgt. Anthony Cocco received the Community Police Officer of the Year Award. As Lynch explained, “He has worked on and off duty with Wilton Social Services, assisting and gathering donated groceries for the food pantry and delivering the donations to families, especially during COVID. He assisted in organizing the Letters to Santa program, which were dropped off by children at a mailbox in front of the police department. The officer showed selflessness when on his own time during COVID assisted in helping the most affected residents of Wilton. I personally can vouch, we can lean on him for anything.”

The Officer of the Year Award is given to the officer who distinguishes themselves from their peers by actions, which represent the highest standards of the police profession. In 2021, that officer was Ofc. Brandon Harris.

“This individual has consistently distinguished himself as a proactive officer … over the past two years, he has conducted over 350 traffic stops resulting in 10 DUI arrests and 41 drug-related investigations. In addition, he has distinguished himself as a strong criminal investigator who takes the exhaustive efforts to identify those responsible for crimes. … Looking through this officer’s personnel folder, there are many letters from residents thanking him for the professional and caring way that he assisted them in their time of need. This officer has been a credit to our department, embodying professionalism, as well as a willingness to go above and beyond in all aspects of working at the department,” Lynch said.

The 2021 Civilian Blue Angel Award was presented to the Wall family of Wilton — Kevin, Meghan and Sue — which through the Arthur J. Wall Scholarship Fund has supported not only the Police Department but dozens of non-profits as well as awarded scholarships to graduating high school seniors every year.

“This family should be very proud for all they have done for the Wilton Police Department, local civic groups and fellow citizens in honor of their beloved patron,” Lynch said.

Below is the list of the other awardees.

Letter of Commendation

Det. Eva Zimnoch (2)
Det. Edward Dolenk
Ofc. Eric Patenaude
Ofc. Jon Patry
Ofc. Chris Ventura
Sgt. Stephen Sisenstein
Ofc. Paul Lichtenberger
Ofc. Robert Nosul

Letter of Recognition

Det. Edward Dolenk (3)
Ofc. Graham O’Gorman
Det. Eva Zimnoch
Det. Scott Sear (3)
Ofc. Mark Canepari
Ofc. Brandon Harris (2)
Ofc. Joseph Calorossi
Ofc. Malcolm Harris
Ofc. Wojtek Brodzinski
Ofc. Scott Spezzano
Ofc. Jeton Ejupi
Ofc. William Whitman
Sgt. Anthony Cocco
Ofc. Matthew Collins
Ofc. Elizabeth Myles

Citation of Commendation

Sgt. Anthony Coco
Det. Scott Sear
Ofc. Eric Patenaude
Ofc. Brandon Harris
Det. Edward Dolenk

Life-Saving Pin

Ofc. Sean Baranowski
Ofc. Doug Parsons
Ofc. Graham O’Gorman (2)
Ofc. Jon Patry
Ofc. Mark Canepari
Ofc. Melissa LaPak
Ofc. Steven Anuszkiewicz (2)
Ofc. Brandon Harris
Ofc. Eric Patenaude

Meritorious Police Service Award

Ofc. Eric Patenaude
Det. Edward Dolenk (2)
Lt. Gregg Phillipson
Ofc. Steven Anuszkiewicz