Friday, April 6, 2012
MR. MAYOR, HERE'S A CAMPAIGN WORTH GETTING INVOLVED WITH
Pictured above, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra campaigning recently in Orlando, Florida for Mayor Buddy Dyer's re-election campaign
Wednesday night I attended the supposedly public forum regarding the selection of Hartford's new Police Chief. I wasn't impressed with Robert Wasserman or his comments he made to me after the forum, but some things aren't worth my time, so I'm not even going to go into that conversation. The conversation that is important to me is one I had with an individual I had before the forum. That person asked not to be named, so I'll agree with that.... for now.
We had a conversation about Hartford's acting Police Chief James Rovella. That person agreed with me that Rovella has made Mayor Segarra look like a hero when it came to reducing violent crime, shootings, shooting victims and most importantly Hartford's homicides. The person I was speaking with, who I'm pretty sure has a good knowledge of HPD, also agreed that strong leadership and a new focus and direction is needed for the department, which Rovella seems to be providing.
We went back and forth on Rovella's leadership , but all of the comments seemed positive and the only negative this person mentioned was the POST certification issue. POST is essentially the Connecticut Police Academy Board,(Police Officer Standards and Training Council) POST controls the training requirements for police officers to be certified. Due to an apparent "glitch" in Connecticut law, even though Rovella is a retired Hartford Police officer and has been the Chief inspector for the Office of the Chief State's Attorney, the legislature never included inspectors in the same legislation required for police officers. The Inspector's are sworn law enforcement officers with full arrest powers and also carry firearms, the same as most police officers.
Ok, not to get sidetracked, but I told the individual that whoever was telling the Mayor that POST was a roadblock to Rovella's appointment was wrong. A perfect example is New Haven's new Chief Dean Esserman, who came back to Connecticut after several years in Providence, Rhode Island. Any certification Esserman may have had from his earlier years in Connecticut would have been long expired, unlike Rovella who has not had any break in his performance as a law enforcement officer in Connecticut.
Hartford has had a long history of non-certified Chiefs. Patrick Harnett was over ten years retired from Police work when he was hired as Chief in Hartford and was not certified in Connecticut and never had been, neither was his sidekick he brought along, Andrew Rosensweig, who was appointed as an Assistant Chief under Harnett.
Well the conversation went back and forth for a couple more minutes and the unnamed person agreed that Rovella would make a good Chief for Hartford and made an interesting suggestion. "Unnamed" suggested that someone start a campaign to "force" Mayor Segarra to choose Rovella as Chief. I replied that no one should have to "force'" Segarra to do anything. Mayor Segarra is the strong Mayor and has every power to make the decision.I said that if I was the Mayor, and someone like Rovella made me look as good as he has made Segarra look since he came back to Hartford eight months ago, it seems like it would be a no-brainer.
More people began filtering in at that point and "unnamed" stated once again "Start a campaign" before he wandered off. I officially announce "campaign season" is underway.
Hartford's homicide rate and gun violence was so severe by last May, that it even attracted the attention of Governor Malloy who was instrumental in bringing Rovella and others to the table to begin a plan to combat the violence.The Hartford Shooting Task Force was born and Rovella was appointed its leader. He hand picked some of the best and brightest people from HPD, state and federal agencies and even the Judicial branch. Immediately the team began to produce results and has attracted attention from far and wide. The City of New Haven recently enacted their own shooting task force modeled after Hartford's, and assisted in it's development by Chief Rovella.
I had never met Chief Rovella, or even heard of him, until the task force was formed and I have to honestly say that I was a little aggravated when the Task force was announced and someone from outside HPD was going to come in and take charge. I have the highest regard for Lieutenant Lance Sigersmith, Commander of the HPD Intelligence Division and I felt the leadership should have gone to him.
It is interesting though to hear Lt. Sigersmith sing the praises of Chief Rovella though and tell how much he has learned from him in such a short time. He tells how Rovella both listens and also definitely makes it known what he expects when it comes to accountability. The shooting task force seems to function like clockwork and in the few weeks that Rovella has been the acting Chief, sources at HPD are telling me those same techniques are being used to bring HPD to a higher level or performance and also accountability.
