New York State prison guard, Air Force military police officer, taxi-cab driver, cook, Dominican expat — it’s been a long and winding road that has led Officer Carlos Olivares to become Ridgefield’s latest cop.

“I always wanted to be a police officer. I learned about Ridgefield hiring, I looked into the town, and it’s beautiful up here,” Olivares told The Press earlier this month. “It seemed like a good place to work.”

Olivares graduated from the state police academy on Sept. 20, one of two officers hired by Ridgefield in the past year. The other, Mike McKnight, will join him on the force once he  graduates from the academy in mid-December.

In Connecticut, police recruits are given a job offer with a city or town police department before they attend the academy.

“He went through an exhausting process to get hired,” said Major Steve Brown, who has been heading the department since Chief John Roche passed away in August.

Top of the list

Olivares “rose to the top” based on his fitness test, exam, and interviews for the job, said Brown. It’s been a more than one-year process that began in the summer of 2017.

He still needs to complete 400 hours minimum of on-the-job training before he heads out on patrol alone, explained Capt. Jeff Kreitz, who helms the department’s training program. He’ll spend that time riding along with his field training officer, Ofc. Daniel Gjodesen.

The experience includes just about everything an officer is likely to encounter in Ridgefield. “Patrol, handling calls, traffic stops, reviewing general orders, rules and regulations of the department, paperwork arrest procedure,” said Kreitz.  

For Olivares, all the training has produced a bit of déjà vu. After completing basic training in the Air Force, Corrections Academy, and Military Police Academy, he said the Connecticut Police Academy felt very similar.

Experience is everything

An immigrant from the Dominican Republic, Olivares came to New York in 1994 and has lived in the area ever since.

“I was a cook for 14 years, so I bounced around New York City and certain parts upstate,” he recalled.

He drove a taxi for a while in New York. For eight years, he served as a prison guard.

It has all prepared him for a career in law enforcement.

“You have powers of arrest and everything, you police the people, but you’re still a person dealing with people every day,” he said.

He hopes to serve as a role model for kids headed down a rough path.

“I guess one of the reasons why the police work interests me more than corrections — you might say I’ve seen the other side of the wall,” he said.

He wants to help kids on a trajectory path for lockup from getting there in the first place.

“Once they’re on the other side of the wall, it’s a little bit too late,” he added.  

Brown said the department is happy to have Olivares onboard.

“We have already seen some good things and we know we’re going to continue to see him excel. He brings great experience to the department through his past work and military experience,” he said.

Olivares is looking forward to patrolling the streets.

“Things change every day on patrol. It could be a slow day, it could be a crazy day, but, at the end of the day you’re doing more than just policing people,” he said.