On Christmas Day, eight Darien police officers gave the gift of time by volunteering for shifts in Newtown so those officers could spend the day with their families.

"For this, I couldn't volunteer quicker to help them out," Officer Greg Benedetto said. "I felt this was the least we could do for those guys so they could spent time with their family and loved ones."

Benedetto said some officers did four-hours shift and others did eight-hour ones. He volunteered to work a shift from midnight to 4 a.m. on Christmas Day, and he and a partner were assigned to patrol.

"Our function was essentially to handle day-to-day incidents in Newtown," Benedetto said. He and his partner answered calls about motor vehicle accidents, erratic drivers, and dealt with a couple of building alarm activations.

The officers also spent their time driving around Newtown to "make sure everyone knew they were there for them," he said.

"We were given a GPS because, obviously, we were unfamiliar with the town we were working in," Benedetto said. "That got us through the town."

Detective Mark Cappelli said other officers were assigned to security and traffic details.

Six New Canaan police also volunteered for shifts in Newtown.

"We had three officers work from midnight on Christmas Eve to 4 a.m. Christmas morning," New Canaan Police Chief Ed Nadriczny. "Then we had three other officers work anywhere between 4 p.m. to midnight on Christmas Day."

Nadriczny said there were officers from all over the state picking up four-hour shifts that day, from departments in Greenwich, Stamford, Monroe, Brookfield, Danbury and many more towns. He said officers performed various duties, including providing security at the memorials to the victims, helping with traffic and responding to service calls.

"It's not about us, it's about them. In many occasions when police officers do stuff, they don't do it to get recognition, they do it to help. We helped as best we could. That's our goal." He added that, "It was comforting to see law enforcement pull together for that community and have that response."

During the 24 hours from midnight Christmas Eve through Christmas Day, about 20 to 25 officers from throughout the state covered four-hour shifts so that Newtown's 45-member force did not have to work, said Doug Fuchs, the police chief in Redding.

"Many of these officers that are here ... didn't even know where Newtown was two weeks ago," Fuchs said on Dec. 24. "Most of us have never seen each other before, but I can tell you we all get together with a common mission: That's to support our fellow officers here in Newtown and to make sure this community is as safe as humanly possible."

Every out-of-town officer volunteered to work over the holiday, he said, with many bypassing the usual extra pay, not to mention celebrating with their families.

Newtown officers said they were heartened by the chance to spend Christmas with their families and for the help they have received in the days since the shooting on Friday, Dec. 14.

"We're very grateful," said Newtown Sgt. Steven Santucci on Dec. 24 as he worked a double shift. Santucci would have been on duty on Tuesday, too, had it not been for the volunteers.

"The support we've received has been tremendous, and it's great to see how well we've worked together. A lot of our people will be able to spend the time with their families," Santucci said.

Staff writers Tyler Woods, Dug Begley, Ericka Mellon and John Pirro contributed to this story.

mdavis@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4407; twitter.com/megdariennews

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