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Thin blue line stretches across Newtown

Updated 9:44 pm, Tuesday, December 18, 2012

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  • A Meriden police officer provides security outside the funeral of James R. Mattioli, one of the children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown on Tuesday, December 18, 2012. Photo: Brian A. Pounds / Connecticut Post
    A Meriden police officer provides security outside the funeral of James R. Mattioli, one of the children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown on Tuesday, December 18, 2012. Photo: Brian A. Pounds

 

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STAMFORD -- Police from across Fairfield County are volunteering to help their fellow officers in Newtown in the aftermath of Friday's elementary school massacre that killed 20 first-graders and six teachers and administrators.

In Stamford, Assistant Chief James Metheny said city officers have "inundated" the department with requests to go to Newtown on their own time and without pay to help after the police department there asked for assistance from neighboring communities.

On Monday, Greenwich and Stamford police were among the officers escorting two Sandy Hook Elementary School students who were laid to rest after funerals in Fairfield and Newtown. Others are filling in for entire shifts to help out.

Matheny said that the arrangement has nothing to do with the mutual aid agreement when one department or another is stretched thin and calls for backup from nearby police departments.

"These guys step up as volunteers for everything," he said. "They are going on their own time 24 hours per day to work for the people of Newtown and Newtown PD."

Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik said he has one officer who lives in Newtown who has been volunteering on a regular basis. While there were some officers who volunteered, Kulhawik said the department decided to invoke the mutual aid agreement and has been sending two paid officers to Newtown per shift to help out.

"We want to make sure we are giving them the resources that they need when they need it. At this point, we can schedule the officers and get radios from the Newtown Police Department," Kulhawik said. "Everybody is chipping in so it is not a drain on one individual department, and we have a plan in place to coordinate the help."

Chiefs around Fairfield County have volunteered to help Newtown Chief Michael Kehoe with his responsibilities, Kulhawik said. Kulhawik is scheduled to help out in Newtown on Thursday afternoon to support Kehoe.

Greenwich Police Chief James Heavey and Deputy Chief Mark Marino went to Newtown on Monday to assist Kehoe. Greenwich is providing six officers a day -- two per every eight-hour shift -- through the end of the week.

"They are all volunteers," said Greenwich police spokesman Lt. John Brown. "They are doing this on their own time. There is no overtime or compensation."

At the end of the week, Heavey will reassess whether Greenwich police are still needed.

"We are doing this for the victims and their families, for the community and for our brother officers," Brown said.

Matheny said volunteering is a tradition in the Stamford department, and volunteers have gone everywhere from Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina to lower Manhattan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Stamford police union President Joseph Kennedy said he volunteered to help out with crowd control and traffic at Monday's funeral for Jack Pinto in Newtown.

"You have to do something," Kennedy said. "Police, fire, EMS, teachers are always spoken of in the same world. Our lives are always intersecting. We are all parents. Anyway we can help, because none of us are going to make any sense of this. I can't get my head around it and I can only imagine what the first responders in Newtown are going through."

Kennedy said the police union is encouraging volunteers to sign up.

While in Newtown on Monday, Kennedy said he saw officers from Norwalk, Greenwich, Bridgeport, Danbury, Brookfield and Oxford doing what he figures was the same thing -- volunteering.

He said Stamford has left two city police cruisers in Newtown, which would allow officers to drive directly to Newtown and use the city vehicles to assist the local department.

"They are not looking for fanfare, they are just trying to help," Kennedy said.