NORWALK -- A week after former Police Chief Harry Rilling handed in his resignation papers after 17 years at the Norwalk Police Department, city and police officials named Deputy Chief Thomas Kulhawik as his replacement during a Friday afternoon police commission meeting.
Kulhawik, the acting police chief since Rilling's resignation, takes the helm of the police force with 29 years of department experience and a strong background in community policing as founder of SoNo Alliance, a group of residents and business owners working to improve the quality of life in Norwalk.
Kulhawik joined the department in 1983 as a patrol officer, received a promotion to detective in 1987 and rose the ranks before securing the deputy chief position in 2007.
Mayor Richard Moccia said he plans to swear Kulhawik in as police chief during a ceremony on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. at the Monroe Street police headquarters. The swearing-in ceremony is open to the public.
"It's amazing," Kulhawik said. "To think about what it means, it's pretty tremendous. This is a beautiful building and a $19 million dollar budget. To think that I'll be managing that is pretty incredible."
David Wrinn, a Norwalk native and lieutenant in the patrol division, was promoted to Kulhawik's deputy chief position during Friday's meeting; he will be officially sworn in next week.
Rilling, a Norwalk native who joined the department in 1971, put in his resignation after receiving a tentative job offer as a corporate manager in the private sector, he said last week.
Moccia said he planned to have police commissioners approve a five-year contract for Kulhawik before the swearing-in ceremony and estimated the salary range to be near $134,000. Moccia said the decision to look for a chief from within the department frees up room for more promotions at lower ranks.
"There was no need to look any further," Moccia said. "There's close to 60 years of experience at every level of the department. There was no major corruption in this department and there was no major uproar from the rank and file."
Kulhawik will oversee 175 sworn officers and about 35 civilian personnel at the department. He said a short-term goal will be to improve the response to community issues and to combat youth violence.
Moccia pointed out that Norwalk doesn't have a widespread problem with gun violence that cities such as New Haven or Hartford might have, but it does have gang issues that need rooting out. Both the mayor and new police chief echoed a commitment to community policing.
"We have challenges like everyone else does, and we're going to see what we can to do to improve our response to some of the youth violence issues we've had," Kulhawik said. "We've made strides in that area but we need to do more."
Kulhawik lives in Stratford with his wife of 27 years and their son and daughter.
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