Mayor Luke Bronin has had his fair share of blunders since taking office, but a change in Chief's at this time could potentially be his biggest to date, even bigger than the stadium mess.
Again, according to numerous sources, Assistant Chief Luiz Casanova from the New Haven police Department is potentially being tapped by Bronin to replace Chief James Rovella.
There probably is never an optimum time to change the top leadership of a police department, but now is definitely not the time for such a change. Many of the problems HPD is dealing with now have been of a political nature and to add in another decision driven by politics is wrong.
The largest problem facing HPD currently is driven by staffing deficits and budget issues. And even the budget issue, over $ 9.5 million in overtime costs this year, have been the direct result of the lack of attention to staffing and hiring, driven by our politicians.
For several years, Chief Rovella has put the Mayor and City Council on notice that HPD's attrition rates were unsustainable. No one paid attention until the staffing resulted in a crisis situation which began the dismantling of Hartford's nationally recognized Community Policing program.
No Police Chief is perfect, but Chief Rovella has built strong ties to the community and is well respected and trusted for his efforts. Those ties have proven very beneficial for a manpower strapped Department as the community is called upon more and more to be responsible partners with HPD.
Innovative concepts by Chief Rovella , such as the creation of the Shooting Task Force several years ago have reaped huge results for Hartford in reducing the number of guns and violent crime on our streets. STF was such a success in Hartford, it was eventually used as a model for other cities , including New Haven.
Chief Rovella has been on the cutting edge of leading the way to "do more with less" as his resources continued to drop in numbers. And Hartford's crime numbers have continued to drop also. Now is not the time for change for the sake of a political change.
Homicides down 41.7%, rape down 12.5%, robberies down 20.3%, aggravated assault down 8.8%, burglary down 9.6%, larceny down 4.0%. The only reporting category that was up were auto thefts, 3.9%, and I think I can live with that overall.
We have just seen an uptick in shootings and homicides in the last two weeks, but up to that time the numbers had been pretty good, considering the lack of proper staffing on our streets, but even another couple hundred cops on street corners probably wouldn't prevent the gang shootings and gun violence
Are there problems? Yes., but name any organization of the size of HPD that isn't going to have problems. It is how the administration deals with those problems and sets the tone fore the organization. Many of the problems that have gained media scrutiny have been brought to light by Chief Rovella because he hasn't been willing to sweep bad behavior under the rug to avoid embarrassment.
The next major problem for HPD is how they deal with reports and related video of possible Police brutality claims. Once again, a situation that was brought to light by Chief Rovella when he requested an IAD investigation into what he thought may have been the use of excessive force by a couple of his officers.
That investigation has the potential to be a powder keg for the City of Hartford and HPD. It is how we handle it that will determine the outcome and the community's reaction.
People trust Rovella. He has been alongside the community , shoulder to shoulder with them , facing difficult issues. It is that trust and those relationships that will take a newcomer from New Haven months, if not years to build, and a lot can happen to negatively impact our community and our Police Department in that time.
Word is that New Haven's Assistant Chief Casanova will be in attendance at tomorrow nights Public Compstat meeting at HPD, we need to show our support for our Chief, Chief James Rovella at that meeting and let Mayor Bronin know we count on Chief Rovella's leadership to guide our Police Department and we don't want a change, especially for purely political reasons and to pander to one group or another to try to gain their support. We have too much riding on the future of our City and the future of HPD.