After 30 years in law enforcement, including 24 with the Canton Police Department, John Colangelo could have retired as a detective, but he says he had too much left to give.
Colangelo recently started as the first Community Security Director for the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, where he will serve as an expert adviser to Jewish institutions like synagogues and day schools, and as a liaison to local, state, and federal law enforcement. He also will represent the Federation and the Jewish community in public security forums.
“I have a passion for people’s safety,” Colangelo said, adding that the skills and contacts he developed in his years of law enforcement translate well into his new position, through which he hopes to educate and also empower people to help themselves.
Colangelo said the exchange of information between agencies can help each solve cases. He has been reintroducing himself to law enforcement agencies in this new role.
Federation President and CEO David Waren said a rise in anti-semitic incidents has brought the issue of Jewish communal security to the forefront. He cited the deadly attacks at a California synagogue and a New Jersey kosher grocery store in 2019.
The Anti-Defamation League has released data cataloging 2,107 anti-semitic incidents recorded in 2019 in the US, a 12% increase over the previous year. While incidents were down slightly in 2020 with 2,024 reported, that was “still the third-highest year on record since the ADL began tracking anti-semitic incidents in 1979,” according to the ADL’s 2020 audit.
“We have a core responsibility to capacitate our institutions and our community with the tools and resources to effectively respond, proactively and reactively,” Waren said.
Some of the training that will be offered to the community will include helping people know what to do in a critical situation, and “situation awareness” training, Waren said.
Colangelo will serve as a representative of the Secure Community Network (SCN), a nonprofit safety and security organization. He will work full-time to provide a program that will include threat mitigation, security consultations, and trainings to Jewish institutions throughout the region.
Michael G. Masters, national director and CEO of Secure Community Network (SCN), said the training SCN will help provide has had real-life impact. One young man found himself at the 2019 Gilroy Garlic Festival in California when a gunman killed three people and wounded 17 others, Masters said. He heard the gunshots and got his friends and family out to safety.
“He said ‘I thank God for the training I received’,” Masters said. Another story involved two grandmothers who found themselves outside of a synagogue where they saw an individual who had a cane but wasn’t using it.
Masters said the women called the police, who found the cane secreted a 3-foot long sword and was using it to try to gain entry into different places of worship. “They saw something, they said something.”
Waren said Colengelo jumped out as someone whose knowledge, training, and connections after 30 years in law enforcement made him a good fit for this position.
“His whole career has been about helping people, ensuring the safety and security of those he is charged with protecting,” Waren said.
Colangelo said he wants people to become comfortable approaching him and working with law enforcement.
“Sometimes there are preconceived ideas that we are too busy,” Colangelo said.
Waren said, this work can also help other vulnerable communities.
“This is about an open line of communication and engagement throughout the community,” Waren said.