MERIDEN — Growing up in Meriden, new Police Chief Roberto Rosado was inspired to work in law enforcement and give back to his community by the local officers and firefighters in his life.
“There are a lot of local leaders in the community that guided me through life at a young age and encouraged me to apply,” Rosado said in a phone interview Tuesday, specifically naming retired police officer Hector Cardona Sr. and retired firefighters Danny Torres, a family friend, and Inocesio Ramos, his uncle, as role models.
“I always looked up to the civil service back then,” Rosado recalled. “My grandmother encouraged me to be either a fireman or a police officer, and she always pointed out those two individuals (Torres and Ramos) that exemplified great work in the community. Basically they were raised through the Meriden community and were able to give back. I want to go back there and give back to the community in a meaningful way just like they did.”
Rosado, who has spent the past 22 years with the Willimantic Police Department, including four as chief, will officially begin in Meriden Wednesday, replacing retiring chief Jeffry Cossette. The city’s Police Chief Search Committee chose Rosado following a six-month search process earlier this month. He will work under a 5-year contract and earn a starting salary of $130,000.
“I have had the chance to work with Chief Rosado in the past,” City Manager Tim Coon said in announcing the hire, “and the city is getting an experienced, enthusiastic, and skilled leader.”
Rosado, 45, was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Meriden at a very young age. He decided he wanted to become a police officer during his senior year at Wilcox Technical High School and joined the Army National Guard right after graduating in 1994. He served six years in the National Guard and was hired as a patrol officer in Willimantic at 22.
“I started applying to a number of police departments and got hired fairly quickly,” Rosado said about ending up in Willimantic. He worked his way up the ranks before being promoted in 2016 from detective lieutenant in charge of major crimes to chief of police, becoming Williamantic’s first Latino chief.
In his various roles in Willimantic, Rosado was responsible for overseeing large level narcotics investigations, and a large number of high profile criminal cases. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Eastern Connecticut State University and was a graduate of the FBI National Academy in 2015. This August, Rosado will earn his master’s degree in criminal justice with a concentration in management from the University of New Haven.
“It’s been a great opportunity and a great run for 22 years, but I look forward to going back home and bringing some of that success I had here to Meriden,” Rosado said. He currently resides in Windham but plans to eventually move back to the Meriden area.
“I want to be involved as much as I can,” he said. “The only way to be successful is if you’re involved. You have to be present, available. You got to listen to the community and be a part of the community to be able to help shape that department and police the way everyone wants us to police.”
One of Rosado’s top goals in Meriden will be building trust and relationships within the community. During his time in Willimantic, the department improved the rate at which major crimes were solved, a trend he attributed in part to better community buy-in.
“I believe if you treat the community fair, you listen to them, and then you police in a way that is fair and impartial, they start believing in you and you build that trust within the community,” he said. “You’ll get a lot of buy-in from the community and they’ll assist the officers in solving crime and reporting things. Sometimes people are afraid to report things for many reasons, and that’s one of the barriers, and I’m certainly going to do my best to remove those barriers.”
Rosado had an “open-door policy” in Willimantic and would often stay late one day a week to allow residents to meet with him after the workday, something he plans to continue in Meriden.
“I’m willing to listen, share ideas. Don’t be afraid to come in,” Rosado said as a message to residents. “Police officers are human beings just like everyone else. I encourage them to come in, spend time with me. I’m willing to listen and hear their thoughts. I always love to get everyone together and share ideas because when you share ideas, that’s when the best policies and the best practices come out.”
Rosado is coming on as law enforcement agencies across the country come under greater scrutiny following the police killing of George Floyd, which he said has given police “a black eye.”
“Officers are down right now because they feel that they’re not appreciated, which is not true. There’s a lot of people who appreciate law enforcement, believe in law enforcement. Unfortunately, you have one or two incidents across the country that leave a black eye on law enforcement,” he said.
The best way for police to move past the national incidents, he added, is to earn the public’s trust.
“Once the community realizes whatever happened elsewhere is not happening here, you’ll have a tremendous amount of support and respect from the community,” he said.
The department, Rosado said, has done a good job with community policing and outreach over the years through the work of the department’s Neighborhood Initiative Unit. Changes to police funding in recent years have caused the number of assignments in the NI unit to fluctuate, but Rosado said community policing isn’t the responsibility of one unit.
“Obviously funding would be great. It solves a lot of issues when you have more funding, and you’re able to do more things. But I always think outside the box,” he said.
“I want basically every member of that department to engage with the community. To me, that’s community policing. It’s not just a select, few individuals, it’s department-wide, and that’s my goal is to get every member of that department to engage the community in different ways. So you’ll see us out there more. My goal is to have officers, when they see a group of kids out there playing, get out there talk to them, play with them.”