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Sandy Hook School, Monroe Lose a Valuable Police Officer

Michael Panza has been hired by the Greenwich Police Department. His last day in Monroe was on April 5.

When Sandy Hook Elementary School relocated to the Chalk Hill building on Fan Hill Road in Monroe following the horrific shooting in Newtown, Michael Panza and Todd Keeping were the first police officers to provide security and make students, staff and families feel safe.

"I didn't want these people's lives to be disrupted by constantly having different police officers there," Monroe Police Chief John Salvatore said Wednesday. "They already went through more than they should have on the horrible incident of December 14th."

Salvatore said the two officers quickly bonded with the Sandy Hook community.

But late last week, Monroe lost a police officer and the school lost a good friend when Panza left to start his new job with the Greenwich Police Department.

Panza, 39, was a carpenter with the Greenwich Department of Public Works Building, Construction and Maintenance Division for 12 years, before taking the training and being hired by the Monroe Police Department on July 19,2010.

"When he interviewed for the police position, particularly with the Board of Police Commissioners, he said one of his five year goals was to be working with youth," Salvatore recalled. "He had that opportunity with the move of this school to our town and he certainly made the best of it and performed admirably with traumatized students and staff. They’ll miss him as much as he’ll miss them. We wish him well."

Panza is a Greenwich native and the nephew of retired Greenwich Officer Joseph Panza, who still works with the department as a Special Police Officer.

Salvatore said other officers relieved Keeping and Panza at times, filling security shifts at Sandy Hook School, including detectives Kelly McFarland and Michael Sweeney. He said Sweeney volunteered to replace Panza, adding he's already known by parents, students and staff and should fit in well.

At meetings in town, Salvatore has said the Monroe has a problem retaining the officers it invests in for the training needed to do the job.

He said, "Unfortunately, all too frequently, officers, after several years on the job, take the experience we give them and training to another community who benefits from that acquisition — it's usually driven by higher salaries and more attractive benefits."

Rt25 April 11, 2013 at 11:53 AM
I've had jobs, received specialized training and moved on to better paying positions my entire life. It is a fact of life. You take what you can get while in a position and better yourself whenever you can. This isn't unique to just police work. It is in every employment position.,
Mary Poppins April 12, 2013 at 01:48 AM
I agree with RT25. It happens all the time, in all fields of work. But enough with the 'we don't pay officers enough'. Come on, this isn't Bridgeport or New Haven. One would hope a person being offered any position in the town should know what the salary is before they accept the job, and if they accept the job then they are also accepting the salary that is offered.
Mrs. Panza April 12, 2013 at 02:43 PM
My heart is heavy in reading all these comments. I can tell you a Average police officer for the Monroe does not make $100k if you check the salaries you would know that! Maybe attacking someone character or using them for a political stance is the Monroe way. I know that Officer Panza has made the hardest choice of his life by leaving! I will choose to believe that people who have never met Officer Panza are the ones making judgements about him and his choices. I know him,I know the sacrifices his family has given for Monroe, I know the pain he has had to witness, I know that he has good friends and bonds that won't end and I also know that he is grateful and proud of his time in Monroe! There is a saying that no one cares about the police until they need one!
jim laguardia April 12, 2013 at 05:45 PM
Unfortunately this "is the Monroe way"... people will come out in droves to belittle a real human being or even a whole section of the comunity.
betsypt April 12, 2013 at 11:14 PM
Has any one of you ever taken an entry level position and then moved on? My guess is most have. Most could not have gotten the positions they currently hold were it not for experience and training recieved in previous postions. Remember that things like the cost and quality of health insurance and life insurance are factors as well. And that the average salary listed in the article quoted was the average of the 20 highest paid 'town side" employees.

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