DARIEN — On a wall on the second floor of Darien police headquarters are bronze plaques dedicated to past chiefs. The wall is across from the training classroom, home of police commission meetings and swearing-in ceremonies run by Police Chief Duane Lovello.

Soon Lovello will go from leading meetings and ceremonies to having his own plaque on the wall. Lovello announced his Feb. 15 retirement in late December after 35 years on the force. But while he may be ready to hang up his chief’s hat and say goodbye to Darien, Lovello won’t stop working or forget the town that he said has been “ideal” to work in.

Lovello came to Darien in 1981 after working as a firefighter at the Glenbrook Fire Department in Stamford. After a year firefighting, he was looking for a change and the Darien Department was testing for officers. Lovello grew up a street over from the Darien town line and had a cousin working in the department, so he knew and admired the community. The exam was the only one Lovello took and he passed.

Once entering the department, Lovello moved up the ranks quickly. He was transferred to the detective division in 1986. In July 1993, he became a sergeant and in September 2000, he was promoted to lieutenant. Three months later, he became captain and in 2005, he became chief.

“I never would’ve thought that I’d end up as chief of police and for that, I’m honestly grateful,” he said.

Lovello found his work in the detective division to be the most gratifying. Darien is a quiet town, with weekly crime mostly

consisting of entries into unlocked cars and petty thefts. But during his time as a detective, Lovello saw some of Darien’s darker and more publicized cases that led him to work with agencies around the country and even the globe.

“That was probably the most rewarding work I’ve done in the department just because of some of the challenges presented by difficult cases,” he said. “It forces you to find things in yourself you didn’t know existed, to keep going.”

“Detective work sometimes takes you beyond state borders and international borders, so I’ve had a chance to do work with Interpol and agencies across the country,” he added. “That’s always fascinating, but what I was always struck by was everyone’s willingness to help.”

Lovello assisted in the capturing of Alex Kelly, who brutally raped two women in 1986 and fled Darien before his trial, becoming an international fugitive. Lovello was also a detective during the Campbell murders in 1987 when a Darien couple was bludgeoned to death and lit on fire. He helped put together the warrant for the son, who is still in prison for the murders.

“That was just gut wrenching,” he said of the homicide. “That investigation essentially just went non-stop for 48 hours until we apprehended him.”

Lovello also oversaw the investigation into the 1981 murder of Officer Kenneth Bateman, who was killed on duty while investigating an overnight alarm activation at a local fast food restaurant. The case is the state’s only unsolved police officer homicide and will continue to be a priority for the department even after Lovello leaves.

“While we never saw a conviction for the murder of Officer Ken Bateman, I am certainly enormously proud of the great work that continues to be done on a case with a lot of challenges,” he said. “It is very satisfying to know that even when I leave, that investigation will always remain a priority. I’m gratified to see the next generation of officers embrace their commitment to seeing Ken’s murder resolved.”

The officers following in Lovello’s wake will not only inherit the Bateman case, but other changes in policing Lovello has seen over the past three and a half decades. New officers will be equipped with body cameras and use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to get out information in ways Lovello has seen develop since he joined the force.

“[Technology] has exploded since I’ve been here and I’ve been here a long time,” he said. “It’s something that has certainly facilitated our work. ... It allows us to trend things, to target enforcement, to target criminal activity.”

“Technology is something we’ve had to embrace, but also something we’ve had to confront, because as much as you use it as a tool, it can be used against you,” he added. “At the same time we’re looking to capitalize technology to our advantage, criminals are doing the same thing. Almost everything we touch now has some technology associated with it, whether it’s a smartphone, computer crime, identity theft, skimming operation, you name it.”

Lovello said the public information officer’s role at the department has become even more critical as technology develops and allows people to post in real time, forcing police to stay on their toes and make sure they can get accurate information out before inaccurate social media posts spread.

“We always try to stay on top of it because we want the story to be as accurate as possible, so we have to get it first,” he said. “I’m really proud of our use of social media.”

Though Lovello is proud to be leaving the department with these changes, he has no doubt his yet to be named successor will continue the good work.

“This department has such an enormous depth of talent, I have no doubt that whoever takes this job will continue to see the department move forward,” he said. “There’s always energy, there’s always great ideas. There’s great people. The police commission goes out of their way to hire the best and the brightest for this department and I think it shows in the product we put out on the street.”

Lovello himself will he taking some time off before diving into work again. He’s not sure what he’ll pursue next, but he looks forward to challenging himself in new ways. But he’ll always look back fondly on his time in Darien.

“Unfortunately the police see a lot of heartbreak in this community, but I always come back to it’s a fantastic community to work in,” he said. “The town has always been very supportive of its police department and the quality of the people who live here are tremendous. It’s an ideal community to be a police officer, particularly a police chief. I couldn’t think of one better actually.”

ekayata@hearstmediact.com; @erin_kayata