It’s now been more than a month since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown (Conn.) that left 26 people dead including 20 young children.
The incident caused a national outpouring of support for Newtown, and so far more than $6M has been donated to help individuals within the community.
Law enforcement agencies from around the state have also lent their support to the Newtown police force.
Christmas Day Off
Chief Joel Hurliman of the Shelton Police Department is one of several local law enforcement leaders to offer manpower and administrative support to the town.
“Newtown only has 45 officers and with the increased amount of duties they've had, they couldn’t have done it all with their own people,” Hurliman said. “So several chiefs got together and decided what we could offer to them.”
Manpower was the greatest need for Newtown after the incident, he said.
Many of Shelton’s 54 officers rotated shifts with Newtown’s officers to man intersections and direct the high volume of traffic pouring into the town. They also helped relieve Newtown’s officers who were posted at the school and at the houses of victims.
In a very touching gesture, Shelton police and other neighboring agencies partnered to give the entire Newtown police force Christmas Day off.
Hurliman himself worked most of Christmas Day.
In order to receive this assistance from outside departments, Newtown Chief Michael Kehoe requested his first selectman declare a state of emergency. Taking this step was extremely important because there was no existing mutual aid agreement with several of the surrounding communities who sent officers.
While there was FBI, DEA, ATF, and other federal agencies present onsite, those agencies were largely focused on the investigation. State and local police were the agencies responsible for everything else, including scene security, traffic patrol, accident investigations, and other normal duties.
As testament to how important it was for Chief Kehoe to take such measures in declaring a state of emergency, during one of the funeral escorts, a motorcycle officer from another jurisdiction was struck by a car and suffered serious injuries including a broken leg.
“This situation would have been very problematic if there hadn’t been an emergency declaration,” said Hurliman.
Newtown Police Chief Michael Kehoe expressed his appreciation for this support on the town’s website: “I appreciate the many area police departments and the Connecticut State Police, who have provided immediate assistance in our time of need.
The unconditional support of the law enforcement community as we investigate and recover has been overwhelming.”
Hurliman has spent his 35-year police career with the Shelton Police Department and has been the chief since 2006. While he has never experienced an incident as devastating as the shooting in Newtown (few have), the situation did reinforce for him the importance of networking and connecting with neighboring agencies.
It’s important for agencies of all sizes to build strong relationships with local departments long before they need them.
“When a situation like this happens, you need to call on people you know,” he said.
Chief Hurliman said he has found multiple opportunities to network with fellow law enforcement leaders. Being active in local and national police organizations is a good place to start. He also said he made many good contacts through his recent educational endeavors at American Military University.
“In the classroom itself you’re learning, but you also get to network with other people,” he said. Those relationships can prove to be invaluable in all different types of situations.”
While the initial response to the shooting at Sandy Hook is over, the follow-up response is ongoing. Hurliman said he planned to meet with the Newtown chief this week to determine the community’s needs and figure out how the Shelton department can continue offering support.
“The Newtown shooting is something that has really vastly impacted the entire surrounding community,” Hurliman said.
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve and help fill in at Newtown.”