Connecticut State Police: Former commanders recall rising through ranks in turbulent 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s (2023)

NEW HAVEN - As a 12-year-old growing up in what he called "the slums of New Haven," Donald Long gave local cops money to buy him beer at package stores. Long also recalls being served vodka and orange juice at a bar as long as he sat in the back.

Just a few years later, he dropped out of high school to work at Winchester Repeating Arms Company.

Then, Long said, "I joined the Marine Corps to get away from factories."

He earned his high school equivalency in the Marines and reunited with friends on the New Haven Police Department as a patrolman in 1961. Long says it was there that he experienced intense racial discrimination that ultimately forged a will to become a force for civil rights in law enforcement. He also continued his education over the years, encountering a young professor named Dr. Henry Lee - now a world-renowned forensics expert - and eventually earning a master's degree in sociology from Southern Connecticut State University.

Like many leaders in law enforcement, Long started at the bottom and worked his way to the top. Long characterized one of his early commanders as "a dictator" while he complained of poor working conditions. When Long reached the top himself, he would be reviled as an intellectual and forced out of his job.

"That has always amused me," Long said. "If they only knew I was a high school dropout."


Long's legacy includes the hiring and promotion of several historic figures who literally changed the face of the Connecticut State Police. Retired state police leaders and the first union president who served with Long recalled the turbulent decades of the last half of the 20th century, telling the Journal Register Connecticut Group about their experiences with racial and labor strife and the struggle to modernize the now 109-year-old department.

In some ways those conflicts mirror the current battle between troopers and management as the state deals with diminishing resources and cutbacks and consolidations under Gov. Dannel Malloy.


In his first law enforcement job, Long served as a New Haven officer for about 14 months. He walked the beat in areas including Dixwell Avenue.

"It was just non-stop," Long said. "You worked very closely with the community."

His turf included a bar affectionately known as "The Bucket of Blood." On one shift, he found a man on the floor who had been hit on the head with a full bottle of whiskey. There were no radios then. Long ran to a call box. Following is Long's recollection:

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"The desk sergeant asked, 'White or black?'"

"I told him, black."

"He said, 'We'll send the pie wagon, we don't want to dirty an ambulance.'"

Pie wagon, in police vernacular, was an oversized van with a cage used for prisoners.

"You can see how things have come along - or, unfortunately, in some cases - not come along," Long said.

He met state troopers at coffee shops while working the New Haven beat, learned of openings, took the test and passed.


Trooper Donald Long went through every rank in the department. He was a resident trooper and a detective in the Eastern District, a sergeant, troop commander, field commander and firearms instructor at the training academy.

Long shared these impressions of his early days with the CSP: "When I joined the department in 1962 there was no union and the Commissioner (Leo Mulcahy) ruled with the powers of a dictator - troopers had little or no rights and the benefits and working conditions were poor. It was not a climate where troopers could openly criticize the administration without retribution. Certainly there could not have been a trooper-led vote for anything, let alone a vote critical of the Commissioner. In fact, it was these conditions that caused a union to be formed.

"The union was expressing a form of no confidence when the union was formed," he continued. "The union didn't come about because troopers were happy with the administration - I know, I was there."

Troopers worked 12-hour shifts. They had to ask permission not only for a day off, but also to return to the barracks at the end of a shift.

"If you came in one minute before midnight," Long recalled, "you were told to go back out on patrol."

Troopers found creative ways to overcome an overt quota system for tickets, sometimes waiting near railroad crossings to nail stop-sign violators, Long said.

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"The quota system then was one for three -- you had to make one arrest or give out one warning every three hours," he said.

They had one day off every two weeks. That day generally was used to go to court.


As he advanced through the department, Long oversaw an agonizing missing person case. Gov. Ella Grasso checked in with him regularly on the case. It turned out a five-year-old girl had suffocated to death accidentally in a grain bin chute in Lebanon, a farming community in eastern Connecticut.

Long recalled Grasso being on the scene for much of the three-day search.

"I believe that she was there because she wanted to make sure that everything possible was being done to find the missing child," Long said. "She wasn't there simply to be seen - she truly cared."

"I was very impressed at how very down to earth she was - I liked her as a person," Long added. "I never knew why she appointed me...I was even a registered Republican at the time, but I've always thought that the time we spent together at this tragic event may have had something to do with her decision."

That was his only contact with Grasso before the Democratic governor forced out then-Commissioner Ed Leonard, a popular leader with the troops.

