Clarke award honors Greenwich’s top cops

After receiving the John Clarke Award for their service, Detectives David Wilson Pasquale Iorfino, at center, posed with, from left, Chief of Police James Heavey, Selectman David Theis, Selectman Drew Marzullo and First Selectman Peter Tesei. — John Ferris Robben photo

After receiving the John Clarke Award for their service, Detectives David Wilson Pasquale Iorfino, at center, posed with, from left, Chief of Police James Heavey, Selectman David Theis, Selectman Drew Marzullo and First Selectman Peter Tesei.
— John Ferris Robben photo

For more than six decades, the Dr. John A. Clarke Police Award has been given by the Greenwich Lions Club to distinguished members of the Greenwich Police Department for outstanding performance in the line of duty.

This year the award went to two highly regarded criminal investigators whose work was instrumental in finding, arresting and then convicting a man accused of a Norwalk homicide and the shooting of a Greenwich gas station clerk who was left badly wounded. For their efforts, Detective Pasquale Iorfino and Detective David Wilson were honored with the award at a special ceremony last Thursday in front of their families and colleagues past and present and thanked for “outstanding criminal investigation and service to the people of Greenwich.”

The award, which is in its 67th year, is given yearly by the Lions Club after a recommendation made by the chief of police. This year Chief James Heavey was in attendance for the event, along with many current members of the command, including Deputy Chief Mark Marino and Capts. Mark Kordick, Timothy Berry and Pam Gustovich. Retired chiefs Raymond Grant and James Walters were also in attendance, as was state Sen. L. Scott Frantz, who presented Detective Wilson and Detective Iorfino, who is also a past winner of the Clarke award, with citations from both houses of the state legislature for their good work.

“The one thing you don’t worry about too much around this town is an unacceptable amount of criminal activity or anything else that’s illegal,” Mr. Frantz said. “I think that’s because we have one of the best police departments in the entire country.  … We in the biggest way appreciate everything that you do.”

The details of the incident remain like something out of a screenplay rather than actual events, but are all true. Chief Heavey told the packed crowd at the hotel, which had to bring in extra tables to accommodate everyone, about the response to a November 2009 armed robbery at the Mobil on the Go gas station in Old Greenwich, where the attendant was shot point-blank in the head despite complying with everything the robber wanted and offering no resistance. Detective Iorfino and Detective Wilson investigated and linked it to an incident in Norwalk a month earlier in which the attendant was murdered.

“After an intensive, meticulous investigation undertaken by these two lead detectives over the course of over a year with the assistance of many members of the department, Alain LeConte was identified as a suspect along with his co-conspirators who assisted him with a getaway car,” Chief Heavey said. “The investigation resulted in evidence being found that was critical to the Norwalk homicide. In this case, there were dozens of interviews and a successful effort to gain the cooperation of one suspect to provide evidence against LeConte. Many hours of recorded covert audio of LeConte was also painstakingly reviewed and transcribed by Detective Wilson over the course of several weeks. All of these efforts culminated in the arrest of LeConte in December 2010.”

The detectives were also highly praised for their work in assisting with the prosecution of the case, including giving detailed testimony against Mr. LeConte at his trial and even translating prison slang from the recorded conversation to more commonly used English for the jury to understand. This resulted in a conviction, and Mr. LeConte now has a 90-year sentence.

Lions Club leadership there said that thanks to the work of groups like the Greenwich Police Department, the club could stay true to its mission in the community and work on efforts like providing services to the blind and visually impaired in Fairfield County, sending underprivileged kids to camp, and supporting other parts of the country and world devastated by disasters.

“Luckily we live in a pretty sophisticated part of the world,” David Moore, president of the Greenwich Lions Club, said at the event. “In great part due to the efforts of public servants, we live in a safe, secure environment.”

Griffith Harris, a longtime Lions Club member and past president, who led the ceremony, said that this was one of his favorite events of the year and he was really proud to be a part of it.

“Not only is it cool to say ‘attaboy’ to people who really do the job with excellence, but it’s a great town event,” said Mr. Harris, whose grandfather was one of the original Lions and knew Dr. Clarke. “Most of the Greenwich Lions are born and raised in Greenwich, and the Police Department is an integral part of our community. I think this is a perfect synergy for an event that represents what John Clarke did while recognizing the outstanding efforts done by our Police Department and in this case two outstanding officers.”

The award is designed to be a surprise for the winners. Their families are informed, but they are not, and all indications were that indeed Detective Iorfino and Detective Wilson were not aware they were the winners before being summoned to the Hyatt Regency for the lunch ceremony. They were greeted with a standing ovation when they arrived, but both men spoke only briefly at the event and stressed that this was a team effort for both the department and the state’s attorney’s office.

“I am humbled by this and honored to be a member of the Greenwich Police Department,” Detective Iorfino said. “We equate this with being in the Major League Baseball All Star Game. We had the best Greenwich police detectives working this case, and it was all led by Department Chief Marino, who was our lieutenant at the time. Then our all stars met with the Stamford PD and Norwalk PD, and then we brought in our Mariano Rivera, James Bernardi, to finish it off. The end was a 90-year verdict, and Alain LaConte will never walk this planet again as a free man. I’m very proud of that.”

Detective Wilson added, “This was a great team effort. We stand up here together, but without the rest of you we wouldn’t be here today.”

This is not the first honor bestowed upon these two detectives. At the Silver Shield Association’s awards ceremony last month, Detective Wilson and Detective Iorfino were named Officers of the Year and were given Investigators Medals for their efforts.

The Clarke award is one of the Lions Club’s biggest events of the year and is a tribute to Dr. Clarke, who was the first president in Greenwich when it was chartered in December 1923. Dr. Clarke served as a medical adviser to the GPD during his distinguished career, and when he passed away in 1944, the Lions Club began the award as a tribute to him. Several of Dr. Clarke’s descendants, including a grandson and three great-grandaughters, were at the ceremony.

For this event a photograph of Dr. Clarke is always brought out by the Lions, and this year the Police Department unveiled a perfect reproduction of it to be displayed inside the Public Safety Complex.

“You might say that the Lions Club and the Police Department have something in common,” Mr. Moore said. “We exist to serve our communities.”

 

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