New memorial pays tribute to fallen Westport police officers

Gone but not forgotten. The names of the three members of the Westport Police Department who died in the line of duty, dating back to 1924, are now etched in stone on the new Westport Police Memorial, the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C., and the Connecticut Law Enforcement Memorial in Meriden.

The tributes came about in large part to efforts by Westport Police Officer Casey Mezerewski, who in his rookie year in 2008 suggested to his supervisors there should be a memorial for fallen members of Westport's police force. That number includes Mezerewski's great-grandfather, Constable William Frawley, whose life was cut short at age 35 from an injury he suffered while making an arrest in May 1936. Also, while Mezerewski was training at the Connecticut Police Academy, the rookies had to do a report on an officer listed on the state memorial. Surprisingly, his great-grandfather was not among those included on the memorial.

Three years later, Frawley and fellow Westport officers Aldo Santini (who died in August 1964) and George Mills (who died in 1924) will have their names read aloud Wednesday during a ceremony honoring the latest men and women added to the Connecticut Law Enforcement Memorial. Five days ago, Frawley and Mills officially joined Santini among those listed on the National Law Enforcement Memorial.

"It's nice that all three guys are on the national memorial and also on the state," said Westport Police Deputy Chief Dale Call.

As for the local memorial, made of black granite and located by the flagpole in front of Police Department headquarters on Jesup Road, Call said it's "important for people in town to know these are the officers who gave everything for the community that they worked in."

"For far too many years they were forgotten. I'm hoping this is a reminder to residents in town, and the officers that work here, of their sacrifice," he said.

Call did exhaustive research on Frawley -- his family only knew he died while a member of the department -- and in going through newspaper accounts, death certificates and family history, he also discovered Mills also died while carrying out his oath to serve and protect.

"I think over the years, not enough attention has been paid to the history of the Westport Police Department," said Call. "There have always been a few officers that have had some history of the department, but primarily it's those of use that have had family history going back generations in this department that have had the stronger ties to the past."

Perhaps that's why Mezerewski wanted to see a local police memorial come to fruition. In addition to his great-grandfather, his grandfather's uncle was Westport's first police chief, and two uncles also served on the force. All are from his mother's side of the family.

Mezerewski said becoming a police officer in Westport had always been his goal.

"If I didn't become a Westport police officer, I probably would have pursued another career, maybe a doctor, a chemist or a physicist, something science-related," he said.

Last Friday's ceremony in the nation's Capitol found Mezerewski in the company of thousands of police officers as about 300 names were added to the national memorial. About half were the names of men and women who died in the line of duty in 2010. The other half were those, overlooked in the past, from departments across the nation.

Mezerewski said he enjoyed meeting officers from all over the country and comparing notes. Officers from high-crime cities told him how they go on "shooting calls" once a week, while officers who are a part of small three-or-four-person departments told him how a call for back-up assistance from out of town can sometimes result in an hour-long wait.

"It put things a lot more in perspective, that what we do (in Westport) is not really all that bad," Mezerewski said.

And community support for police is strong, he noted. A.J. Penna and Son, T. Palmer Landscaping, Daybreak Nursery, Izzo and Sons Nursery, T.K. Tree Care, Inc., Kowalsky Brothers Inc., John Giunta and Mark Bolduc all donated time and/or materials to offset the cost of the new Westport memorial. If everyone hadn't been so giving, the bill would have been approximately $40,000, according to Officer Donald Rice, president of the Westport Police Benevolent Association, who noted the association donated its money for the stone.

"It's a heart-warming feeling knowing it's there," said Rice. "It's nice to know it's there and the families get some comfort from it, too."

Mezerewsk added, "It makes me feel great, and it's extremely important to my mother. She told me stories growing up. My mother's father (Harold Frawley) passed away about 13 years ago, but if he was alive today, it would mean the world to him" to see his father's name on the memorial.