Leonard was a trooper's trooper. In the field, Leonard used his instincts to get the job done. In the area around the Old Saybrook barracks there was a tough guy known as "Shot-Beer." He had fought many state troopers, and getting the call to respond to an incident at this man's house was not a welcome assignment. A few of the older guys thought they could set Leonard up by sending him to Shot-Beer's house.

As legend has it, Leonard went alone. Shot-Beer was ready to fight. Leonard was polite and firm.

Shot-Beer asked him to have a drink. They sat down and talked for quite some time. Leonard brought Shot-Beer back to the barracks, both of them unmarked and unharmed, stunning the old guys.

It was Leonard - commissioner after Mulcahy - who brought management training into the department.

Leonard essentially ended his own career by proclaiming a young man in one of Connecticut's most infamous cases guilty after state police had been admonished by the judiciary for coercing a confession and withholding evidence.

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Peter Reilly had been convicted of killing his mother, Barbara Gibbons, in Falls Village, but won a new trial. The state ultimately declined to prosecute him again.

Shortly after being promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1978, Long walked into Leonard's office and saw his boss cleaning out his desk. "He [Leonard] said, 'You're in charge.'"

Grasso then summoned Long to an early morning press conference a short time later at Old Lyme Town Hall where she would announce him as the new commissioner.

"She said, 'Hey, I'm not doing you any favors,' " Long recalls.

Long mentioned he was a proponent of affirmative action.

"Ella told me, 'This is going to get you into hot water,' he said. "Of course, it did."


There was virtually no training when Long became a trooper. A guy in a starched white shirt read aloud from the motor vehicle statutes, causing some troopers to nod off. Riot equipment included leftover World War II blue fighter pilot helmets and imitation shields - aluminum sledding discs with plastic handles.

Long built on the management training begun by Leonard and riled the old-timers by bringing civilians into key positions, including fleet manager.

"Bringing in civilians - that's called management," said Dr. Lee, who served as commissioner from 1998-2000. "Donald Long brought me in [to start the crime lab]. He understood the importance of physical evidence."

Among those promoted to sergeant by Long was a young African American trooper named Reuben Bradford, the current commissioner.

"He did get in a lot of trouble promoting affirmative action," Bradford recalled. "He was extremely progressive in his thought."

Long wrote to Bradford recently, noting, that he, too, was the subject of derision by the troops. Bradford and the current commander, Col. Danny Stebbins, were the targets of an overwhelming no-confidence vote by the trooper union last month.

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Jerry Herskowitz, the first president of the trooper union, generated a voice vote of no confidence against Long by about 200 troopers at the training academy in 1981. Herskowitz said the vote was at least partly directed at Grasso, whom he described as "really cheap - she was against minimum staffing rules."

As troopers protested budget cuts with a job action at the Bethany barracks, Long suspended five of them who suddenly became "sick" on the job, leaving the area without coverage for a couple hours.


From 1980 to 1984, the Ku Klux Klan conducted 16 rallies and demonstrations in Connecticut. During that time state police seized a large variety of guns, knives, swords, machetes, baseball bats, pipes and chains, as well as slingshots, weighted knuckles, a detonator and clubs. One of those rallies occurred over a few days in September 1980 in rural Scotland, near Willimantic in eastern Connecticut. Another young African American trooper, Joseph Perry, had been promoted by Long and was the captain in charge of the Eastern District. Perry would go on, in 1992, to become the first African American commander of the Connecticut State Police.

"The wizard or grand dragon and I were dealing with each other on the phone," Perry recalled. "He envisioned cops and Klansmen standing against the commies. I had to tell him we were neutral. He told me no Indians, no Pakistanis and no Negroes were allowed at the rally."

Perry met with the Klan leader in a private room at Bradley airport, accompanied by a lawyer representing the state who happened to be Jewish.

"I told him I was in charge of the rally for the state police," Perry said. "I asked him if they were going to wear sheets. He said they weren't sheets - they were uniforms or robes."

Perry remembered Long as an innovator.

"He had some refreshing ideas," Perry said. "He had a management team approach. He took a more open approach. People in the past campaigned for the job. He didn't."

Long said he also upset many union members by taking away high-powered, air-conditioned cruisers from staff not on patrol and giving them Ford Fairlanes without air conditioning. He said he gave up his huge car to then-Lt. Gov. Bill O'Neill and used a Fairlane himself.

"You can understand the union position - you're taking away a benefit," Long said. "The move was good for citizens and taxpayers, but it was bad for trooper benefits."

As Perry put it, "These are probably some of the same issues Reuben is solving now."


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It was another Klan rally that spelled the end of Long's career with the state police.

