BRISTOL -- On his last day working for the Bristol Police Department, Dep. Chief Stephen Tavares said he felt like he was going home.
Tavares retired from the department Tuesday to become chief at the Eastern Connecticut State University Police Station -- a position he will begin at the end of this month.
“That’s where I went to school,” said Tavares, who spent 26 years at the Bristol Police Department -- where he rose through the ranks before joining the department’s command staff.
ECSU’s police department, he said, “was a desired destination, and the timing was just right.”
Tavares said he has known for about 15 years now, dating back to when he was a sergeant, that he would ultimately like to become a chief of police. And since that position in Bristol doesn’t appear to be opening up anytime soon, he said, Eastern was a natural choice.
“It’s like going home,” Tavares said.
“I didn’t want to be chief of police just anywhere,” he continued. “I wanted it to be somewhere my heart was in. When I do things in life it has to be with a meaningful purpose.”
Tavares in 2019 was promoted to captain, the first black man to achieve such a rank in Bristol. The position was later re-designated as deputy chief of police.
Since joining the Bristol Police Department in 1995, Tavares has held numerous positions and achieved countless accolades.
During his decorated career, the 26-year veteran has been a K9 handler, a crisis negotiator team leader, a field training officer coordinator, the training division commander and has served on the statewide narcotics task force. After starting as a patrol officer, he was promoted to detective in 2005, patrol sergeant in 2006 and detective sergeant in 2011, before becoming a patrol lieutenant that same year.
The appealing part of becoming a chief, Tavares said, includes being a “leader of change” and “impacting your community positively.”
Throughout the years, many people have had an impact on Tavares and his ability to continually achieve further promotions, including former chiefs. Becoming the chief of his own department, he said, “is almost like giving back what people gave to me.”
One person who Tavares formed a special bond with in Bristol is his fellow Dep. Chief of police Richard Guerrera. The two rose through the ranks together during their respective careers.
“We’ve worked together the last 25 years,” Guerrera said Tuesday. “He’s one of my best friends, both at work and in my personal life.”
“The Bristol community lost a great asset,” Guerrera continued, adding that he knows Tavares is going to do great things at ECSU.
“They’re lucky to have him,” Guerrera said. “He’s going to make a great chief out there.”
The relationship between Guerrera and Tavares, the latter said, always allowed for the two to have honest conversations. That’s the only real way to get things accomplished, Tavares believes.
“There’s a high level of respect there,” Tavares said of he and Guerrera.
Bristol police Chief Brian Gould said Tuesday brought mixed emotions for him.
“He is one of the best police officers that I know,” Gould said. “His career with the Bristol Police Department is marked with numerous accomplishments. He certainly has made a significant, positive impact on the Bristol Police Department as a whole.”
Gould went on to say that he is privileged to have served with Tavares, adding that he is so proud he will become a chief.
“Stephen was not just a colleague,” Gould said, “he is my friend and I will miss seeing him on a daily basis. There will certainly be a void, as we are losing a very experienced police officer.”
Gould also said that, with Tavares leaving, there is “a lot of institutional and practical knowledge walking out of our doors.”
“I am sad to see him leave, and at the same time extremely happy for him,” the Bristol chief said. “Stephen will be an excellent police chief for sure. Great things happen to great people and Stephen is filled with greatness. So with a heavy heart, I wish him all the success possible.”
Looking back on his 26 years in Bristol, which Tavares describes as “most of his adult life,” he said he’s “happy with the time I’ve had here.”
“I’ll always be appreciative of my time in Bristol,” he said. “It’ll never be forgotten.”
Justin Muszynski can be reached at 860-973-1809 or email@example.com.