Pedro Rivera, a retired Hartford police officer and 1996 graduate of Northwest Catholic, recently returned to his alma mater to talk with students about his path to public service and the many rewards and challenges of police work.
When Rivera was a senior at Northwest Catholic, he planned to join the military. Shortly before he was to leave for basic training, Rivera received an offer from the police academy. He grabbed the opportunity and spent five months boarding and training at a Connecticut police facility.
For the past twenty years, Rivera has served the people of Hartford. From walking the beat on Albany Avenue, to his 2004 appointment to detective, through his stint in internal affairs, to his promotion to sargeant, and beyond, Rivera learned, worked, grew, and served. He spent time in narcotics, gang-related crimes, homicide, and more.
Rivera talked to his young listeners about the skills required to be a fair and effective police officer. He stressed the importance of showing respect, remaining impartial, employing one’s ethics, following protocols, and being accountable for one’s actions.
For the last three years of his police career, Rivera worked in homicide. He shared with the students how he saw horrific scenes and needed to put emotions aside to make sure his colleagues followed procedures. He said investigations must be exact — “you get one shot to do it right.” He also spoke of the importance of bringing closure to families who are affected by deadly, violent crimes.
Rivera had many stories to share with Northwest Catholic’s students. He spoke of incidents that helped him keep doing the good work of public service. For example, years after he arrested a man, he saw him in line at a restaurant and the man thanked Rivera. He said, “The way you spoke to me, the way you treated me, you put me on the right path.”
Rivera recalled his time in ACTS (A Chance to Serve) at Northwest Catholic and how much he enjoyed being part of a group of people who served others. He tied his early experiences at NWC to his more recent efforts of collecting and shipping food to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
Throughout his talk, Rivera gave the high school seniors sound advice, such as “see the world,” “make good decisions,” and “find healthy ways to cope with stress.” Rivera said he didn’t turn to substances to help him deal with the hard realities of police work. He bowled and shot hoops and found people to talk to.
During his visit to Northwest, Rivera’s former ACTS teacher Kristina Gillespie as well as his former math teacher Claudia Hart stopped by to say hello. His former basketball coach John Mirabello also dropped in to catch up with Rivera. It was obvious to anyone watching that Rivera was happy to be “home,” and his old teachers and coaches were delighted to see him.
Today Rivera is retired from the Hartford Police force but continues to work in the State’s Attorney’s Office and has a side gig with Jet Blue, directing planes on Bradley’s tarmac, following