Unlike community meetings from the past administration, the sugar coating was gone. It was honest and frank conversations about the staffing shortages in the Police Department and tough budget decisions facing the City for both Police and Fire.
City residents in attendance who stepped up to the microphone were supportive of the efforts of HPD and HFD and the services they provide to our community. I think it was also important that Chief Rovella chose to attend the meeting without a large entourage. People were able to speak to the Chief and some from the Mayor's Staff one-on one, in a very low key manor. I think a large uniformed contingent would have kept that from happening.
Both Chief Rovella and Chief Freeman welcomed residents to call them directly with comments, concerns or questions. Chief Rovella can be reached at 860-757-4000 and Chief Freeman can be reached at 860-757-4500.
Before the meeting began I was somewhat concerned that the opinions might not be supportive of our Police Department. The comments were mostly geared toward HPD and I was afraid that what seems like a national sentiment to bash cops would prevail. Apparently those in attendance realized how fortunate we are here to have the Community Oriented Policing program that Chief Rovella has built in Hartford and the comments stayed on point and very positive.
Several speakers related personal experiences but one in particular really stood out. The woman related how she returned home one night this week to hear gunfire close by as she walked to her front porch. She apparently observed a car pulling away with someone shooting out of the window . She immediately dove for the ground and laid on her front porch to avoid the gunfire. Almost immediately HPD showed up in front of her house. With the assistance of "Shot Spotter" the location was pinpointed and officers were dispatched immediately. The woman couldn't provide much additional information since she was on the ground, but she sang the praises of the Shot spotter technology
Mayor Bronin and Chief Rovella both emphasized the use of technology to increase the effectiveness of HPD's policing efforts.
Mayor Bronin's Office issued the following release after the meeting:
MAYOR BRONIN HOLDS TOWN HALL ON PUBLIC SAFETY
— NEWS AND COMMUNITY STATEMENT —
(February 25, 2016) Today, Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin hosted his second monthly town hall. Speaking with residents gathered at Hartford Public High School, the Mayor stressed the importance of hiring police officers to address the crisis in police staffing, using new technology to modernize the police force, and engaging the community more directly.
“Our most fundamental responsibility is to help keep our streets and neighborhoods safe,” Mayor Bronin said. “That starts with addressing the crisis in police staffing, but we also need to take full advantage of new technology and build even stronger partnerships with residents and community leaders.”
The Hartford Police Department is currently more than 100 officers below the staffing level recommended by independent consultants. Earlier this month, the Mayor accelerated the hiring of a new Police Academy class, consisting of 14 recruits and a Cadet from HPD’s restructured Cadet Program for city residents. The HPD has established a Recruiting Unit to assist in improving the recruitment of city residents and increase the diversity of the police force.
On Wednesday, Hartford unveiled a new Real-Time Crime and Data Intelligence Center to improve city policing and prevent criminal activity in the Greater Hartford region by taking advantage of new technology. The new crime center will help law enforcement make smart, targeted, timely arrests to get the most violent individuals off the street.
The Mayor stressed the importance of engaging the community in new ways to solve problems and generate ideas to tackle violence. In particular, he discussed the City’s plan to open Compstat meetings to the public, including the leaders of the faith community. At Compstat meetings, police share data and information about trends in criminal activity throughout the city.
While laying out the three pillars of staffing, modernization and community engagement as keys to the law enforcement strategy, Mayor Bronin noted that law enforcement is only a part of the public safety equation. “As we continue to strengthen law enforcement efforts, we also need to recognize that public safety is about much more than law enforcement. That’s why we’re going to continue to focus on expanding youth employment, combatting blight, cleaning up our neighborhoods, and building partnerships to help residents with criminal records get a real second chance,” the Mayor said.
“The single most powerful tool for reducing crime in our city is to give Hartford’s young people opportunities for meaningful employment,” the Mayor added. “I am committed to establishing a Youth Service Corps. where members will have the chance to earn a paycheck while serving their community, whether it’s fixing up blighted properties or helping seniors with their homes.”
Mayor Bronin has committed to holding monthly town halls in different neighborhoods around Hartford. He hosted a January town hall addressing his administration’s priorities and his first 30 days in office.