LIEUTENANT JACK GONÇALVES, SON OF TRANSMONTANO IMMIGRANTS
Luso-American leads the State Police in Connecticut’s capital city, Hartford.
Leading the complex police structure that guarantees the safety and peace in the Connecticut’s capital, is the Luso-descendant Jack Gonçalves, 48. As the commander of State Police Troop H, his responsibilities include not only all the local and Federal government buildings, such as schools and public universities, but also the patrolling of highways and all police actions related to the State Police in the region.
“The more than 80 agents that are under my responsibility include canine units to fight trafficking of drugs, cash and weapons,” describes lieutenant Jack Gonçalves, in the exclusive interview, in Hartford, to the LUSO-AMERICANO newspaper. “I also supervise the security Operations at Bradley International Airport, which is a huge responsibility (especially these days), as well as the coordination between the State Police and the several Federal agents that work in the area.”
Gonçalves is also responsible for the administrative employees, the implementation of policies issued by police unions, and the group of investigators that handle large thefts, homicides and violations.
Jack Gonçalves was born in Bridgeport, CT, son of immigrants Licínio e Preciosa Gonçalves, from Chaves (Trás- os-Montes). He was still in high school, in Shelton, when he found himself interested in the law enforcement world. “I was fascinated by all police shows that involved lawyers and crime-solving,” says Goncalves.
After finishing high school, he joined the University of New Haven, where one of his professors was Dr. Henry Lee, one of the greatest authorities in forensic sciences in the world. “Of course, I started liking this topic even more, as I was interested in all the details of the law and order universe.”
At 23-years-old, after 6 months training in the Police Academy, he became a State Trooper, joining Troop A, in Southbury. A year and a half later, he moved to Troop G, in Bridgeport, where he stayed for 14 years. Promoted to sergeant in 2011, he transferred to Troop L, in Litchfield, which he left six years later, as a master sergeant, for Troop B, in North Canaan, to become second-in-command.
In May of 2018, the Luso-American moved up in the State Police hierarchy again and was promoted to lieutenant, returning to Troop G; in February of the following year, he west to the State Police headquarters as chief-of-staff for the highest-ranking officer (Colonel), and in March of 2020, he acceptd the position of Commanding Officer at Troop H, where, among other things, he contributed to the COVID-19 response in Hartford.
“I always tell people that law enforcement officers are not robots, but human beings,” he stated. “Behind this shield and this weapon that I carry, it’s me , Jack Gonçalves, a human being. When we become police officers, we must know how to balance our mission of maintaining order and compassion and common sense. Typically, our encounters with the public happen in tragic emergency situations; when asked for help, the police officer also is, many times, the medical and healthcare agent, and someone who gives emotional support – we wear many hats. And these emotions are not easy to manage on both sides.”
During the recent protests in favor of social justice, Troop H and Jack Gonçalves made headlines for joining a group of protesters, and kneeling and praying for peace with them. “It was a group of people on the highway, with many young people, women, and elders,” says Gonçalves. “A lady asked me to join them, and we prayed together; we held hands, and suddenly, a circle with more than 100 people was formed, including some of my troopers – all spontaneously joining. When we finished praying, we started a conversation; they wanted to be heard, and we listened to their concerns. I explained to them that was not the place for a protest, since as State Troopers, we must guarantee the safety of all, including them. Both sides were willing to collaborate, and the protest ended.”
The lieutenant added: “We are all a community. We live and work in Hartford. This is not about being against each other. I hate when we get into this type of argument. We are a community.”
The Luso-American lieutenant Jack Gonçalves guarantees that he would not trade his profession “for anything in the world. If you want a career where each day is unique, highly challenging, the police career is ideal. We must know how to adapt to the changes that are being brought to our profession, but all my colleagues feel the same way: we are motivated, and our mission is to protect the public. That is our north.”