EAST LYME –The town’s Police Department swore in four new officers at a ceremony at Town Hall on Thursday morning.
Two of the officers, Justin Hanna and John Baldino, transferred to the department after nearly three years in Old Saybrook. Hanna began working in East Lyme at the end of March, and Baldino started in early May.
Both said they were enjoying their work in East Lyme. Hanna praised the community and the department, and Chief of Police Mike Finkelstein said Baldino hadn’t stopped smiling since he joined.
“It’s a breath of fresh air,” said Baldino.
The other two, Ryan Gries and Taylor Desjardins, will start their training on June 4 at the Connecticut Municipal Police Training Academy. Training lasts 28 weeks, meaning that the officers will begin their field training in East Lyme at the end of December.
“We view this department as a family,” said Finkelstein, adding that he was looking forward to having these new officers as part of that family and part of the community.
“East Lyme is an upstanding community, it’s a tight-knit community, and that acclimation into this community is certainly crucial to their success as police officers,” said Finkelstein.
“I’m looking forward mostly to getting to work with a great group of officers,” said Gries, who said he has wanted to be a police officer for a long time. He previously worked in loss prevention for the Stop and Shop supermarkets in the New Haven area.
“You have a unique opportunity to see people at their worst, and just to be friends to the community,” Gries said about becoming an officer. “It’s never the same thing every day.”
Desjardins previously worked as a judicial marshal for the State of Connecticut and was a part-time dispatcher for the police departments in Plainfield and Putnam. She will be the sixth female police officer hired in East Lyme.
“I was very happy to see a lot of females in the department,” she said, adding that she had a lot of officers whom she could look up to.
Finkelstein said that three of the new hires were replacing officers who left the department. The fourth was meant to increase the size of the force to 26 full-time officers. In February, the board of police commissioners said that they wanted to see an increase of 12 officers in the East Lyme Police Department over six years.
Finkelstein told CT Examiner on Thursday that they had been aiming for a total of 36 officers in the department, but that so far an increase of only one officer had been approved.
First Selectman Mark Nickerson said that the town was also in the process of moving the police station to a new building that would allow the department to “treat our professionals like professionals.” Renovations on the 30,000 square foot building on West Main Street, are scheduled to be completed in August.