47 years of community service honored in Orange
ORANGE - For the past 47 years Joseph Cuzzocreo has served the town of Orange as a police commissioner.
In fact, he is one of the three original police commissioners when the commission was formed in October 1960. On Tuesday Cuzzocrero was presented with his police commissioner's badge in a small ceremony at the Police Department.
"This was a small recognition of what he and his family have done. His dedication to the police goes unmatched. He has volunteered for the best interest of the commission and officers," First Selectman Jim Zeoli said.
"He has served the town and department faithfully and well his entire tenure. He has been supportive of me personally. His experience, knowledge and insight will be greatly missed and hard to replace," Police Chief Robert Gagne said of Cuzzocrero.
While the position is an appointed one the original board was elected. That was back when W. Arnold Hine was first selectman.
"The commission was formed to better serve the public's interest," Cuzzocreo said.
The Bulletin recently sat down with the retiring commissioner who is perhaps better known for his company's business, Orange Fence on the Boston Post Road than his quiet community service.
"I wish the department well. The new chief and assistant chief are very qualified," Cuzzocrero said.
When the commission was formed the department had 14 men compared to the 42 now working. "We could still use two to three more policemen," Cuzzocrero said.
"There are lots of complaints about speeding on the side roads and we don't have enough personnel to address the speeders," he said adding that Orange side streets are used by Derby, West Haven and Milford residents to get to various points instead of the major highways.
When the commission was formed the Police Department was where the new firehouse now sits on the Boston Post Road. The police officers didn't even have their own uniforms and there was no standard for weapons. Additionally, the two to three vehicles the department had were not in good working condition Cuzzocrero said.
"We had general management and supervision of the Police Department. The chief did the day to day stuff," he explained.
"Things turned better for the town after the police commission was formed," Cuzzocrero said.
Cuzzocrero credits Herman Greifzu, the first chairman for making the department what is is today.
"He was a great guy, He had lots of vision. While he appeared gruff but he wasn't. He was a very compassionate man. He led the commission to what the Police Department is today," Cuzzocrero said.
"We decided to have a Police Department that was above average and only hired (candidates with) an associates degree," Cuzzocrero reminisced.
"And the board has always kept training a high priority," he added explaining that many officer attend the FBI Academy.
"That's a pretty prestigious school," Cuzzocrero said.
"Most of the men sent finish high in their class," he added.
Cuzzocrero said the department also sends officers for accident reconstruction and other classes the chief recommends that will promote the safety and protection of the townspeople.
Cuzzocrero speaks proudly of his department.
"The police are all emergency medical technicians, first responders and many have letters of recognition in their files. The department is the finest east of the Mississippi. We stay on the cutting edge, if it's valuable to the workings of the police department the board goes after it," Cuzzocrero said adding the departments reputation in the state is tops.
"It's been a good 47 years but it's time to move on. I am very proud of the Police Department and police commission. The five commissioners; Don Lewis, Mark Grasso, Jack Barton, John Migliaro and David Moakley, will all do an excellent job. And Moakley, who replaced Cuzzocreo.