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Mashantuckets beef up police department with new hires

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: theday.com

Published September 12. 2012 12:00PM   Updated September 13. 2012 3:15PM

Mashantucket — The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, intent on beefing up its police force as it prepares to assume greater responsibility for public safety at its casinos, has added three police officers, two of whom have decades of experience with municipal departments in the region.

The tribe announced the hirings Wednesday, saying the tribal council had sworn in the three officers as well as two dispatchers Monday during a ceremony in council chambers.

The new hires include former New London police Sgt. Patricia Lieteau, who recently retired from the city's force, and former Madison police Lt. Michael O'Connor, who four years ago faced charges of departmental rules violations and a recommendation he be fired following an investigation of misconduct among officers he supervised.

The charges against O'Connor were dismissed, according to Eric Thornburg, chairman of the Madison Board of Police Commissioners.

"Mr. O'Connor was a valued officer here in Madison and retired in good standing from our department," Thornburg said Wednesday in an email exchange. "… Lt. O'Connor was very well liked and admired by our citizens. He will be missed."

O'Connor retired in June after 24 years with the Madison force.

Also sworn in as a police officer by the Mashantuckets was Gary Coates, a member of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, in Aquinnah, Mass., on Martha's Vineyard, where he served as a ranger and co-emergency management manager of the tribe's Natural Resources Department. His experience includes SWAT team, EMT and firefighter service, as well as training in terrorism response tactics, hazardous materials and FEMA Emergency Management, the Mashantuckets said.

Sworn in as dispatchers were Stacy Walker, who lives in Mashantucket with her husband, a tribal member, and their two children, and Gregory Devore, a Ledyard resident. Walker attended Griswold High School and graduated from Ridley-Lowell Business and Technical Institute with an accounting certificate. Devore has certifications in fire, EMT and hazardous materials training, and served as a lieutenant in the Gardner Lake Volunteer Fire Department before joining Ledyard Ambulance.

With the hirings, the Mashantucket police department has 14 officers and eight dispatchers, said William Satti, the tribe's director of public affairs.

New London Patrolman Todd Lynch, president of the local police union, said Lieteau would be sorely missed in the city.

"Not only was she a very good officer, she was our training sergeant, responsible for all training and certification within the department," he said. "She has a wealth of experience and knowledge."

Lynch said Lieteau was a rarity among New London police officers — a native of the city who attended city schools and graduated from New London High School.

Retired New London police Capt. William Dittman is serving as the Mashantucket police department's interim chief. He was named to the post in July, about six weeks after the resignation of the department's last chief, Dan Collins.

Collins' resignation came amid questions about whether the department was ready to assume a greater role inside the tribe's Foxwoods Resort Casino and MGM Grand at Foxwoods, where it shares jurisdiction with state police.

Both the Mashantuckets and the Mohegan Tribe, which owns Mohegan Sun, have discussed with state officials their desire to reduce the number of state police officers assigned to the casinos at the tribes' expense. Covering the casinos with tribal police officers would be far less costly for the tribes.

The state has indicated that tribal police would have to have the proper certifications before they could assume more responsibility at the casinos.

In June, a Mohegan tribal official said the Mohegan tribal police department has 25 officers and that all of them have state certifications.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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