Connecticut State Police's new commander

Connecticut New Commander

A man who is well-respected by his colleagues and considered a gentleman and family man will be the new commander of Connecticut State Police. Lt. Col. Stavros J. Mellekas, 51, now commanding officer of the Office of Field Operations, is based at headquarters, 1111 Country Club Road, Middletown, and works for the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. He is expected to replace Col. George F. Battle once the Lamont Administration is in place after the first of the year. Mellekas, who was born in Newport, R.I, and comes from a large, well-known Greek family, has been married to his wife Kim for 25 years. They live in Bristol with their three children: two in college and one a senior in high school. “He’s one of the great leaders. He’s a really fair guy, easy to get along with, but also firm at the same time,” said Connecticut State Police Union Sgt. John Castiline. “I’m happy to work closely with him” during Mellekas’ tenure in a great number of roles within the agency, Castiline said. The origin of DESPP began in 1903, when Connecticut lawmakers created the nation’s first state police department consisting of five men who drew a salary of $3 a day to enforce state liquor and vice laws, according to the department.  “Our No. 1 priority is we really have to [restore the ranks to capacity], and put a diverse group in place,” Mellekas said. While budgeted for 1,201 troopers, state police now employ around 900 officers. He attributes those figures to two factors: retirements and a lack of qualified law enforcement personnel applying for positions. As a result , Mellekas will conduct exams in the near future and recruit troopers. “It’s an ongoing process, and difficult to find interested, qualified, diverse candidates. Applicant numbers are a lot lower than they used to be,” he said.  “The process is very stringent. It’s a demanding job, but very rewarding, he said.  Mellekas earned a bachelor of arts degree from St. Anselm College in 1990, and was an officer with the U.S. Capitol police in Washington, D.C., from 1991 to 1994. He was assigned to the Senate Division and Dignitary Protection.  His special assignments included the Civil Disturbance Unit and 1993 presidential inaugural detail, he said. The commander was a patrol trooper from 1994 to 1999 at several barracks: Troop B in North Canaan,Troop L in Litchfield, Troop I in Bethany and Troop H in Hartford. He was a detective on the Central District Major Crime Squad from 1999 to 2008, was promoted to state police sergeant in March 2008, lieutenant in December 2011, and captain in April 2016.  “I attribute my successful rise within the state police to the opportunities I had working alongside outstanding investigators,” he said.  “As a detective, I have gained the most experience while working alongside senior investigators, testifying in several murder trials resulting in convictions, and working on several lengthy, complex, and sensitive investigations.”  Mellekas said the job of a trooper is service-oriented, noting, “We treat people with dignity and respect, and hold them accountable for their actions.”  Troopers have myriad responsibilities in the field.  “They could be on the highway most of their shift, enforcing motor vehicle laws or they could be in town with primary law enforcement responsibilities,” he said.  These officers also work with their district’s major crimes squad, and on specialized criminal investigations, as well as statewide automobile thefts and undercover work, Mellekas said.  They also assist local authorities and the State Attorney’s Office on police-involved shootings and other cases.  These crimes are among the most challenging ones troopers face, Mellekas said.  “We do a lot for our communities — from burglaries to alarm checks, minor accidents, speed enforcement and large narcotics [busts],” he added.  Troopers take pride in being able to solve these crimes.  It’s a very rewarding profession, he said.  “It’s interesting, and you get to help people.  I work with a lot of quality personnel who share similar goals,” Mellekas said.  The addition of police body cameras has added a new dimension to police work.  The technology often helps support the state’s prosecutions in court.  Troopers welcome these cameras and take criticism in stride, the commander said.  “We’re not perfect: Nobody’s perfect.  If you do the right thing and demonstrate professionalism — that’s the state police way.  We hold ourselves to a certain standard.  There’s a long history of tradition in state police, which is why it’s an extremely difficult profession,” Mellekas said.  He has conducted complex investigations with other agencies, such as the FBI, DEA, NYPD, Massachusetts and Rhode Island state police, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and Hartford and New Haven police.  One of the most trying tasks troopers are given is notifying family members of a death.  That includes preventing loved ones from breaching crime scenes.  “Any trooper who’s done that remembers it. It needs to be done with honor,” said Mellakas, whose staff often invite clergy to help them deliver the news.  “I don’t know if anyone gets used to it,” the commander said.  Homicides and other “horrible crimes” are heart-rending for troopers, Mellekas said.  They remain diligent and focus their energy on the job at hand: helping families and getting to the motive, cause of death, and bringing the assailant to justice, he said.  During motor vehicle or other accidents, those involved are overwhelmingly victims of happenstance, “when malice is not a factor,” Mellakas said.  “Somebody made a mistake, and now people are suffering.  We determine how it happened and do our best to give people answers.”

1/9/19

Line