One of the things that has paid huge dividends over the last decade or longer has been the time and effort put into Hartford's Community policing program. Hartford hasn't seen many of the problems that we have seen across the US where tensions have blown up between the police and the community. That hasn't happened by chance. It has occurred because our residents have been able to build personal relationships between members of the Hartford Police Department and the community they serve.
I think the goal is that every Hartford police officer will see themselves as a community service officer, but with the current staffing levels, we are developing a police force of robotronic report takers chasing from one call to the next. The time for building interpersonal relationships between the police and the community are quickly coming to an end.
Like I said before, it would be my hope that every Hartford officer sees themselves as a community service officer, but it would seem that very effort is being made to decimate those relationships.
The move to remove Animal Control Officers has had a direct effect on those relationships. ACO's are still an arm of HPD and they typically have a positive influence on police/community relations, as well as providing a vital role in the safety of our community.
The HPD mounted unit is also being decimated, actually decimated is the wrong word, disbanded is more appropriate. I think more for payback on political promises made during the campaign to someone that delivered votes than for real budget reasons. The actual monetary cost for the upkeep of the mounted unit is probably around $100,000 a year for food, bedding and vet costs. The police officers assigned to the unit were already fixed budget costs and now they are just being reassigned elsewhere.
That $100,000 cost for the mounted unit is less than what will be spent on some special events in the upcoming weeks. Special events that we will most likely see no, or very little reimbursement for. Again , it is about payback for votes at election time that we are making suck reckless decisions to decimate police efforts in Hartford.
And these decisions have nothing to do with Chief Rovella. These decisions are being made above his pay grade They are not decisions being made about what is best for Hartford, but more for the future of political careers and future aspirations. I think a future Baltimore of Ferguson happening in Hartford will be the end to those political aspirations. I pray that never happens, but we can't just eradicate years of progress after one election period and budget cuts while still throwing money away in every other direction.
Community Policing is not just a "program" it is a philosophy. Residents who have formed bonds with their "CSO's" or community service officers have been a large part of controlling Hartford's crime efforts. They are much more willing to call and trust an officer that they have a bond with rather than calling the dispatch center and spilling their guts to someone they have never met and have no trust factor with..
These relationships can be witnessed at just about every NRZ meeting across the City as residents interact with police officers they know and trust.
Ironically this weekend is the bid changeover at HPD where new assignments and transfers take place for the next three months. Many officers I spoke with this past week told me it was their last week as CSO's or in their current positions. As of Sunday they go back to patrol to fill holes created by years of incompetence by the Administration's and failing to hire. Previous Council's and the Mayor had been warned repeatedly by Chief Rovella of the dangers of ignoring staffing needs. Now we are forced to pay the price for those years of incompetence.
Last year, Hartford's community policing program was honored and recognized by President Obama in a White House ceremony. At that time Chief Rovella was quoted in the Courant as saying "Community policing is something we have been working on for years," Police Chief James C. Rovella said in a statement. "The more people involved in our efforts, the stronger our police department will be and the better our city will be."
I guess "what a difference a year makes"