Meet Patricia Nelson — Milford’s first Black woman police officer

MILFORD — Patricia Nelson has long known she wanted to be a police officer. Now she’s living her dream.

Nelson joined the Milford police last year, completed her academy training, then hit the streets in November. In realizing her dream, Nelson became the first Black woman to become a police officer in Milford.

“I decided to become a police officer when I was in high school,” said Nelson. “I was always interested in solving crimes and investigating after watching TV shows.”

Nelson said she was honored to be part of the Milford Police Department and grateful Chief Keith Mello had enough faith in her abilities to bring her on board.

“I’m very honored to have this position, this job and that the chief decided to hire me,” said Nelson. “It shows that Milford is moving in the right direction, and they are diversifying. They are reflecting the community and the transient community because we have people who come to Milford from different towns and areas.”

Mello said in the hiring pool of potential police officers, Black women are a group that is traditionally underrepresented.

“I hope that Nelson’s example will encourage other black women to apply in suburban communities like Milford,” he said.

Mello said Nelson reflects the values of the Milford Police Department.

“We want to hire the best and most qualified candidates, and Nelson certainly falls into that category,” he said. “Milford has had a history of (embracing) its diversity, and we are proud at this point that we have 22 women working for this department.”

Mello said a police department should reflect the community it serves.

“And that is just not the community that lives here, but also everyone who works, lives and travels through Milford,” Mello said.

Nelson was part of the graduating class that saw five women graduate from the police academy in November 2021. Mello said he was proud of the department’s efforts to recruit women, specifically Black women.

“That’s important because it sends a strong example for women and Black women in policing,” he said. “It’s even more significant because in a suburban community like Milford, it is always challenging when we look to diversify, especially as we look to attract more Black women to our police department.”

When Nelson attended the University of New Haven, she was able to do an internship with the Hamden Police Department and after her experience as an intern, she knew she was in the right profession.

“I like interviewing people, and I like hearing their stories,” she said. “It made me feel like this was an interesting career. Every day is different, which is great.”

Despite not being from Milford, Nelson said she was always around Milford and would come to the city on the weekends when she was at University of New Haven. The more Nelson visited Milford, the more the city piqued her interest.

“There was a career fair, and I spoke to a couple of the officers from the Milford Police Department. They told me the opportunities they had, which was a lot, and many police departments didn’t have those opportunities,” said Nelson. “There are many different departments and units you can join, and there are ways you can move up in the ranks. And there’s a beach.”

Another draw for Nelson was the 30x30 pledge the Milford Police Department signed to have 30 percent of incoming police recruits be women by the year 2030.

“Milford was one of the first departments in Connecticut to join, and that was a big factor because they are moving in the right direction,” said Nelson. “They are showing they want to reflect the community and hire more women.”

“What’s important about this effort is that it seeks to attract (more women) into policing,” said Mello. “Law enforcement is a profession where women realize they can be extremely successful and can have extremely productive and enjoyable careers.”

Nelson said she’s had a great experience being a police officer in Milford.

“I have been enjoying it so far,” she said. “Everyone is nice and welcoming, and when I go to my calls, everyone is respectful. I haven’t had any issues.”