(WFSB) – Thursday was a historic day for Danbury Police Chief Patrick Ridenhour as he became the first African American to lead the Connecticut Police Chief’s Association.

Shortly after he was sworn into office, he sat down exclusively with Channel 3.

Chief Ridenhour says he always felt obligated as a Black man to speak up against bad policies, even when he was a low-ranking officer. Now, he wants to help departments around the state improve relationships with their communities.

“Truth be told, I never thought I’d get past sergeant,” Chief Ridenhour said.

As the son of a Waterbury police officer, Chief Ridenhour was drawn to public service, but when he followed in his father’s footsteps 32-years-ago, he never thought he’d climb far in the ranks.

Chief Ridenhour says he rarely saw African Americans climb past sergeant.

He eventually became police chief, and on Thursday, he became the first African American to lead the Connecticut Police Chief’s Association.

“It’s important to see more people who look like me enter this great profession,” Chief Ridenhour said.

Those who know Chief Ridenhour through his career weren’t surprised when he became chief of Stratford’s Department in 2011. He then left for the same post in Danbury five years later.

“Just wonderful people, wonderful family, can’t say enough things about him. We’re so proud of him,” said Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary.

Outgoing President Chief Darren Stewart says Chief Ridenhour has played key roles for the association, developing new training for departments, and working with lawmakers on legislation.

“He’s bright, he’s intelligent, he’s great with all of the other chiefs,” said Chief Stewart, Stonington Police Department.

Chief Ridenhour says he’s always spoken up as a Black officer against bad policies. Now, he wants to help all departments around the state improve relationships with their surrounding communities. This includes listening to people who feel discriminated against.

“As chiefs, we sometimes have to take a look at ourselves and see what it is we’re doing that we can do better,” Chief Ridenhour said.

Chief Ridenhour also says rebuilding relationships is critical to increasing diversity, but he also says Connecticut overall ahs been ahead of much of the rest of the country for a while when it comes to training officers.

“I think we’ve been listening well before the senseless killing of George Floyd,” Chief Ridenhour said.

Chief Ridenhour says another area of improvement can be in the screening process before making a hire, specifically, he says departments can do a better job filtering out candidate who have biases that are too strong to overcome.

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