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Daring boat rescue shows Connecticut police officers’ commitment to public safety

Photo credit: Stratford Police Department.
Daring boat rescue shows Connecticut police officers’ commitment to public safety
By Aaron Gallant ·

Stratford Police Department, Capt. Anthony Rhew and Sgt. Joseph Maida are proud to protect their Connecticut community. It’s not just a job for them, it’s a calling.  


“I like being out with the public and problem-solving,” Maida explained about his career in law enforcement that started in 2006 as a sworn officer in Stratford. 


“I’ve done a lot of things to help people who couldn’t help themselves,” said Rhew, who began working as a Stratford police officer in 2005. "I’ve also been in a position to help train new officers.” 


And when called upon, they don’t hesitate to put themselves in harm’s way to help others.  


So it was on a summer night in 2021 when Stratford PD received several 911 calls around 9:30 p.m. After a routine summer evening patrolling community events along the waterfront, Maida and Rhew – both members of AFSCME Local 407 (Council 4) – had tied up their police boat and were ready to end their shift when they got the call from dispatch.


A 27-foot powerboat traveling at high speeds had crashed into a break wall at Long Island Sound. 


Maida and Rhew quickly jumped into their boat and were the first to reach the scene of the accident at the mouth of the Housatonic River. 


“We did not expect to see what we saw that night,” Rhew said. “We couldn’t even really assess the damage and injuries because it was so dark.” 


They found the operator of the boat unconscious, seven other people badly injured and a dog inside a vessel that was quickly taking on water. High winds, high tides and the darkness made a challenging rescue operation much more difficult. 


“We did our best to transport all the victims onto our police boat while we waited for mutual aid from our fire department,” Maida explained. “We set up a command post and eventually transferred the victims where we staged the ambulances and the fire department.” 


All eight people survived, thanks in no small part to the quick response from Rhew and Maida. 


Neither one of them could have pulled off this rescue by themselves—but by working together, they were successful. Maida and Rhew credited strong teamwork and good communication with everyone who contributed to the rescue effort. 


Rhew called it a “true multi-departmental and multi-jurisdictional” rescue operation where police, fire, EMS, 911 and even animal control from neighboring towns all came together to save lives. 


The rescue was covered in the local news. In recognition of their selfless bravery and commitment to public safety, these officers are being honored at Council 4’s Law Enforcement Awards Dinner on Nov. 8, 2023. Maida and Rhew are also the winners of AFSCME’s Never Quit Service Award, which is given to members who go above and beyond their duties to better serve their communities.  


While emergency responses like this are rare, Rhew and Maida said police officers have to be ready for whatever comes their way. 


“Thankfully, we were there to help them,” said Maida. “That’s what we train for, it’s what we do and it’s why we’re here.” 

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