Ernesto Gonzalez: When Service Is the Reward
Officer Ernesto Gonzalez may hail from Puerto Rico, but his heart is here in Madison with his family and job. As a rising member of the Madison Police Department, Ernesto put his military training to use to craft a career in law enforcement that has led him to his dream job here in town.
Ernesto arrived in Connecticut with his mother and father when he was still a child. He was initially a bit overwhelmed, but Ernesto said he learned English quickly and adapted quickly to his new surroundings.
“I was born in Puerto Rico and came to the States when I was seven years old. I was raised in Meriden, and I didn’t know any English when I first came,” says Ernesto. “But I picked it up pretty quick. We basically came here with nothing, just a couple of suitcases. My parents sold everything to come here and made a life here.”
According to Ernesto, he served eight years as a combat medic in the Army National Guard and was deployed to Afghanistan for more than a year. That experience honed a deep respect for those who place service above self.
“That’s when I really started thinking about the whole law enforcement look and career. I guess that stems from my military background. I wanted to stick to the same type of environment but in a civilian area,” says Ernesto.
Ernesto says his respect for law enforcement and his decision to enter into police work is something that solidified when he came back from deployment and began to think about his future. At one point he considered becoming a teacher, but his military experiences and his family traditions helped forge a path into police work.
“I almost became a teacher, because my mother was a teacher and that was part of our household. It kind of came down to going my dad’s route as a combat medic in the military, which I did, or going my mom’s route with teaching. Serving the community in this way seemed the right fit,” says Ernesto. “But honestly, I think it had a lot to do with the military that drew me into law enforcement. I had friends who were in law enforcement and a lot of family in the military.
Ernesto started his law enforcement career in New Haven, working there for more than a year before hearing about an opportunity in Madison.
“I began in New Haven in 2014 as an officer, and was there for just over a year and then word got around that Madison was hiring and I was like, ‘You know what? That is where I want to head.’ And here I am in my seventh year with Madison,” says Ernesto.
Ernesto says living and working in the same town is an incredible gift for he and his family.
“I and my wife have two daughters, a two-year-old and a four-year-old, and I was really looking at where the best schools were and a good school system. And working here in the town and seeing the town, and living here in the town, I just felt like this was the place to go to,” Ernesto said. “I really wanted to get away from the city vibe that I was raised in. I just really liked the small-town vibe here.
“My wife loves the beach and being here on the shoreline was a no-brainer for us, especially with the school system,” he adds. “Plus, I’m just six minutes away from work, so that is great, too. But it was really the school system that sold it for us. My wife and my daughters really love it here. They are very excited about living here.”
Ernesto says that the adrenaline-inducing aspects of the job aren’t the factors that intrigue him about law enforcement.
“Helping people is what works for me. The best ones are the ones where you are out on patrol or driving around and you stop because you need to help somebody, not necessarily the calls coming in,” says Ernesto. “I like doing that, especially here in a small town. It’s very rewarding to be able to help the town and my neighbors.
“I used to say, ‘I never want to live where I work,’ but I really felt differently about Madison,” says Ernesto. “It is a safe place to be, even as an officer.”
Ernesto and his wife were among those searching for a home here on the shoreline, and though it may have taken a while, they found their dream home late last year and are very excited to truly call Madison home.
“Ever since I was hired by Chief [Jack] Drumm he would always say, ‘When are you moving to Madison?’ He has always said that whenever he’s seen me, so it’s almost like I had it planned without having it planned,” Ernesto says, laughing.
Ernesto has proven himself to be an invaluable member of the department. He is currently an instructor in several enforcement disciplines and is always looking forward to the next challenge.
“The real training is on the road. But I am actually an instructor for Madison now. I am certified for OC Spray (pepper spray) and for Taser, so I am the [department] instructor for OC and Taser,” says Ernesto. “I am in the process to become a field training officer as well—I am going to training next month. So, for any new officer coming in, I will be the training officer.
“They are also putting me through a number of courses. I will be going to handcuffing training to become a certified trainer for the Police Department, baton training as well. And I am also on the SWAT team for the shoreline, and we are on call 24-7,” he continues. “I’ve been on that team for three years now and I’ve been on the accident reconstruction team as well. So, I have been through quite a bit of training.”
Having found a dream job, in a dream situation, Ernesto says he’s here stay.
“This is it for me. I love it here. I really enjoy it. The small-town vibe is great. For the most, part the town is pro police, and I really enjoy and like everyone I work with, so this definitely it for me. It is a good feeling, it really is,” says Ernesto. “I absolutely love coming to work. Not everybody can say that. Being able to like what you do, and come in every morning with a smile is great. This is something that has been instilled with me. Serving is the reward for me. I like doing it and that’s what draws me in.”