KIM LEDOUX/Standard-Times special Freetown Police Lt. Walter J. Sawicki will be turning in the keys to his squad car early in 2009.
By KIM LEDOUX
November 03, 2008 6:00 AM
FREETOWN - After 33 ½ years of protecting and serving the town, Lt. Walter J. Sawicki has decided to say goodbye to the Freetown Police Department.
"My retirement is a present to myself. I will be turning 55 on New Year's Eve. ... This is a small department, and I want to give others the chance to advance in their careers," he said. He plans to submit his official papers on Jan. 2.
Lt. Sawicki began his career in law enforcement as a police cadet in New Bedford in 1973 before joining the Freetown force in 1975.
One of the most memorable moments of his career, recalled Lt. Sawicki, was the 1979 apprehension and prosecution of those involved in illegal dumping of industrial chemicals in Assonet. The finding resulted in the declaration of two EPA-designated Superfund sites, one in Dartmouth and the other in Freetown.
Lt. Sawicki also received a commendation from the Board of Selectmen in 1980 for his apprehension of four individuals wanted for an armed robbery that occurred in Taunton.
"Lt. Sawicki has been instrumental to this department through his many years of experience, leadership, command and positive influence on those around him," said Freetown Police Sgt. Elton E. Ashley III. "He has been a mentor to many of the younger officers in the department, including myself, and has always been able to give direction and guidance. ... Lt. Walter J. Sawicki has been the 'True North' of this Department's compass."
And Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Lisa A. Pacheco added that Lt. Sawicki "has a deep love of Freetown. He and his wife can often be seen at festivities and events promoting all aspects of Freetown. His love of Freetown carries over to his work."
A founding member of the Southeastern Massachusetts Police Training Association, Lt. Sawicki has served as an instructor for the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Counsel and the Southeastern Massachusetts Police Training Association.
His advice for younger officers and those interested in pursuing police work is basic: "If you always remember throughout your career to make reasonable decisions based on common sense, you will prevail."
Lt. Sawicki said his mother, Stella, was the first special-education teacher hired in New Bedford, and his father, Walter, was a fisherman who worked his way through college later in life to become a teacher. Both stayed in the workforce until they were close to 70 and instilled an ethic of hard work in their son.
"What I see is that there is a lack of connectedness with the community today. I see this in law enforcement, teaching - everywhere. People come to a job and feel there is entitlement rather than working hard to establish themselves and become a valuable asset to a profession," Lt. Sawicki said.
He added that he remembers a time when the population of the town was small and Freetown officers were so close to the community that they knew the cars that belonged in each driveway - a relationship that allowed them to immediately know when something was amiss.
Lt. Sawicki, who has served as president of the Southeastern Massachusetts Training Association, attended New Bedford High School and holds a master's in criminal justice from Anna Maria College.
After retiring from the police force, Lt. Sawicki said, he plans to work in some capacity.
"I'm not the type to sit around and do nothing," he said.