Aside from responding to the COVID-19 pandemic — an enormous responsibility right now for Captain Richard Doyle in his role as Easton Emergency Operations Director — life’s been good.
At its March 5 meeting, the Easton Police Commission unanimously appointed him Easton’s seventh chief of police, effective April 6.
In December, Doyle was inducted into the Hall of Fame at Sachem High School in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. for his excellence in soccer, about which he is extremely proud.
A Brooklyn, N.Y. native and Sacred Heart University graduate, he worked as a housing authority officer in East Harlem before taking the Connecticut Police Exam. Easton was the first town to call.
His first impressions weren’t entirely promising. “It was so dark at night, I was more scared here than I was in East Harlem,” he said.
But he noticed from the start that Easton residents were proud of their community, valued their privacy and “had not been overtaken by industry like other towns.”
Now, residents can rely on Doyle’s nearly 32 years in the Easton Police Department to continue the high standards of departing Chief Tim Shaw, who accepted a position as chief of the Stamford Police Department.
“I have worked with Captain Doyle as my second-in-command for almost 5 years. His respect within the department, as well as outside the department stands alone,” Shaw said.
“Rich takes on every role and responsibility with determination and integrity. These qualities are key to advance the department in future years. His institutional knowledge of Easton has been one of his greatest assets to me during my time as the chief. I wish him the best of luck as he takes over a department I will miss tremendously,” Shaw added.
Doyle will be able to put his own stamp on the department as he leads a staff of 15 officers, many of whom have been with the department for a long time.
During his tenure, Doyle built a wide network of law enforcement and essential service contacts in the area. “We all grew up together,” he said. “Help is a phone call away.”
He is grateful to neighboring police, fire and EMS departments who provide a wide range of expertise and specialized equipment to Easton, which the town could not afford on its own. Easton’s and area public works departments are critical as well. “They clear trees blocking the roads and they plow. Nothing moves without them,” he said.
In addition, Doyle brings institutional knowledge to the position, having served on regional task forces, including the Bridgeport Auto Theft Task Force, the Property Crimes and Burglaries Squad and the Federal DEA Task Force.
Previous chiefs have taught him well. “I learned from each of their management styles. Chief Shaw has been phenomenal. I’m grateful to him and the police commission for having confidence in me.”
Doyle plans to emphasize policies and procedures to assure the highest standards for his officers. “We’re a paramilitary operation; we have clear standards, but they’re a guide. There must also be flexibility.”
All officers are expected to adhere to rigorous standards but will also have discretion in their interactions with residents. Easton is, after all, a small town and Doyle is adamant about the wider role of the officers in his command.
They must first serve and protect but also be a reassuring presence, he said. To that end, he expects all officers to attend sporting events and town gatherings, and he stresses, “not in a law enforcement role but in a community relations role.”
“We are a service organization,” he said, and points to the dual role he and fellow officers performed one night on a midnight shift.
“There was a terrible accident on Route 58, a bad, bad accident,” he said. “Two hours later, after we cleared the scene, we got a call from a woman who was home alone with her daughter. Her husband was away. She said she was having a plumbing problem. So after this terrible accident, I was under the sink, fixing a leak in her bathroom.”
Is this a police matter? Maybe not, but “It’s the right thing to do and, well, we kinda do everything,” he said.. “We have a lot of life experience which can be used in policing.”
That life experience also came into play one Sunday morning when a call came in from Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronin, Broadway luminaries, who spent weekends in Easton. Apparently they awoke to find a deer swimming in their pool.
“We got a rope, lassoed the deer and pulled him out,” Doyle recalls. But he and his partner didn’t know what to do next. There’s nothing in the manual about it. So they decided to count to three, take the rope off and run. “Those hooves can really hurt you,” he said.
Not exactly police work, but Doyle reiterates the importance of community service. He leads by example. “I’m the first one. I’ll go out there to a soccer or baseball game at Helen Keller. If I’m doing it, they know what I expect.”
But life in Easton is changing. Does Chief Doyle have what he needs to face the future?
His answer, without hesitation: “The most important thing I have right now is good, dedicated people.”