Legislators slammed Long for not assisting Meriden police during a Klan rally in 1981. By that time, Grasso had died of cancer while in office and was succeeded by O'Neill. O'Neill moved Long to an out-of-the-way desk job and ultimately replaced him with Lester Forst.

After retiring from the department in 1982, Long worked as a security manager for utilities including Boston Edison. He settled on Cape Cod, where he keeps in touch with former colleagues, including Leonard.


How much do CT state troopers make? ›

State Trooper Salary in Connecticut
Annual SalaryMonthly Pay
Top Earners$64,230$5,352
75th Percentile$60,717$5,059
25th Percentile$49,678$4,139

How many CT state troopers are there? ›

940 Troopers

How many state police barracks are there in Connecticut? ›

There are twelve Connecticut State Police troops located throughout the state.

What are the divisions of CT State Police? ›

The Division of State Police is comprised of three (3) Districts, Western District, Central District, and Eastern District. There are currently 11 troops located throughout the state with State Police troopers providing the primary law enforcement services in 79 of the 169 municipalities in Connecticut.

What is the highest police salary in Connecticut? ›

How much does a Police Officer make in Connecticut? The average Police Officer salary in Connecticut is $66,800 as of January 26, 2023, but the range typically falls between $62,500 and $72,800.

What is the oldest state police in the US? ›

Pennypacker on May 2, 1905. It was the first uniformed police organization of its kind in the United States. Today, the authorized complement of the Pennsylvania State Police is 4,740 sworn members. More than 1,850 civilians serve in a variety of roles throughout the department.

Do you need a degree to be a state trooper in CT? ›

Be 21 years of age. There are no maximum age limits. Be in general good health, drug free and have sufficient strength, stamina and agility as required by duties of the position. Possess a high school diploma or GED by the completion of training.

Can CT State troopers have tattoos? ›

(1) The Connecticut State Police recognizes the personal appearance of its sworn uniform personnel, when in the public eye, has a direct impact on public confidence and thereby on the ability of individual personnel to perform their official duties.

Why are Connecticut state police cars unmarked? ›

(Part of the reason for this is that police officers perform law enforcement activities while off-duty.) While the car is being used in an off-duty capacity, markings are not desirable. The trooper can attach the State Police light bar if he is required to perform a law enforcement function involving the car.

What is the biggest police department in the US? ›

The New York Police Department is the largest police department in the world. The NYPD, founded in 1845, maintains order, protects citizens and tourists, and deters crime throughout New York City's five boroughs.

What is the largest local police department? ›

New York City Police Department (NYPD)

What jobs pay more than a Police Officer? ›

Highest-Paying Careers
RankOccupation2021 Median Wages
Employment column two Annual
1Obstetricians and Gynecologists$208,000+
1Ophthalmologists, Except Pediatric$208,000+
1Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons$208,000+
7 more rows

What cities pay cops the most? ›

Best-Paying Cities for Patrol Officers

The metropolitan areas that pay the highest salary in the patrol officer profession are San Jose, San Francisco, Napa, Vallejo, and Santa Rosa.

How much do SWAT make CT? ›

How much does a Swat make in Connecticut? As of Feb 12, 2023, the average annual pay for the Swat jobs category in Connecticut is $76,072 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $36.57 an hour. This is the equivalent of $1,462/week or $6,339/month.

What is the oldest age to be a police officer? ›

Maximum age requirements for law enforcement candidates

For states that do have a maximum age limit, the age at which you can start your law enforcement career, It is generally around 34-37 years of age. Exceptions are made for military veterans.

What does the Sara method in policing mean? ›

The acronym SARA stands for scanning, analysis, response, and assessment. This model has become the basis for many police agencies' training curricula and problem-solving efforts.

Why are they called secret police? ›

secret police, Police established by national governments to maintain political and social control. Generally clandestine, secret police have operated independently of the civil police. Particularly notorious examples were the Nazi Gestapo, the Russian KGB, and the East German Stasi.

What tattoos can Cops not have? ›

There are guidelines, including the tats cannot be offensive, or on the hands or neck. Previously, officers were wearing long sleeves year round or a bandage or specialty sleeves to cover up tattoos.

Can cops have nose rings? ›

Members shall not wear any item of ornamentation in their nose, eyebrow, tongue or any other location of their body that is visible while functioning in a law enforcement capacity. Female members are authorized to wear earrings however, they will be limited to two (2) per ear. Female officers shall only be permitted to ...

Do Connecticut cops have to have their lights on? ›

Cops do not have to have their lights on at night. They can legally hide with their lights off. And they can pull you over for violating the law, whether they advertised their presence or not. It is not considered entrapment in a court of law.

