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Two New Officers Sworn In At Newtown Police Department



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Newtown Police Department recently welcomed two officers to its ranks within a week.

First, on Thursday, April 8, retired NYPD Officer Hugo Rojas was sworn in.

Police Chief James Viadero said last week it is “a happy day when we get to swear someone in.”

Noting that Rojas had retired in 2020 from “one of the largest departments in the world,” the chief also said he felt Rojas “will be a great fit here in Newtown.”

Rojas, 45, had been a NYPD officer for 18 years starting on July 1, 2002. Prior to that, he served in the US Marine Corps.

Rojas was joined by his family last week when Police Chief James Viadero welcomed him to the ranks.

Town Clerk Deb Aurelia Halstead administered the oath of office.

Andrew Rojas had the honor of pinning a police badge onto the jacket his father was wearing that afternoon.

The town’s newest police officer then addressed those gathered in the meeting room.

“This is what I do, it’s what I was born to do,” Rojas said. “I can’t think of a better place to serve.”

Turning to the fellow officers lining the north and eastern sides of the room, Rojas said he was looking forward “to getting to know and serving alongside you.”

Rojas’s wife, Elizabeth, and three of the couple’s children — Leah, Matthew, and Andrew — were in attendance for the brief ceremony. The couple’s oldest son, Ryan, was unable to attend, having just completed combat training, his mother said.

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said he has known Rojas for a long time.

“I even asked him at one point if he would be interested in working here in his hometown,” Rosenthal said. “Hugo retired from NYPD last spring, just before the pandemics and the riots of last summer.

“I’m glad he has chosen Newtown to work again,” he said. “We’ve added some great talent to great talent already here.”

Police Commission Chair Joel Faxon told Rojas that his “very impressive career” made it an easy decision for the commission. “We’re very happy to have you,” he said.

Commissioners Joan Plouffe and Neil Chaudhary both offered their congratulations to the town’s then-newest police officer.

Newtown PD Captain Christopher Vanghele said the transition for Rojas into his new department “will be seamless for us.” With his previous background in law enforcement, many of Rojas’s credentials will be immediately applied to his new career in Connecticut.

“He won’t have to go to the academy,” Vanghele noted. “He will start working sooner rather than later.”

All In The Family

On Wednesday, April 14, the community room at 191 South Main Street hosted its second swearing-in event within the week, this time for Frank Piazza.

Piazza, 28, was joined for the ceremony by his parents, Nancy and Frank Piazza, Jr; his grandfather, Frank Piazza, Sr; and his sister, Cheryl Schlitter.

The newest member of Newtown PD comes from a family of law enforcement, his new chief announced Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s a great event when we can swear people in, and have them join our organization,” Viadero said. “It’s a family. You’re joining a fraternity. We’re happy to have you here.”

The chief recounted the meeting when he and Piazza had time to sit and talk a few weeks ago, in the chief’s office.

“He has relatives in a number of agencies,” Viadero told those in the room, noting cousins who work in police departments in Bridgeport, East Haven, Fairfield, and Stratford. “When you look at that history, and the lineage of serving, he understands what it’s about. I didn’t have to explain it to him because he’s living it in his family.”

Turning to Piazza, the chief offered his congratulations.

“We’re happy you’re coming on board,” Viadero. “Tomorrow your life will change.”

Piazza was scheduled to begin his studies at the police academy the morning after his swearing in.

Rosenthal noted Wednesday’s was the third swearing in “in a short span of time."

In addition to Rojas the previous week, Newtown PD opened the year with the swearing in on January 6 of Peter Wlasuk Jr.

“The department’s getting better and better by the week,” he said. “I think you’ll be a great new addition to the department. You definitely have a lot of history of police work with your family.”

Noting the dozen-plus uniformed officers who were in attendance for the swearing in, Rosenthal said they go out “and do their best for our community every day. I think our community definitely supports policing, as evidenced by this building.”

Newtown Police Department moved into a renovated and expanded headquarters in November. The $15.1 million project gave the department essentially a new building and updated equipment, with more room for its officers and civilian staff to conduct business.

In his remarks, Faxon noted that it is a difficult time to be a police officer.

“We appreciate your dedication to the profession,” he said to Piazza. “We were very impressed with your background, your family history, and your interest in coming here to Newtown to work with. We look forward to having you for many, many years ahead, and helping the people in the town of Newtown.”

Faxon was joined for the swearing in by commissioners Plouffe, Chaudhary, and Scott Cicciari.

Each offered their congratulations to the new hire, with Plouffe telling him it was “an easy choice to vote to hire you. We’re happy to have you.”

Halstead again administered the oath. Piazza then had an opportunity to speak. He began by saying he was honored to be where he was that afternoon.

“I’m nervous,” he admitted, “but nervous excited. This is a big transition in my life, but I have a lot of gratitude for the transition I’ve made and the community I’m joining. This is one moment I’m not going to take for granted in my life.”

Piazza, 28, earned a Bachelor of Science in public health at Southern Connecticut State University. Prior to changing his career path to law enforcement, his most recent job was town sanitarian with Torrington Department of Public Health.

He and his family live in Trumbull.

“The badge when it’s placed on me is something I’m going to take and uphold, and I’m gonna make everyone proud,” he promised. “I’m going to protect the community I serve. This is an honor and this is a privilege, to work in this town,” he added. “This is a great town.”

To his fellow officers, Piazza said he was “looking forward to getting to know all of you, and we’re going to have a wonderful, safe time together.”

Piazza’s then father affixed a badge to his son’s jacket.

Vanghele offered his encouragement as well, telling the new officer to focus on his studies for the next six months.

“Don’t feel like you’re a stranger here,” he said. “You have lifelines here already, and if you need anything just give us a ring.”

Frank Piazza, Jr, pins a badge onto his son’s jacket Wednesday, April 14, after Frank Piazza III was sworn in as the newest officer of Newtown Police Department. —Bee Photo, Hicks
Town Clerk Deb Aurelia Halstead administers the oath of office to Hugo Rojas on Thursday, April 8. Rojas is a retired New York Police Department and US Marine Corps veteran. —Bee Photos, Hicks
Newtown Police Chief James Viadero gives a thumbs up toward Hugo Rojas, at far right, while speaking on April 8, when Rojas was shown in as the department's newest member. Among those also at the ceremony were, from left, Police Commission Chair Joel Faxon, First Selectman Dan Rosenthal, Police Commissioner Joan Plouffe, and Elizabeth Rojas, the new Newtown officer's wife. —Bee Photo, Hicks
Town Clerk Deb Aurelia Halstead administers the swears in Frank PIazza III on April 14. Among those in attendance during the brief Wednesday afternoon event were, continuing right, Police Chief James Viadero, Police Commision Chair Joel Faxon, and First Selectman Dan Rosenthal. —Bee Photo, Hicks
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