It is funny how things work out. Several years ago,,I was upset by the actions of an HPD Sergeant. I eventually complained to Chief Roberts about that Sergeants actions and eventually that Sergeant was moved out of his position back in Patrol. I am not sure if the transfer was made to shut me up, but none the less the move was made. That Sergeant was Sean Spell.
Luckily since that time, I'll admit I have matured and broadened my vision, so not everything is clearly defined in black and white to me now. Another good friend of mine intervened a few years ago and asked me to trust him when he told me what a great cop Sean Spell was. He also asked me to trust his judgment and could he make an introduction for me and Spell to get together to clear the air and maybe understand each other a little better.
I reluctantly agreed, but I figured myself and Spell had the same desires for Hartford, just maybe a little bit different way of getting there. I was set in my ways of strictly interpreting policy and procedures and there was no gray are or ambiguity. We met, we talked liked civilized adults do, and we both came away with a better understanding of each other.
I gave Spell a clean slate as far as I was concerned and we started talking. Eventually James Rovella came in from the States Attorney's Office when violent crime was out of control in Hartford with this crazy idea of something called the Shooting Task Force. Rovella, who eventually became Hartford's Chief, has an unusual knack for seeing things in people that not everyone else may readily see.
Rovella assembled a team for the Shooting Task Force, all handpicked by him to get the job done. That team included ,now retired, Lieutenant Lance Sigersmith and Sean Spell at the helm. That team they built seemed at many time as though they would follow Rovella, Sigersmith and Spell off a cliff if that was what the mission required. They produced some phenomenal results over the next few years , taking a huge number of guns and violent felons of Hartford's Streets.
Sean Spell played a huge role in that success. Some days it would seem like he was her constantly, and that overtime made him one of the highest earners in the Police Department. His earnings didn't sit well with everyone and created some tension between him and other officers, but I can honestly say that the money was probably the best single investment Hartford could make to reduce crime
Any hour of the day or night, if there was a gun call or any violent crime happening anywhere in the City it seems as though it would only be a matter of seconds before you would hear Sergeant Spell chime in on the radio "570 , I'll be responding". And many times it was 570 , Spells radio designation that would be proclaiming the situation under control ,another suspect in custody, mote guns taken off Hartford's streets.
After becoming friends with Spell and following the efforts of STF, I had a better understanding of the lack of black and white , clearly defined clarity we all hoped would exist. Criminals operate in a grey area, and it is officers like Spell who could also operate in that grey area while still staying in bounds and not crossing into foul territory.
Some of you are probably screaming at your monitors now that "Spell did cross into foul territory". I disagree. I was with a Hartford Police Officer that night during the entire time that the Flatbush Avenue incident was unfolding. It moved quickly and it was chaotic The radio traffic was moving rapidly and 570 was there during all of it.
I spoke to Spell a couple days after the incident and he gave me his version, the same version that is being recounted to this day. He explained arriving at the scene and seeing an HPD Officer with a large amount of blood on his uniform shirt,. The officer explained to Spell that one of the suspects injured in the crash was bleeding heavily from a head wound and was spitting blood.
Apparently, even though the suspect had already been handcuffed, Sgt. Spell approached him and some words were exchanged. Spell readily admitted to me he looked at the suspect and said "you better not have F***ing AIDS". The suspect moved to spit at Spell and he used his foot to push the suspects head away to avoid his attack. Was it an assault or a logical move to protect himself from potentially hazardous contamination?
Let me pose a hypothetical question that might be easier to understand for many. You are out for a walk and a loose pitbull charges you. Do you stand there and take the bite and a potential mauling or would you use whatever is available to defend yourself. You raise your foot and attempt to push the dog away before he bites. Are you now guilty of animal abuse for assaulting the dog, or did you do what was necessary to defend yourself reasonably? Just something to think about.
Sean Spell was able to operate in that gray area I mentioned earlier. If I ever felt that he was crossing the line, I would have been one of the first people to say "Sean , you screwed up". Being able to navigate in that gray area is what made Sean Spell a good cop. No, actually let me say a great cop, and we will never know fully the violent crime his efforts interrupted on our behalf.
Thank you Sergeant Spell, I for one appreciate your efforts and will stand by your side as you clear your name and redeem your reputation as a great cop like so many others at HPD that serve us day in and day out