NORWALK, Conn. – Wednesday was "surreal" for Thomas Kulhawik, who was sworn in as Norwalk's ninth police chief.
"It's surreal, standing here today, as it seems like only yesterday," he said of the day 29 years ago when then-Lt. Harry Rilling called him to offer him a spot in the police academy. "... I just hope you made a good decision."
Kulhawik and his deputy, David Wrinn, were sworn in Wednesday, with assurances made to the public from all who took the lectern.
"You can rest assured that your safety, the protection of your family, the observation of our laws, the protection of our people is all in good hands," Police Commissioner Pete Torrano told the many people packed into City Hall's community room before the swearing of Kulhawik and Deputy Chief David Wrinn.
Both were sworn in by Mayor Richard Moccia. Kulhawik was pinned by his brother, Chief Edward Kulhawik of the Eastham, Mass., Police Department. Wrinn's wife, Amy Wrinn, did the honors for her husband.
Kulhawik said he has inherited a good department in a city fortunate to be run by professional, capable people. "It is not by chance that Norwalk is a fiscally sound and professionally managed city that truly understands that government works for the people," he said. "I am proud to be among you and look forward to working with you to make this city the best it can be."
Police Commissioner Dan O'Connor said Kulhawik was his first choice to be chief. "I think you'll find him professional in his approach to being chief of police," he said. "I think Norwalk will find him an effective police chief."
The crowd included many police chiefs, captains, lieutenants, politicians, city leaders, "much of the prosecutorial team" and Kulhawik's 92-year-old aunt, the matriarch of the family, according to Officer Carleton Giles who served as master of ceremonies.
"We have chosen wisely," Torrano said. "The people we have as our new chief and deputy chief are two of the finest individuals I know, two of the finest police officers I know."
"The deputy chief and I are keenly aware of the issues facing both the department and the community," Kulhawik said. "As we begin our tenure we will reevaluate all aspects of the department. While I believe that we have a very successful organization, we cannot rest on that success. We will continue to challenge each member of the agency as well as ourselves to make sure that we consistently strive to make sure we are doing the very best. We will continue to look at best practices by researching what others are doing to address similar issues in their communities and bring these best practices back to Norwalk."