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Sergeant Joe Mulhern, East Haven Police Department’s daytime road supervisor, is a proponent of community policing. (Photo courtesy of Joe Mulhern )
East Haven Police Sergeant Joe Mulhern received nationwide accolades for recognizing that a kid on his beat had no bicycle, then tuning up and donatinghis old bicycle to the boy. (Photo courtesy of the East Haven Police Department )
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While having careers in law enforcement ran in Joe Mulhern’s family, it wasn’t until his mid-30s that Joe joined what he now thinks of as a “brotherhood.” The family atmosphere includes his now retired father and two brothers, but also his fellow officers, not only at the East Haven Police Department, but across the country.
Joe has now been a police officer in East Haven for more than 16 years, seeing the department through many changes, including a shift to more community-centered policing. He has made friends in the law enforcement field throughout the country, including Danny Rivera, who is a sheriff in New Jersey.
“He has a movement called Bridges and it’s about bridging the gap between kids and the community,” says Joe. “His movement has definitely influenced me to reach out any time we have a chance to help a kid.”
Joe notes that Rivera has an Instagram profile, bookem_382, that not only chronicles connections he makes with youth in his community, but also shares Rivera’s non-explicit raps with positive messages.
“His movement is huge in Jersey and well-respected on Instagram,” says Joe. “I speak to him almost daily and that, and seeing his message on Instagram, keeps it in your mind every day.”
With that influence, Joe was recently featured on Rivera’s Instagram page. Having worked in East Haven since 2003, Joe has become acquainted with many youth in the community, including a young boy named Shawn.
While on his shift, Joe ran into Shawn and his other friends, who were on bikes. After chatting, Joe realized Shawn didn’t have a bike and knowing he had an old bike in the shed, he approached the boy’s mother to see about passing it on to Shawn.
“I definitely didn’t do it for the notoriety—I had a bike I wasn’t using and here was a good kid who needed a bike,” says Joe. “I brought it to Zane’s [Cycles in Branford] for a tuneup and told them what I was doing and they tuned it up for free.”
After speaking to the boy’s mom and getting the bike ready to be ridden, Joe presented Shawn with the bike. He made sure to stress the importance of continuing to get good grades in school and keeping up on homework.
“I wanted him to know that when you’re doing things right, good things can happen,” says Joe. “He’s a very kind-hearted, smart, intelligent kid and you can immediately make friends with him in a minute. To see a kid out riding bike or playing baseball or basketball instead of being inside playing video games is huge.”
Ed Lennon, chief of the East Haven Police Department, was proud to hear about the interaction.
“I couldn’t be more proud of his selfless act in giving this young man a bicycle—it is only one example of his hard work, dedication, and caring for the community and the people he serves,” says Lennon. “Sergeant Mulhern not only demonstrates this through his own actions, but instills this approach to policing for the men and women he supervises.”
While Joe has many years of experience as a police officer with the East Haven Police Department, he wasn’t always interested in a career in law enforcement. He grew up in the Hamden area and spent several years as an electrician before he moved back to the East Haven area in his mid-30s when he decided to follow his family’s career path.
Growing up, his father was a police officer in Hamden for many years. Both of his brothers followed in their father’s footsteps with Jon Mulhern now serving as the chief of police in Branford and Neal Mulhern working as a detective sergeant with the Madison Police Department.
“Having the support system is huge,” says Joe, who has four children including 24-year-old Zachary, 22-year-old Brendin, 10-year-old Mia, and four-year-old Dean. “It’s easy to lean on your family members for support or advice—there’s no doubt about that. I’m grateful for my wife, Kelly, as well because being a police wife is a task in its own.”
Joe entered the police academy when he was 35, noting that it was “definitely physically demanding.” He worked as an officer for the East Haven Police Department for several years before being promoted to the rank of sergeant in 2013. He is currently the daytime road supervisor.
“Lieutenant [Joseph] Murgo is the shift commander and I handle the road,” says Joe. “I like to be out there, responding to calls and engaging the public. I enjoy where I’m at in my career now.”
As a sergeant, Joe has other responsibilities in addition to those on his shift. Joe has always been a car enthusiast and was excited that one of his extra duties is being involved in the purchase and building of new police vehicles.
Joe worked with the chief of police on creating new graphics for the force’s vehicles and also researches new technology that should be included on the vehicles.
Joe’s love of cars extends outside of work as well. He spent many years caring for a friend’s extensive car collection. He is also a Volkswagen enthusiast and spends his time working on his vintage convertible and enjoys taking rides with his family.
As a member of the East Haven Police Union, Joe is heading up the 11th annual car show, which will be held on Sunday, Oct. 13 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at East Haven High School.
The show is open to all cars of any make and model. There will be food, raffles, and a DJ. Viewer admission is free and there is a $10 entry fee to show a car. All entries receive an event T-shirt.
“All proceeds benefit the police union, which provides scholarships and sponsors town teams,” says Joe. “Once we raise the money, we give it back.”
Joe enjoys many things about his job, including continuing his family’s legacy, working with the community, and building a brotherhood with his fellow officers both in town and throughout the country.
“I put the uniform on every day with pride,” says Joe. “Our community relationships have grown over the last few years and we’re very well accepted in town.
“Within the department, it’s a brotherhood and everybody has each other’s backs,” says Joe. “It’s not only in our own police department, but there are other cops in the area and out there doing the same thing, one would be Danny, who’s definitely an influence on positive policing in the community.”
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