After 30 years: Darien Police Chief Duane Lovello says time is right to retire

Police Commission chairman calls Lovello "one of the best chiefs" Darien has ever had.

Lovello

Darien Police Chief Duane Lovello will retire next month after over a decade as chief and over three decades with the department. — Susan Shultz photo

 After 35 years on the Darien Police force and more than a decade as its leader, Chief Duane Lovello will say goodbye to the department and Darien next month.

“Thirty-five years is a long time,” he said. “The timing is just right. A lot of people I know said when it’s time, you’ll know. I know.”

Lovello, who lives in Trumbull with his wife and two sons, currently away at college, sat down with The Darien Times to reflect on his time in Darien and his decision.

His future plans aren’t exact yet, but Lovello said he is looking forward to exploring other opportunities — outside of law enforcement.

“I have a lot to offer. My experience and education will help me try new things, and new mental challenges,” he said.

Lovello praised Darien as a community, saying it is beautiful and the people here are “wonderful.”

“They’ve been very supportive of the police department for all 35 years I’ve been here,” he said.

Lovello said he leaves knowing the department is “very well-positioned for the future.”

“This department has always willing to self-evaluate. That’s why we apply for accreditation and reaccreditation to make sure what we are doing is up to speed,” he said.

He said the department embraced best practices and new systems like a new ID system for eyewitnesses long before the ideas were a requirement. And the “best part” of that, he said, was that these initiatives come not from him but from members of his department.

Career history and challenges

Lovello began his career with the department in December of 1981. He was transferred to the detective division in October of 1986, and was promoted to sergeant in July of 1993, lieutenant in September 2000 and captain in December 2000. Upon the retirement of former Chief Hugh McManus, the Darien Police Commission named Lovello Darien’s ninth chief of police, sworn into office in March 2005.

Of all his roles, Lovello says detective was his favorite. While he said being a patrol officer is terrific, he said patrol officers don’t get much time to spend on the case after filing the initial report.

“In the detective bureau, you deal with some fascinating things — forensic techniques, Interpol, you network around the country and the world. It’s not unusual to be talking to departments in Seattle or L.A.,” he said.

Lovello says one challenge as chief has been identifying highly qualified individuals for every department vacancy, as the force faced the retirement of several veteran officers last spring.

That process has gone well, he said, due to the staff doing peer interviews and the Police Commission, which vets who is hired and promoted.

“I’m always impressed with the effort they [the Police Commission] put into that,” he said.

Paul Johnson, chairman of Darien’s Police Commission, told The Darien Times the state of the Darien Police Department as Lovello leaves “could not be better.”

“We consider him to be one of the best chiefs Darien has ever had,” Johnson said. “We are very sorry to see him go, but we wish him all the best.”

The commission met Tuesday to discuss future plans, Johnson said.

Another challenge is keeping up with technological advances, on both the law enforcement and criminal side.

“Thirty-five years ago, there was no technology, basically. Now it’s evolving at a frantic pace. Whatever you get is outdated by the time you get it out of the box,” Lovello said

While advanced technology can aid law enforcement, allowing officers in the field to remotely access the entire police database, it helps criminals too.

“Smartphones are a treasure trove to help commit or facilitate crimes, whether its ID theft, narcotics purchases, or tracking packages,” Lovello said.

Darien, Lovello said, is fortunate to have technologically savvy officers who keep the department at pace with, or even ahead of, those seeking to commit high-Tech crime.

Under Lovello, Darien Police became one of the few departments in Connecticut to achieve Tier II Accreditation, a level above Tier I which means the department meets a higher level of professional standard, and an expanded and police headquarters underwent extensive renovation.

After the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Darien established a School Resource Officer program. Each campus was assigned a school liaison officer.

Schools Superintendent Dan Brenner said, “The chief has been the perfect partner with the schools.”

“His willingness to collaborate with the Board of Education has benefited the Town and our schools in more ways than I can quantify.  We wish him only the best in his retirement,” Brenner said.

The K9 and traffic divisions were formed under Lovello, as were the Domestic Violence Unit and Accident Investigation Team. The department joined a regional emergency response team, the Youth Bureau was expanded, the Cops and Kids Adventures program began, a public information officer was named and the department’s Table of Organization was restructured. Command level officers are now sent for advanced training, including the Senior Management Institute for Police at Boston University.

Appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to the state’s Police Officer Standards and Training Council in 2012, Lovello was named chairman in 2016. He currently serves as president of the Fairfield County Chiefs of Police Association and is a past president of the Fairfield County Detectives Conference and the Darien Police Association.

Lovello received a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Haven and a law degree from the University of Connecticut. He is a member of the Connecticut Bar and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, Session 215.

Praise for Lovello’s leadership

“His leadership, law enforcement and legal expertise, dedication to the residents of Darien and stewardship of our safety is one of the most important factors in our community being a desirable place to live and raise a family,” First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said, calling working with Lovello “a privilege.”

“While the chief’s retirement is a loss to the community and me personally, he, along with the Police Commission, has built an outstanding Darien Police organization filled with strong law enforcement talent insuring the continued excellence of the department,” Stevenson added

Stevenson said what she appreciated most about Lovello is his care and concern for Darien’s youth.

“He has worked tirelessly with our schools and other community partners like The Depot to build relationships with our kids to help them avoid making unhealthy and negative, life-changing decisions,” she said.

Stevenson added that Lovello shares her philosophy that “all kids make mistakes and, in most cases, deserve a second chance,” and added that she will miss his professional guidance and wished him well in his future endeavors.

Sgt. Jeremiah Marron of the Darien Police Department said he has known Chief Lovello “since I was a young boy as he worked together with my father for a long time.” Marron’s father, the late Jeremiah Sr. served as a captain in the Darien Police Department.

“Over the past 21 years, I’ve worked for the Chief in several different capacities as he rose through the ranks and I’ve learned a tremendous amount from him,” Marron said.

“He’s clearly helped our agency move forward in numerous areas and I wish him the best of luck in any new endeavor he may undertake,” he said.  

What he will miss

“My co-workers are really fabulous,” he said, saying he will miss them most.

After attending state-wide police events, he’s always grateful to return to Darien — where he said the department is very close knit, which means, he joked, they also sometimes fight like a family.

Cases with impact

Over the years, Lovello said, several cases have greatly impacted him, such as the Alex Kelly rape case, and the Campbell homicides —  the 1987 case of  Patrick Campbell, a young man who was convicted of bludgeoning his parents to death with a hatchet and sledgehammer and setting them on fire in their backyard,

But Lovello, much like recent retiring department veterans such as Lt. Ron Bussell, said the case that still stays with him is the unsolved murder of Officer Kenneth Bateman on May 31, 1981. Bateman was gunned down while investigating a burglar alarm at Duchess on the Post Road, remains the only unsolved police officer murder in Connecticut history. Darien Police continue to investigate the case.

In 2015, in Hartford, the only person of interest in the case, Anthony Sabato, was sentenced to more than 13 years in prison on federal firearms and drugs charges. At the time, the judge also ruled that Sabato supplied the firearm that was used in Bateman’s murder. The long investigation was worked by Darien Police, with the help of West Haven Police and the FBI.

“Bateman is the one we desperately want to solve. It still haunts the department,” Lovello said.

However, he said the conviction of Sabato gave him a “lot of pride.”

• Five Darien Police receive U.S. Attorney award for Sabato case 

“There’s a comfort in it, and a tremendous amount of satisfaction in the amount of work that went into that case. Some Darien police who worked on it weren’t even born yet [at the time of the Bateman murder],” he said.

Lovello that he was touched by the support the department got in that case from West Haven Police, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office.

“They treated it like it was one of their own,” he said, adding that emblematic of the brotherhood of law enforcement.

Despite the years that have passed, Lovello feels the department remains as committed as ever to solving Bateman’s case.

“Solving that case has bridged generations of officers — and the next generation for years to come. it speaks to the quality of people that are hired here,” he said.

“We want to solve it, and I leave knowing that effort won’t subside,” Lovello said.

Chief Lovello’s last day is Feb. 15, and while he says he has no interest in any kind of going away fete — or being the center of attention in any way, he said, smiling, “sometimes you don’t have a say in these things.”

 

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