Mark Catania was never quite sure he made the right choice to leave the corporate world and become a police officer. And then soon after becoming a Middletown police officer, he held a lifeless baby in his arms.
“I got to the call,” he recalled of his third week into the Middletown beat in 1994, “the mother handed me a lifeless child and I did CPR on the baby and brought him back to life. That really set me in the right direction knowing I made the right decision.”
Catania is now a 22-year veteran and lieutenant in the Glastonbury Police Department in charge of the 36 officers in the patrol division. The Exchange Club recently selected him as their annual “Police Officer Of The Year.”
Catania, one of eight children, comes from a family of officers with his father serving in Hartford and Rocky Hill. His brother Glenn served in Hartford; Matt in Old Saybrook, Simsbury and now as Plainville’s chief; and Robert in Rocky Hill. Mark said he was young when his father retired from the force, but his brothers “picked up the torch.”
“It’s something I always wanted to do and I looked at it as being in the family business. I didn’t want to be 40 and saying, ‘Geez, what if I didn’t take that shot.’ And I’ve enjoyed the job ever since.
“There has been no looking back for me,” he added. “I’ve built a large following of people on the outside of this agency in town that have made it worthwhile to be here. You are appreciated here as a police officer.”
That’s not always the case in the state or nationwide, Catania said, noting police get “bad press and a bad rap at times.”
“But the large, vast majority of police officers are trying to do the best thing, the right thing at the right time for the right reasons. I believe that’s what stayed the same. You are still doing things for the greater good. You still have the public’s interest in mind. You still have making a difference in someone’s life in mind — whether it’s good or at the time bad — you are still making a positive difference for people to be successful. That’s really what it’s all about.”
Catania said he’s been able to work full time in Glastonbury while getting an associate, bachelor and Masters degree — 25 years after graduating high school — and raised two “wonderful children,” Marissa and Mark, who are now in college. Their career plans? Becoming teachers.
“It’s always been about the greater good and I teach them that,” he said.
He said the biggest change since he started is technology, from computers in cars to smart phones to social media.
“The expectations are a lot different. The public is expecting a police officer wearing seven different hats and sometimes that gets a little frustrating for the new officer on the street. But we adjusted and we continue to provide the best service we possibly can,” he said.
In nomination letters, Catania’s fellow officers said he has a “bulldog” work ethic when it comes to solving crimes and is often referred to for his “resource for criminal intelligence” and is “relentless in bringing a case to a successful conclusion when others would have not given it any possibility of being solved.”
“Lt. Catania is known throughout the agency as a team player and will assist anyone who is in need,” Sgt. Corey Davis said. “He is also known throughout the town for his ability to communicate with people and also his dedication, loyalty and love for the community.”
A dinner in Catania’s honor will be held Feb. 1 at The Gallery Restaurant, 141 New London Turnpike. A cash bar will start at 6 p.m. with a dinner at 7 p.m. The public is welcome and can purchase tickets for $25 at the police department.