Community Bulletin Board
- 'Brass Valley: Made in America' Exhibit
- IMTI Installs Solar Panel System
- Local Senators support Firefighter Fundraiser
- Sacred Heart H.S. Names Top Students
- Summer Exhibits at the Mattatuck Museum
- Connecticut Museum Open House Day~June 8
- Waterbury Health Care Council Awards
- NAMI announces T-Shirt Contest Winner
- Dolce Fundraiser for Cardiology Center, 6/29
- StayWell Receives Patient-Centered Certification
- American Jazz at Museum’s 1st Thursday
- Palace Theater's 2013-14 Broadway Series
By John Murray
In February 2012 Deputy Police Chief Vernon Riddick, pictured above, moderated a panel discusssion on the history of the African-American struggle inside the Waterbury Police Department. For decades systemic racism held qualified black officers from advancing beyond patrolmen, and black cops were confined to beats in minority neighborhoods. Grudgingly, the department began to open up, but it wasn't until a federal lawsuit was filed by Cicero Booker Jr. in the early 1980s that measurable change occurred. Eleven months after the panel discussion on racism, Mayor Neil O'Leary has selected Vernon Riddick to lead the Waterbury Police Department in the wake of Chief Michael Gugliotti's retirement. Riddick will officially be the Acting Police Chief while O'Leary searches for a permanant replacement for Gugliotti, who is out on vacation until his retirement on March 18th. In the absence of Chief Gugliotti, Riddick will assume the role of Acting Chief of Police immediately, becoming the first black officer in history to lead the Waterbury Police Department.
Cicero Booker Jr. had to sue the City of Waterbury in federal court in 1981 to shatter the glass ceiling that had kept black police officers from getting promotions inside the Waterbury Police Department.
Photographs By John Murray
Editor’s note - Black police officers faced systemic racism inside the Waterbury Police Department and were by-passed for promotion until Cicero Booker Jr. (middle) filed a lawsuit in 1981. The struggle for equality took decades and the powerful story was shared February 16th at the PAL Learning Center. In addition to Booker (who retired as a lieutenant), the panelists included retired Lt. Sam Beamon, right, and retired Waterbury Assistant Deputy Chief – and current Chief of the Strafford Police Department – Patrick Ridenhour. The moderator was current Deputy Police Chief Vernon Riddick. It was compelling night filled with dramatic testimony and The Waterbury Observer recorded and transcribed the event for our readers. The entire community of Waterbury owes these men a debt of gratitude. In addition to serving and protecting the city against criminals, they battled through bigotry inside the Waterbury PD to help transform the city into a more decent and humane place to live. Thank you.
Vernon Riddick: I was asked a few weeks ago at an NAACP meeting if the Police Department, or PAL, were doing anything for Black History Month. I said I don’t think we are, and I don’t think we have done anything in the past. We brainstormed together and we came up with the idea about documenting the history of the African American police officers in the City of Waterbury. We thought it would be very interesting and be an engaging topic that we think everybody would get something out of it.