Why do Connecticut police drive with blue lights on? ›

A lot of people ask about these lights we sometimes have illuminated on our patrol cars.... When they are on steady and not flashing they are called “cruise lights.” They are meant to show our presence around town, deter crime, or reduce speeds and traffic violations....

What are undercover cops not allowed to do? ›

There should be no undercover investigation of any one person by any one agency for more than 24 hours without a court-approved warrant. Further, while undercover operations may involve business as well as cordial social relationships, they should not include intimate personal relationships.

Do unmarked police cars carry guns? ›

Armed response vehicles were introduced to British police forces to provide them with a firearms response capability, as police in the United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) do not routinely carry firearms on patrol, with the exception of a minority of armed officers.

What is the most powerful law enforcement agency in USA? ›

Some federal investigative powers have become broader in practice, especially since the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act in October 2001. The United States Department of Justice was formerly the largest and is still the most prominent, collection of federal law enforcement agencies.

What are the largest police unions in the US? ›

The self-described "largest municipal police union in the world" is the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York that represents 24,000 members of the NYPD. There is no single dominant national association. Four associations have significant membership drawn from across the country.

Who is the biggest police officer? ›

In India, the Director General of Police (DGP) is the highest ranking police officer in an Indian State or Union Territory. DGP typically heads the state or UT police force, who in case, are also called State Police Chief.

How long is CT State Trooper training? ›

The majority (90%) of police recruits go through POST's program at the Connecticut Police Academy in Meriden, Connecticut. The basic training program at the Connecticut Police Academy is approximately 28 weeks long.

What qualifications do you need to be a CT state trooper? ›

Be 21 years of age. There are no maximum age limits. Be in general good health, drug free and have sufficient strength, stamina and agility as required by duties of the position. Possess a high school diploma or GED by the completion of training.

How much do you get paid at CT Police Academy? ›

How much does a Police Academy make in Connecticut? As of Feb 18, 2023, the average annual pay for the Police Academy jobs category in Connecticut is $53,158 a year. Just in case you need a simple salary calculator, that works out to be approximately $25.56 an hour.

Do you get paid for CT Police Academy? ›

When you are in the Academy, you are an employee of the Department of Public Safety and you will get paid while attending training.

How hard is it to become a police officer in CT? ›

If you want to become a police officer in Connecticut, you can do so with minimal education and work experience. Some basic requirements to become a police officer in Connecticut are a high school diploma, a valid driver's license and a clear background check.

Is there an age limit to become a police officer? ›

Age. You must be 17 or older when applying to be a police constable. Applicants who are 17 will progress through the recruitment process, however your start date with the Met would need to be after your 18th birthday. The upper age limit is typically 57.

What degree is best for a state trooper? ›

Best Degree Options for State Troopers
  • Criminal Justice. During your studies for a criminal justice degree, you will learn the various disciplines related to law enforcement, including law, crime, and psychology. ...
  • Behavioral Science. ...
  • Law Enforcement. ...
  • Criminology. ...
  • Legal Studies. ...
  • Forensic Science.

Do you need a degree to be a cop in CT? ›


Be at least 21 years of age. Be a high school graduate, or have passed the General Educational Development test (GED) Possess a valid motor vehicle operator's license. Pass a validated written entry test *

Can CT state troopers have tattoos? ›

(1) The Connecticut State Police recognizes the personal appearance of its sworn uniform personnel, when in the public eye, has a direct impact on public confidence and thereby on the ability of individual personnel to perform their official duties.

How Much Should police officers get paid? ›

Police Officer Salaries in London

The average salary for Police Officer is £39,587 per year in the London. The average additional cash compensation for a Police Officer in the London is £2,156, with a range from £278 - £16,746.

What is a cops salary? ›

Do you get paid to train as a police officer? ›

Yes, you will be paid throughout the period that you are training and studying for your Degree Apprenticeship in Professional Policing Practice or Graduate Diploma in Professional Policing Practice.

How much do Uconn police get paid? ›

Starting salary for certified police officers is $55,414 - $72,915 (plus $5,000 in additional stipends) per NP-5 CT Police and Fire collective bargaining agreement.

How old do you have to be to go to the police academy in CT? ›

To qualify for a police officer certification in Connecticut, an applicant must meet all relevant entry level requirements, some of which are that the candidate: be a citizen of the United States; be at least 21 years of age; be a high school graduate or have passed the General Educational Development Test; possess a ...

What are the benefits of being a police officer? ›

In addition to above average salaries, police enjoy benefits, retirement packages, and insurance coverage options that usually exceed those offered by private employers. In some agencies, full retirement is attainable in 20 to 25 years regardless of age.


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