By John Murray

   In February 2012 Deputy Police Chief Vernon Riddick, pictured above, moderated a panel discusssion on the history of the African-American struggle inside the Waterbury Police Department. For decades systemic racism held qualified black officers from advancing beyond patrolmen, and black cops were confined to beats in minority neighborhoods. Grudgingly, the department began to open up, but it wasn’t until a federal lawsuit was filed by Cicero Booker Jr. in the early 1980s that measurable change occurred. Eleven months after the panel discussion on racism,  Mayor Neil O’Leary has selected Vernon Riddick to lead the Waterbury Police Department in the wake of Chief Michael Gugliotti’s retirement. Riddick will officially be the Acting Police Chief while O’Leary searches for a permanant replacement for Gugliotti, who is out on vacation until his retirement on March 18th. In the absence of Chief Gugliotti, Riddick will assume the role of Acting Chief of Police immediately, becoming the first black officer in history to lead the Waterbury Police Department.

   “The hot topic will be that Vernon is the first African-American to become police chief in Waterbury,” Mayor O’Leary said Saturday morning, “but let me make it clear that this selection has nothing to do with race. I don’t see color. The truth is that Vernon Riddick has been deputy chief for several years, and has perfomed the job extremely well.”

   O’Leary said it was a difficult choice between his two deputy chiefs – Riddick and Fred Spagnolo. “They are both highly qualified,” O’Leary said, “but at this time I think Vern fits the bill better.”

   A decade ago Neil O’Leary was selected as the acting chief of police and served in that role for 16 months before being named permanent chief.

   “We still have to go through a long Civil Service process to get a permanent chief,” O’Leary said, “but for now, Vernon Riddick will lead the Waterbury Police Department.”

In the Spring of 2011 Vernon Riddick and Michael Gugliotti looked on as Neil O’Leary announced a Brownfield clean-up on Division Street in Waterbury to make way for a PAL park.

Vernon Riddick is a bear of a man, standing six feet seven inches tall, and cuts an imposing figure in his uniform. Riddick is pictured here talking with former Mayor Michael Jarjura. The size difference between the two men is considerable, but a wide angle lens has exaggerated the scale in this image.

   The following information is posted on the website of the Waterbury Police Department about Vernon Riddick….

   Deputy Chief Riddick is a graduate of Kennedy High School in Waterbury, CT. He attended Tufts University in Massachusetts, where he earned a Bachelor Degree in Political Science. Deputy Chief Riddick also attended Rutgers Law School and he is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Post University.

   Deputy Chief Riddick was hired by the Waterbury Police Department in December 1994 and he was assigned to the Patrol Division where he worked on the afternoon shift. During his time in Patrol, Deputy Chief Riddick served as a Field Training Officer. In January of 2000, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and assigned as a supervisor in the Patrol Division. In May 2004, Deputy Chief Riddick was promoted to lieutenant. He briefly worked in the Patrol Division before he was reassigned to the Internal Affairs Division. In July 2006, Deputy Chief Riddick was promoted to the rank of captain and served as the evening shift commander. In January of 2009, he was appointed Acting Deputy Chief and in November of 2009, he was promoted to Deputy Chief of Police.

   Deputy Chief Riddick has successfully completed numerous training classes in Police Management, Internal Affairs investigation and SWAT Command. He is a graduate of the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association’s Command Institute (LEEDA) and the Police Executive Research Forum’s Senior Management Institute of Police (SMIP). Deputy Chief Riddick is the former commander of the Department’s Emergency Response Team (SWAT) and is a former three-term Executive Board member of the Waterbury Police Union. He is a certified police instructor for the state of Connecticut and currently serves a vice-president for the Waterbury Police Activity League. Deputy Chief Riddick is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), Connecticut Police Chief’s Association (CPCA), and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). Deputy Chief Riddick is a lifelong resident of Waterbury and serves as a Deacon at his church.

   For a transcript of the panel discussion about the struggle of African-American cops inside the Waterbury Police Department, click on the link below.