A pair of new officers for the New Milford Police Department helped inititate a tradition.

Officer Michael Ward of Kent and Officer Christopher Hayes of Ridgefield were each presented with inaugural Challenge Coins during their Sept. 18 swearing in ceremony.

Town Clerk Noreen Prichard did the honors at Town Hall before family and friends, and fellow NMPD officers.

"This coin identifies its bearer as a member of our Police Department," said Deputy Chief Mark Buckley, "and is a symbol of department pride."

"It is a token to inspire teamwork," he added, "and camaraderie."

The image of the department's patch is on one side of the coin and the law enforcement oath of honor is on the flip side.

Buckley instructed Hayes and Ward to "reflect on the oath of honor" with each contact they make.

"On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character, or the public trust," the oath reads. "I will always have the courage to hold myself and other accountable for our actions. I will always uphold the Constitution, my community and the agency I serve."

Hayes and Ward graduated Sept. 17 from the police academy in Meriden. They had started training there April 4.

New Milford police Chief Shawn Boyne told the new officers he had been moved by the graduation speeches.

"I was most impressed by the definition of why one would want to became a police officer," Boyne said, "with the adversities that go with such a position. The answer was clear. It is our calling."

Prior to joining the New Milford police, Hayes worked at Colonial Cleaners, a family owned business, leaving as vice president of operations.

He is a Class of 2002 graduate of Ridgefield High School.

"I always wanted to be a police officer to make a difference in the world," Hayes said. "My father, Peter, was my role model. He instilled a strong work ethic that I'm bringing with me to the job."

Ward serves in the Army National Guard with the 143 MP Company. He was deployed to Afghanistan in October 2012 on a 10-month tour, clearing villages and training local police and Afghan army members.

A Class of 2008 graduate of Shepaug Valley School, Ward is continuing a family tradition of police service.

His father, E. Michael Ward Sr., served in the New Milford Police Department from 1984 to 2003, retiring as a patrol officer.

"Joining the force was my goal since I was 12," Ward said.

He then deferred to his father to say what values he had instilled in the younger Ward.

"Truth, confidence and justice," Ward Sr. said. "You do things right. He's grown up that way and I expect him to continue on that path."

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322.