Returning to his roots

·3 min read

Apr. 7—NORWALK — For Norwalk's new safety-service director, Mike White, working in the city is familiar territory.

White worked for the Norwalk Police Department from 1983 to 1997 as a supervising sergeant and chief of detectives.

"I want to provide the most effective and efficient services for the city of Norwalk," White said. "I am amazed at the level of expertise within the departments."

White said Mayor Dave Light talked him into joining the police academy in the early 80s.

Eventually, White went on to work internationally with the Department of Defense.

"I actually saw an ad in Police Chief Magazine for a company hiring police officers as Department of Defense contractors to go to Iraq and help train the Iraqi police. Prior to this, I was unaware of civilian police contracting," he said. "(I) was sent to Virginia for one week of training and then to Baghdad where I initially was writing curriculum for the Baghdad police college."

White said he was assigned to the American Embassy, one of Sadam Hussein's mansions.

From there, he was sent to Ganta, Liberia, on the border of Guinea. While there, White was contracted by the Department of State to work for the United Nations.

"I lived in a small compound where I was working with the local police working on major crime as well as trying to create community policing within the area. The police at the time had no electricity or running water," he said. "They also had no vehicles. We would go to the Ganta Police Station in the morning and go to various jungle villages to speak with the elders."

White said they also handled criminal complaints they received and covered 350 square miles with few vehicles and word of crime traveled mostly by word of mouth.

"Many times we would have to leave the vehicles and travel through the jungle to get to remote villages," he said. "Liberia is a country where many believe in witchcraft, many times villages would hold people who they believed were witches or accused of witchcraft — some were even sent to Liberian prisons by Liberian judges."

After spending one year in Ganta, White returned to Baghdad for three months to conduct a study on the feasibility of the Iraqi police training their own people. "During my time there 12 American contractors were killed during a nighttime mortar attack," he said.

White was then sent back to Liberia in Monrovia, the capital city, for three years.

"The last year I was there I became the Program Manager for the American contractors. I was in charge of the Rule of Law Program," White said. "I ran the American operations for a contingent of five attorneys and 15 American police."

White said there is no real infrastructure in Liberia.

"When I first arrived in Monrovia, the National Police building used oil lamps at night. It is a large city with a population of over 5 million," he said. "Liberia was just coming out of a 14-year civil war and there was no trust or respect for the police, they saw the police as an arm of the government. Crime was rampant, murders were common."

White said while he was there, police were not able to carry guns. He said many crimes go unreported because of lack of travel and communication.

After his time in Liberia, White started teaching at Tiffin University in its criminal justice department and has been for nearly 10 years.

"I wanted to get out of Africa, it became frustrating because of the corruption and I felt the United Nations, while well-intended, was not very effective," he said.

White said when Light became mayor, he asked if White was interested in being the safety-service director.

"I initially told him no. After his first year in office and with Ralph (Fegley) leaving for health reasons, I reconsidered," he said.

"I believe communication is the key to success in nearly everything. We can disagree but we must have effective communication. I look forward to serving the citizens of Norwalk."

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting