Mashantucket — The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe continued to showcase the transformation of its police force Friday, swearing in three new officers, including a sergeant, and promoting a sergeant to lieutenant.
Since naming William Dittman interim police chief last July, the tribe has hired 15 officers, including 12 with decades of experience working for municipal police departments. The tribe is preparing for a greater role in policing its reservation, including Foxwoods Resort Casino, where it shares jurisdiction with state police.
The latest hires are Sgt. Andre Parker, a former Waterford sergeant who also worked for departments in Old Lyme and East Lyme during his 28-year career; Carlos Colon, a 22-year veteran who recently retired from the New Haven Police Department; and Peter Beckwith, who also spent 22 years with the New Haven force.
Tribal Councilor Roy Colebut-Ingram read an oath of office as the officers placed their hands on Bibles held by Dittman, now the permanent police chief, and Rodney Butler, the tribal council chairman. Family members pinned badges on the new officers.
In a separate ceremony, Sgt. Patricia Lieteau was promoted to lieutenant.
A New London native, Lieteau joined the tribal police last year after retiring from the New London force.
"We added 72 years of experience today," noted Dittman, who logged 35 years with New London police before joining the tribal force.
Dittman said he expects to hire four more officers before the force is fully staffed. He said all tribal officers eventually will be certified by the state Police Officer Standards and Training Council.
Such certification is key to the force assuming greater responsibility for public safety at Foxwoods, the casino complex that includes MGM Grand at Foxwoods.
Butler said the rebuilding of the department "is going extremely well" and that the tribe is ready for the added responsibility.
A bill before the state legislature likely would lead to tribal police being empowered to arrest non-Indians at the casinos and elsewhere on reservation lands. Currently, tribal police only may detain non-Indians for arrest by state police.
The legislation has the backing of the Mashantuckets and the Mohegan Tribe, which owns Mohegan Sun.
In March, the General Assembly's Public Safety and Security Committee approved the bill 23-0 and sent it to the House, which this week referred it to the Government Administration and Elections Committee.
Rep. Ed Jutila, D-East Lyme, co-chairman of the committee, said Friday the panel likely will pass the bill early next week and that its fate immediately thereafter would be up to the speaker of the House, who schedules bills for consideration by the full chamber.
"I haven't seen a whole lot of opposition to it," said Jutila, who voted for the bill as a member of the public safety committee. "I've had some questions about it and I'm still studying it. But knowing that all of the Mohegan officers and most of the Mashantucket officers are POST-certified increases my comfort level."
Of the 12 Mashantucket officers with municipal experience hired since July, five worked in New Haven, two in New London and one each in Norwich, Waterford, Madison, South Windsor and New York City.