- Associated Press - Saturday, April 26, 2014

NORWALK, Conn. (AP) - A husband and wife crime-fighting duo, both of whom have served with the Norwalk Police Department for nearly three decades, retired from the Norwalk Police Department recently.

Sgts. Lisa and Carlos Cotto met on the job in the mid-1980s and have been married since 1991. They have two children - Nick, 17, and Sarah, 15, both of whom are standout athletes at Fairfield Warde High School.

“I met my wife and best friend here, and that’s a debt of gratitude I will never be able to pay back the city of Norwalk,” said Carlos Cotto. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to me, because she became my life long partner.”

The Cottos are leaving the department to join their friend and colleague, former Norwalk Police Sgt. Charlie Perez, in serving as state police officers for the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

“I am sorry to see them leave but understand that the move is a great one for them personally and we all congratulate them,” said Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik. “I thank them for their many years of service and wish them the best in their new positions.”

Both of the Cottos were hired by Mayor Harry Rilling when he was serving as a lieutenant with the Norwalk Police Department. Carlos Cotto was hired on Nov. 15, 1984, and Lisa Cotto was hired on Nov. 14, 1985. Carlos Cotto was assigned the officer identification number C019, and Lisa Cotto, then going by her maiden name Lisa Savoca, was assigned S019.

“It’s a very good story,”?said Rilling. “They both came on within a year of one another and developed a relationship. They were both very, very dedicated employees who were proud to wear the uniform. I know it’s going to be very difficult for them to leave. They’ve developed many friends and colleagues within the police department and the community.”

The Cottos began dating while working with the Special Services Unit. They kept their relationship under wraps for eight months but blew their cover when they both arrived late for a drug raid one morning.

Lisa Cotto’s heavy Long Island accent made her a natural at undercover buy-and-busts and prostitution stings. She still holds a record for collaring 18 “johns” for soliciting prostitution in a mere two hours during an undercover sting. She would go on to serve in the Youth Bureau and the patrol division. She has spent the past five years as a supervisor in the Community Services Unit, where her duties included handling the media.

Lisa has been an integral part of our Community Services Unit for many years and has represented me and the department extremely well,”?Kulhawik said.

Carlos Cotto, a Bridgeport native, applied to the Norwalk Police Department after his uncle, Bridgeport Police Lt. Manuel Cotto, encouraged him to do so. Carlos Cotto played a major role in numerous large drug busts, including the 1990 bust of a large-scale banana boat cocaine smuggling ring in Bridgeport Harbor and Reclaiming Our Connecticut Cities and Youth - the 1996 crackdown on Norwalk’s notorious Brotherhood gang. He worked as a detective for nine years and spent the past five years as a patrol division supervisor.

Carlos has been a patrol supervisor as well as a longtime member of our as Emergency Services Unit where his vast experience will be difficult to replace,” Kulhawik said.

The Cottos also played a strong role in community policing, once taking a class of 22 at-risk teenagers to Camp Rowland in Niantic for a week-long series of activities. Lisa Cotto said she’s been approached by numerous pupils from the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) classes she taught nearly 20 years ago.

“I hear, ‘Officer Savoca?’” said Lisa Cotto. “And I turn around and see 33-year-old adults. I know I taught their DARE class, because I haven’t been Officer Savoca since they were 10 years old.”

The Cottos retired last week and received a send-off from their colleagues and commanders. They said they were grateful that Rilling, the man who hired them, spoke at the send-off.

“It all came full circle when he stopped by to say a few words,” said Carlos Cotto.

Both Cottos say leaving the department is bittersweet for them, but they look forward to their new job, which starts in July.

“We basically grew up here on the job,” Lisa Cotto said.

“It was quite a process,”?Carlos Cotto added.

___

Information from: The Hour, http://www.thehour.com

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