Word is that one Lieutenant was suprised recently to find Chief Rovella in his office working at 3:00am. When does this guy sleep?
I have to say, I only recently actually met Chief Rovella and had a very interesting conversation with him one night at City Hall. He is an intense individual and you get the feeling you are almost connected to a polygraph as you talk to him. He makes intense eye contact and maintains that as he speaks with you. He is more than willing to talk about his vision for Hartford and his love for the City.
For anyone that knows me, I do not trust people quickly, I am skeptical of many things, especially when someone is making a sales pitch. Rovella actually seemed genuine and I began to get a feeling why the shooting task force was successful. His vison and confidence comes through loud and clear and you just want to say "where do I sign up to help?"
Last night I had a second opportunity to spend some unexpected time with Chief Rovella. I though it would be a few minutes, and even though I didn't actually time it, I think it was close to 2 hours we spoke. I'm not sure if this will make sense, but spending time with Chief Rovella is like being in third gear while at the same time Rovella is constantly in overdrive and speeding ahead.
His vision, and I don't say this lightly,is overwhelming. It's not rocket science or even re-inventing the process. I think it is more about being able to listen, filtering through ideas and practices to see what works and most importantly knowing what it will take to achieve that vision. The thing I think that sets him apart though seems to be an uncanny knack to motivate people and get them to rise to their maximum potential.
I don't know how he has been able to do it in such a short time, but it seems that he has been able to turn around even some of what were the worst attitudes at HPD and make them believers in his plan. I jokingly asked a couple officers singing Rovella's praises where the altar was and where they lit their candles. I don't know if it is a "fatherly " demeanor or just the realization that Rovella isn't out to prove himself or just the fact that he is in this for all the right reasons, but to me, his love for Hartford is amazing.
I observed a traffic stop by members of the shooting task Thursday night and I spoke with one of the supervisors afterward. I asked why it was so low key, and why they were so friendly with the individual they arrested. I was told that was Chief Rovella's way, treat everyone with respect because you never know when you will be dealing with that person again or maybe need their help.
Isn't that the meaning of community-police relations? Treat everyone with respect, right there with that one goal alone, Rovella has my vote for Chief.
At Chief Rovella's request, our two hour conversation was not recorded , shot on video and was off the record. I wish it wasn't because anyone who hears this guys plans for Hartford would ask Mayor Segarra why he hasn't been appointed permanent Chief yet so he can really begin implementing some serious change. Even though Rovella has the title of acting Chief, I think he has been handcuffed by City Hall to implement any extensive change yet. With the summer and the high crime months coming, he should be let loose to begin rebuilding immediately.
Even though Rovella's adult career was in law enforcement, you get the impression immediately that he is a "big picture" guy. He talks about the correlation between HPD and their performance and Hartford's potential for economic growth. He talks about programs for youth and his plans for the PAL program, the Explorer program and how he plans to attain those goals.
He walked me around what had been a mothballed school, now home to the shooting task force and a few other police functions and detailed how he envisions the building being a hub for police/community relations. The pools being used for youth programs. the gym being used for basketball games to build relations between cops and kids, the auditorium as a place for community gatherings, this office here, that division over there and on and on and on.
Like I said before, I readily admit I am a skeptic, I am used to hearing baseless plans from our city officials, but with Rovella you can't help but buy into his vision and I began thinking what the building is going to look like when he is done. Not if it is done, but if he pulls resources together and gets results like he has done with the shooting task force, when it is done. And with that mind of his in overdrive, I am pretty confident it will be sooner than later.
I actually think the "unnamed" person has a lot more influence with the Mayor than I do, but it seems like the time that a decision is made based upon what is best for Hartford. Conducting a national search is good when it comes to providing cover yourself as a politician to say "hey, we crossed our t's and dotted our i's by doing a search" but when the solution is right in your midst, why waste the time. Tell Mr. Wasserman "thanks, here is your payment for your contract, we're all set, we have the perfect fit tight here".
Mr. Mayor, the campaign has begun, but let's do what is right for Hartford. Forget the agendas of others and do what I'm pretty sure you realize is the right thing. Appoint Chief Rovella as permanent Chief and let him make us proud.
You might just have more free time to spend in Orlando as he gets things under control.