After being a member of the the Norwalk Police for 41 years -- including 17 as chief -- Harry W. Rilling announced Thursday he is resigning from the department.
Rilling said his contract was due to expire at the end of December, but because he has been offered a position in the private sector, he is leaving early.
Rilling made his announcement Thursday morning before members of the department and reporters in the department's Community Room.
Rilling said that on paper the department's officers work for him and his management team. But in reality, he said, "it's our job to work for them to give them the tools, the training and the support that they need to do their job, and to do it well, and to stay safe."
Rilling assumed the job of chief in May 1995, following the tenure of Carl LaBianca.
Among his career accomplishments, Rilling got the department nationally accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, and established the department's first Community Policing squad.
Rilling's last day of employment with the city will be July 12. He said he will be using some of the vacation days and sick time he has accrued to take time off before assuming his new position. He declined to identify his new employer.
Deputy Chief Thomas Kulhawik, 49, will serve as acting chief until a new one is appointed by the three-member Police Commission.
After Rilling made his statement, Mayor Richard A. Moccia stepped to the podium and praised Rilling for his service to the city.
Forty-years in a department is unheard of, Moccia said, and 17 years as a chief is very unusual. "But that speaks to his completence, his ability to lead men, and his ability to learn."
Some community members and The Hour newspaper on its editorial page have called for the police commissioners to conduct a national search for a new chief. However, Moccia stated emphatically that the next chief will be hired from within the department.
In fact, the commissioners have all but said that Kulhawik will be given the position.
Born and raised in Norwalk, Rilling, 64, joined the department in 1971, after a four-year stint in the Navy.
Rilling has been divorced twice. He has two daughters, Christine and Melanie, and a son, Stephen, who is a Fairfield Police officer.