NAUGATUCK — The eighth and ninth new recruits to the Naugatuck Police Department this year were sworn in Thursday by Mayor Robert Mezzo in front of proud family members and police officers.
Alexia Castro, 21, of Waterbury, became one of four women on the borough police force, which employs about 60 officers. Thomas McGarvey Jr., 26, of Prospect, was also sworn in with his family looking on, including his uncle, Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield.
The duo were chosen, along with the seven others hired so far this year, from a pool of 300 applicants solicited to replace eight officers who took the borough’s early retirement incentive package and several others who resigned or retired without the deal.
Castro and McGarvey had to pass written and oral exams and go through interviews and background checks, said Joshua Bernegger, deputy chief of police.
“They are among the best of the best,” Bernegger said.
McGarvey was stationed in Okinawa with the U.S. Marine Corps before ending his service in 2008 as a sergeant, he said. Since then, he has worked in scheduling at the port of New Haven.
He has known he wanted to be a police officer since age 13, when he became a member of the Police Explorers in Prospect under Lt. Nelson Abarzua of the Prospect Police Department, the town’s former resident trooper who also came to Thursday’s ceremony.
“Explorers was a fun thing to do, and I always knew in the back of my mind that I was going to do this one day,” McGarvey said.
Castro had been working as a deli clerk at Nardelli’s Grinder Shoppe in Oxford, but she knew she wanted to be a police officer. She has an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Naugatuck Valley Community College.
Castro said she did not know what she wanted to do when she first started taking classes, but decided she wanted to be a police officer as she researched and helped her boyfriend apply to police departments.
Janet Drayton of Waterbury, Castro’s mother, said she was proud to watch her daughter get sworn in.
“She’s the first one in our family to become someone in law enforcement, so it’s exciting,” Drayton said.
Castro and McGarvey started Friday at the state police academy, where they will spend about six months before returning to the borough for field training.
The police department still has at least four vacancies, which they will advertise anew because their current hiring list has been exhausted, Bernegger said. Of the candidates who applied during the last hiring round, some failed exams, background checks or other requirements, while the rest have already accepted jobs at other departments.
“It’s been a challenge to find qualified candidates,” said Christopher Edson, chief of police. “We’ve really been working very hard to hire more minority candidates without sacrificing other candidates of good moral character.”