Officer Dana Smith laced up a new pair of Nike All Condition Gear boots and strolled down Congress Avenue—a stroll he and his partner will be taking five days a week, for eight hours at a time.
Smith, who’s 39, is one of 40 rookie cops beginning walking beats across the city this week. The cops, who just graduated from the police academy in December, are setting off on their own after three months of training beside veteran officers.
Each of the city’s 10 police districts will get two pairs of new beat cops, announced Police Chief Dean Esserman at a press conference Monday afternoon. All the cops will walk their beats, not patrol them in cars, he said.
“What you see behind me is a promise the city has kept” to restore community policing, Esserman said.
The police department currently has 422 cops. Another 27 are currently in the police academy, and the city is set to start recruiting in May or June for another 40.
Smith, who’s from Bridgeport, spent 12 years as a personal fitness trainer before entering the police academy last May. He said he sees being a cop as “just another way to help people.”
In the academy, Smith met Paul Prusinski (pictured), who hails from Guilford. After the academy, they each spent three months with field training officers, veteran cops who showed them the ropes of the job. They weren’t on walking beats for that time, Smith said; they were mostly riding in cars.
On Sunday, Smith and Prusinski got out of their car and started walking on Congress Avenue. They’ll do that five days a week from 4 p.m. to midnight in the area between Daggett and West streets.
Getting out of the car has a different feeling, Smith said—there’s more opportunity to meet people and talk to them. On the first day on the beat, the pair tracked down a man who was wanted on a warrant, Smith reported. The man had been urinating against the side of a building.
“He made it easy for us,” Smith said.
Prusinski, who’s 22, keeps a photo of his fiancée taped inside his patrol hat. Smith keeps a photo of his own love in his breast pocket—“close to my heart.” Prusinski kept on his academy-issued SWAT boots; Smith bought a new pair of Nikes for their new mission.