Hamden Police Chief Retires After Distinguished 26-Yr Career Leaves Hamden PD Positioned for Future Success through Focus on Crime Prevention, Community, and Local Partnerships,Plans to Further Career with State of Connecticut
Mayor Curt Balzano Leng and Police Chief Thomas Wydra have issued a joint announcement regarding Chief Wydra’s impending retirement. Chief Wydra served the Hamden Police Department for 26 years, steadily rising through the ranks of the Department, and was appointed Chief of Police by Mayor Craig Henrici in 2006. Chief Wydra will conclude his employment with the Town of Hamden effective September 30th, 2018 and will shortly thereafter begin a new position within the Department of Labor with the State of Connecticut.
Commenting, Mayor Curt Balzano Leng said, “Chief Wydra has been a pivotal member of the Hamden community for more than two decades. In his role as Police Chief and as Manager of our Traffic Department, Tom has never backed down from the challenges of public service. His leadership as Chief has had a profound impact on the operations of the Hamden Police Department and has made our community safer due to pro-active, smart, and innovative policing tactics; including a focus on crime prevention, improved community focus and relations, expanding professional development and training, efforts to diversify our Department and increased use of technology for efficiency and effectiveness. He is an exceptional leader and someone I could always count on as we worked to expand community policing efforts, new youth initiatives and much more. His contributions to our community have strengthened our Town and positioned us for success in the coming years. For this and many other reasons, I am profoundly grateful for his service.”
Throughout his tenure as Police Chief, Wydra implemented a number of procedures, policies, and traditions which have ultimately formed the backbone of the Hamden Police Department and its current operating culture.
Chief Wydra was the driving force behind enhancing a robust professional development and training curriculum with executive, management and leadership training programs for all department supervisors, as well as recurring education on key topics including workplace violence, sexual harassment prevention, de-escalation, conflict resolution, trauma-informed sexual assault investigations; emotional survival for police officers; managing the mentally-ill; crisis intervention; and community mediation training for personnel.
Wydra also focused intently on providing transparent community policing. He directed the research, procurement, policy development, and deployment of on-officer wearable body cameras in 2013. He also created a Community Liaison Unit that centralized crime prevention and community outreach efforts through sustained relationship building with all stakeholders including residents, neighborhood leaders, visitors and business owners to reduce crime and the fear of crime to its lowest possible level.
In keeping with his efforts to connect directly to the community, Wydra formed a Bicycle Unit in 2007 that has considerably increased the presence of uniformed police officers in targeted neighborhoods as a strategy to provide more face to face contacts with residents, business owners and visitors, mitigate crime, and reduce the fear of crime. In 2015, this program expanded in partnership with Mayor Leng to include Hamden’s first Police walking beats in 40 years and a doubling of Hamden’s bicycle patrol presence.
Wydra coordinated the delivery of training from the Community Relations Service of the Department of Justice for all department personnel in the topic areas of cultural awareness, bias-based policing, and fair and impartial policing in 2011, 2012 and 2015 for all sworn employees. He created a fully operational Computer Crimes Unit and forensic laboratory that manages the collection, preservation and analysis of digital and electronic evidence.
Chief Wydra was also instrumental in leading a successful approach to developing a diversified workforce that more closely resembles the population served, and now currently includes the highest number of female, bi-lingual, Hispanic, and black police officers in the history of the Hamden Police Department. He also advocated for the creation of a juvenile review board (JRB) in 2011 that has successfully diverted youth away from the juvenile justice system for first-time misdemeanor offenses, and worked diligently to institute a Child Safety Car Seat installation program in 2014. This program, which is still active, provides the public with information pertaining to the safety of child passengers in motor vehicles, and includes the demonstration to caregivers regarding the proper selection, installation, and use of car seats, booster seats, and use of seatbelts.
Additionally, Wydra authorized the creation of a law enforcement club at the Hamden Middle School in 2009 with the leading purpose of educating interested students on a full package of police related topics, as well as developing stronger ties between our department and the youth in our community. He also worked with the Department to establish a “Police Explorer Program” in 2014 that targets young adults in the 14-21 age group with an opportunity to learn about and consider a career in police work, while focusing on the value of higher education, self-discipline, and respect for authority. In 2015, Wydra re-booted the Citizens Police Academy program as an instrument to provide local residents, and other stakeholders, with education on police practices and functions, as well as to build and enhance community rapport and relationships.
Commenting on his career with the Hamden Police Department, Chief Wydra said, “I have been extraordinarily fortunate throughout my 26 year career with the Hamden Police Department where I benefited from so many fantastic career advancement opportunities that would have been unimaginable to me when I was a 22 year old rookie cop. I will forever be grateful to so many people who helped me along the way, and to the Hamden community as a whole.”
Wydra continued, “My 12 year tenure as the chief of police was exceedingly rewarding. I am most proud of the department as it exists today, especially in the way our workforce reflects the splendid diversity of Hamden’s population. I am very excited to be moving onto the next chapter in my professional journey at the Department of Labor for the State of Connecticut.”
Police Commission Chairman Michael Iezzi commented, “Working in partnership with the community, the department and the commission, Chief Wydra has been a leader and someone who has been extremely progressive in bringing The Hamden Police Department to perhaps the finest department in the state of CT.