Retiring police Capt. Lawlor reflects on career
As Capt. John Lawlor looks back on his time with the Darien Police Department, he said that out of everything, he will miss his colleagues the most.
“The people here are like my second family,” said Lawlor, who is 54. “ I enjoyed working in a small department. It allows you to get to know people and develop relationships. I have made a lot of lifelong friendships.”
Lawlor got to know many people in the police department very well since he spent 33 years there. He never worked for any other police department.
"Prior to becoming a police officer, Lawlor was a welder and took college classes at night. It was in one of those classes that he first thought about his future career. “I took a criminal justice class,” Lawlor said. “I enjoyed the class and became interested in law enforcement.”
Through the decades, Lawlor rose up the ranks. He became sergeant in 2000, a lieutenant in 2013, and a captain in 2016.
He received numerous commendations throughout his time with the department, including one for search and recover work at the World Trade Center, and another for diffusing a situation with an armed gunman. Also, while assigned to the Marine Division, he rescued several people in the water during a violent storm.
In addition, he brought in shooting and training systems for the department, and implemented a tracking system for people with special needs who are prone to wander.
Crisis Intervention Team
The initiative that Lawlor said he is most proud of is starting the department’s Crisis Intervention Team (C.I.T).
As part of the C.I.T, a group of officers are chosen and trained in working with people who are suffering from mental health issues. The officers are trained in such topics as mental illness, substance abuse, suicide assessment and prevention, and children’s mental health and trauma.
When officers are in contact with the mentally ill, traditional police training may not always work best and can often potentially make a situation worse, according to the Darien Police Department’s website.
C.I.T. “puts more tools in the toolbox to helping people,” Lawlor said. “If we can avoid making arrests and get people help, that’s our priority.”
Aside from being a police officer, Lawlor is also a licensed clinical social worker. He got his master’s degree in social work from Fordham University in Bronx, N.Y.
“Early in my career, I became interested in mental health and saw this as an area that law enforcement was lacking,” he said.
Lawlor said that the biggest change since he first joined the department has been with technology.
“We would hand write most of our reports. We used a manual typewriter for arrest and search warrants,” he said, adding that some people were quick with the typewriter, while others weren’t.
“Most of the people working at the department now have never seen a manual typewriter,” he added.
Lawlor and his wife Silvia live in Trumbull and have three children.
Hobbies he said that will now occupy his time include “hunting, fishing and beekeeping.”
Lawlor said he has always liked working for the town of Darien.
“It’s been a really positive experience working for the town. The people in Darien have always supported us,” Lawlor said. “I enjoyed my years here immensely.”