Michael J. McKinney Jr., 6, winces as he warns his father, Ledyard Police Sergeant. Michael McKinney’s hat at a Law Enforcement Awards and Appreciation Day event at the United Methodist Church of Gales Ferry on Sunday February 19, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day) Shop Ledyard Police Sgt. William Beeler looks up as he unfurls the American flag during a Law Enforcement Appreciation and Awards Day event at the United Methodist Church of Gales Ferry on Sunday, February 19, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day) Buy Photo Reprints Chaplain Ledyard Police Officer Rev James D. Guillory stands at attention during a Law Enforcement Appreciation and Awards Day event at the United Methodist Church of Gales Ferry on Sunday, February 19, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day) Buy Photographic Reprints Ledyard Police Captain Ken Creutz , left, hands Detective Christopher Cadro an award for Distinguished Service during a Law Enforcement Awards and Appreciation Day event at the United Methodist Church of Gales Ferry on Sunday, February 19, 2023. (Sarah Gordon /The Day) Buy Photo Reprints Ledyard Police Chaplain The Rev. Robert Petriel laughs as he is blocked by his m oglie, Lisa Petriel, during a Law Enforcement Awards and Appreciation Day event at the United Methodist Church of Gales Ferry on Sunday, February 19, 2023. (Sarah Gordon/The Day) Buy Fo a Reprints Ledyard Police Chief John Rich speaks with Officer Kyle Long as he is presented with a Distinguished Service Award during a Law Enforcement Awards and Appreciation Day event at the United Methodist Church of Gales Ferry on Sunday, February 19, 2023. (Sarah Gordon /The day) Purchase photographic reprints
Ledyard – As the state mourned the killing of two Bristol police officers in October, Naomi Rodriguez was on the phone with a friend.
Rodriguez, a Ledyard city councilman, told her friend, “We should do something.”
“What if it happened here in Ledyard?” Rodriguez said Sunday. “It would have been so traumatic.”
And so on Sunday, about four months later, the community teamed up with the Ledyard Police Department to host the Law Enforcement Awards & Appreciation Day at the United Methodist Church in Gales Ferry. It was a way of saying thank you to the men and women who protect the community.
“Because it’s organic and comes from the community, that’s why it’s so special,” Chief John Rich said before the ceremony. “It’s an incredible gesture of support.”
Local restaurants and community organizations donated food, time and resources to organize the event. Friends and family in the department were served a full dinner of pizza and pasta, while gift baskets with gift cards to local businesses and personalized mugs were distributed to each member of the department, including the dispatchers.
While it was a community effort to honor the department, Rich used the event as an opportunity to also present five officers with the Meritorious Service Medals and Distinguished Service Awards.
“The nature of our business is extremely fast paced,” said Rich. “It’s very rare to hear a thank you in law enforcement and as a department we try to recognize our people and give them formal recognition when they do these truly dangerous and heroic acts in the line of duty.”
Rich called it a “hallmark” for the department to formally recognize its officers.
Rich explained that “merit” has “very specific criteria” and involves the protection of life, recovery of property and the arrest of an armed and dangerous person. He said “distinguished” is just a step below and doesn’t “fit neatly” into any of the other categories. Rich said this is an action worthy of an award and recognition from the department and overall about overall excellence.
Rich and Captain Ken Cruetz presented awards to Officer 1st Class Gary Butters and Officer Taylor Krajewski for their meritorious service. Krajewski was unable to attend the ceremony.
On August 8 of last year at 2:36 am, Krajewski and Butters responded to a radio call from their seats and took part in a state police chase of a stolen vehicle from North Stonington. While Krajewski was in pursuit, Butters was able to deploy stop sticks to deflate the car’s tires. Butters and state police arrested one suspect at the parked car, while Krajewski and others chased after the two suspects who left on foot. The two suspects were arrested after a three-tenths-of-a-mile chase into the woods and over a wire fence. A loaded pistol and a backpack were recovered.
“Sometimes they don’t get the appreciation they deserve,” Rodriguez said. “They put their lives on the line”
The sergeant. Eric Bushor also received an award for his meritorious service, while Sgt. William Beeler, Detective Christopher Cadro and First Class Officer Kyle Long were recognized for their distinguished service.
The four members of the department were recognized for their involvement in a June 2021 call. One resident reported that he could see a car and a theft in progress on his security cameras. Long saw four people in the car, so he and Beeler stayed at the vehicle while Bushor approached the residence through the back yard.
Bushor was met by a male with a gun, backpack and mask, and immediately dropped his weapon when told to. Cadro has arrived to assist. They were able to recover all of the clothing the resident reported missing, as well as an airsoft gun. All five subjects were arrested and charged with burglary, theft and interference with an officer.
Also in attendance were State Senator Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, and State Representative Greg Howard, R-Stonington, to award citations from the state capitol to the officers.
“I am eternally grateful for the men and women in blue and the families who support them,” Mayor Fred Allyn III said in his keynote address. “We are a country of law and order, and it is of paramount importance now more than ever. People need to share it.
Rich and the department also took the opportunity to honor their two chaplains, who had been with the department for about a year. He said they waited for the uniforms to arrive, “and now everything is sorted out today.”
The Rev. James D. Guillory, who delivered the opening invocation, and the Rev. Robert Petriel, who gave a closing blessing, were officially recognized and sworn in as department chaplains.
“I appreciate the opportunity to serve,” Guillory told the crowd. “That’s all I want to do. I just want to serve.”
“I never expected to be a chaplain in a police department,” Petriel said, recalling why he wanted to serve and the importance of the role. “As a young man, I used to run away from the police department.”
Following the presentation of the colors, Girl Scouts from the Great Oak Service Unit were on hand to lead the Pledge of Allegiance to open the ceremony. Rodriguez and the rest of the organizing committee welcomed guests to the event.
Carol Christiansen, with Kathleen Bartkowski on piano, sang “God Bless America”. Bartkowski concluded the event with a piano solo before Rich’s closing remarks.
“Amazing,” Rich said of the event. “It’s really rewarding.”