Ridgefield native Mike McKnight joins the force

A plate of cookies convinced Mike McKnight that he wanted to be a Ridgefield cop.

“My mom would always make a huge platter of cookies on Christmas,” he said. “We would do it every single year — drop ’em off [at the police station], go to church, go home, and then we could open the presents.”

The officers on duty sometimes showed the kids around the station, including the jail cells.

“I don’t know why that interested me,” McKnight said, with a chuckle.

When he graduates from the police academy in about six months, McKnight will be the department’s sixth Ridgefield native to join the force. He has his sights set on one day working with kids in the community, perhaps as a school resource officer.

“I’d definitely love to interact with kids somehow,” he said, adding that he’d like to “guide kids in the right direction.”

McKnight, a 2009 graduate of Ridgefield High School, received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Springfield (Mass.) College. He’s heading back to school this week to attend basic training at the state’s police academy in Meriden.

“We do swearings-in, then they go through training,” explained Ridgefield Police Capt. Jeff Kreitz. “In Connecticut you have to be sworn-in with an agency to attend the police academy.”

After he graduates sometime in mid-December, McKnight will also have to complete a 400-hour course with the Ridgefield police before he sets out on a one-man patrol.

One of the town’s own

McKnight’s roots go deep in the community.

His father recently retired from the town highway department, and his mother still works for the Parks and Recreation department. For the past five years, McKnight has served the town as a volunteer firefighter. He also worked part-time for the parks department while home from college over the summer.

“I think they’re more excited than I am,” McKnight said about telling his family that he’d been hired as a cop. “All three of my brothers, they’re very supportive. My girlfriend’s right there with me the whole time, she’s got my back and she’s excited.”

He was one of the firefighters who tossed chocolate gelt to kids from the bucket of a firetruck during a town Hanukah celebration in December.

“It was a chilly night, that was for sure,” he said.

He said he thinks having worked as a volunteer firefighter gives him a better sense of the length and breadth of the town — that, and the roughly year-and-half he spent delivering pizzas.

“You definitely find different parts of town that you usually don’t see too often,” McKnight said.

“I think it is good to have people from town,” said Maj. Steven Brown. “Especially having been a volunteer firefighter, too … I think it gives the officer a sense of community and ownership, too, in helping to solve problems.”

Brown said that a majority of the calls McKnight will face on the job “are ones you would not often read about in The Ridgefield Press.”

“The vast majority of calls are not even leading to arrest, but they’re dealing with quality of life issues; so traffic and speed, noise complaints, domestic violence — that may not even have gotten to the point of arrest, but our officers are asked to mediate,” Brown said.

For his part, McKnight said he’s excited for the first day he steps onto the street in his new uniform.

“They’re a great group of guys,” McKnight said about his future squadmates. “Obviously they do so much for the town. Even on-duty, off-duty — it’s just something that I’m really looking forward to be a part of, and stay in Ridgefield. Been here my whole life.”