A Tearful Good-Bye
by Paul Bass | Feb 14, 2013 1:15 pm
Posted to: Legal Writes, Fair Haven
Fair Haven’s top cop headed for the casino—but first had an important last stop to make.
The top cop, Sgt. Anthony Zona, isn’t traveling to Foxwoods to play the slots. He’s going there to work. Wednesday he begins a new job as a cop on the Mashantucket Pequots’ in-house casino police force.
To take the job Zona handed in his New Haven police badge after 24 energetic, passionate years on the force.
Leaving wasn’t easy.
Zona returned Tuesday morning for one last Compstat meeting, the weekly gathering of top cops and community members on the fourth floor of police headquarters to review crimes and plot strategy. He’d already turned in his uniform. Dressed in jeans and a Trinity-Pawling Pride cap, he entered the room toward the meeting’s end to say good-bye to a roomful of colleagues who’d become his “second family.”
Usually Zona provides the jokes at Compstat meetings in between reporting in vivid detail about break-ins and drug busts and knucklehead chases in Fair Haven. Or he helps jumpstart new projects with cops from other neighborhoods, like citywide efforts to catch up with dirt-bikers and with packs of young men on bicycles committing crimes.
Tuesday morning he brought no jokes. He brought no true-crime stories. He brought sunglasses to the room—which failed to conceal the tears that welled up in his eyes as the room erupted in applause and colleagues offered tributes and hugs, including one from Assistant Chief Denise Blanchard (pictured).
Click on the play arrow of the video at the top of the story to watch excerpts.
“It’s kind of been a roller coaster the last week” as he finished up the job, Zona told the assembled officers. He called the department “my second home.”
“Fair Haven’s going to miss you. This city’s going to miss you. This department’s going to miss you,” Chief Dean Esserman told him.
“You’re a good man. You’re very passionate what you do out there,” remarked Assistant Chief Luiz Casanova, adding, “I’m sure as hell going to miss fighting with you.”
Zona took pride in cultivating young officers and calling attention to their heroics. He also built bridges in Fair Haven with scrap metal dealers, small business owners, and families with kids in trouble, enlisting them all in helping the police stop crime.
In other words, community policing.
“Of all assignments I had here, being [Fair Haven] district manager was the best,” Zona said after his farewell Compstat appearance. “I was like the police chief in Fair Haven. Chief Esserman really let us do do our thing.
“I’m going to miss that community. For every bad person, there’s 200 good people.”
“Remember when I took the bat from the lady on Blatchley Avenue [during a public fracas involving her family]? We became friends,” with Zona helping her kids get slots in summer camp and services for a learning disability. At first she and her family distrusted the cops, whom upset neighbors were regularly complaining about. Zona became a regular porch visitor. “She would call me and ask for help.”
Sgt. Pat Marino also retired.
Zona said he always thought he’d finish his career in the New Haven department. Then the enticing “opportunity” came along with the Pequots, he said. Also, with a daughter in college and a son a year away, he was concerned about the increased employee medical and pension contributions contained in the new union contract.
For a taste of Zona’s public passion, click on the play arrow of this video of excerpts from a 2011 police march on City Hall.
Tags: Anthony Zona, foxwoods
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So the contract may have saved the city $10 per copay from this guy, but we lost him for it? Nice.
Tony, It has been great working side by side with you in Fair Haven I will miss your professionalism you’re an asset to New Haven and we will trully miss you.
Lieutenant Gary W. Cole NHFD
Sgt Zona, Your professionalism and passion for the Fair Haven Community will be truly missed. You leave Fair Haven a better place as a result of your leadership,and trust you will make an excellent recommendation for your replacement. Best wishes to you and Family on your next career adventure. Best, David Hunter and your Friends at Mary Wade
Tony , I will certainly miss the passion and energy you brought to the job and I will miss having each others back at all times. You gave the Fair Haven community commitment and trust that you would be there striving to make a difference in their everyday lives and they believed in you. Your officers followed your lead because you never let them down. It was a honor being your partner on the east side for the past 2 years. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors…BTW thanks for the couch.
Sgt. Vin Anastasio
@Curious: The reality is that no logical person leaves a good job due to $10 co-pays. That’s union rhetoric. If he has 24 years of service, he’ll be retiring with big pension and benefits and then adding a full time job at the casino. The combination will no doubt equal a huge raise from what he is making now. (not saying this is right or wrong - this is what was collectively bargained)
Big loss for Fair Haven. Sargent Zona was old school, involved in the community, willing to sit down with people to figure out solutions to quality of life issues (the dirtbikers!), and easily accessible. You will be missed, Sargent Zona!