The resolution seemed to imply a conspiracy by Chief James Rovella, in conjunction with Mayor Bronin to dismantle and overthrow members of the Civilian Police Review Board. It appears, or was being insinuated, that this conspiracy was being orchestrated to cover up allegations of abuse and findings from a June 4th incident . From what I know, that is the furthest thing from the truth.
One of the allegations is that "new video" had been uncovered from the incident. That is totally untrue and reckless. The incident had been released to all of the media sometime in October. This video was part of the State Police investigation and despite the requests of Chief Rovella to obtain the video and release it to the public, Litchfield County States Attorney David Shepack refused Rovella's request.
During the investigation, Chief Rovella offered an invitation to community "leaders" for an opportunity for a briefing. I think Chief Rovella called the meeting in part due to the lack of transparency and his desire to release the video that was being withheld by the Litchfield County States Attorney and the Connecticut State Police. Sadly I think three or four of us took Rovella up on his invitation and no City Councilmembers or any members of the CPRB were in attendance.
During the month of January I was made aware by a source that HPD Internal investigators were focusing on a specific video clip from a West Hartford Police dash cam that showed several plainclothes police officers kicking a handcuffed suspect while he was on the ground. The investigators identified the plainclothes police officers as HPD officers.
At the January Public Compstat I asked Chief Rovella and Deputy Chief Foley about the video. Although they wouldn't comment on the ongoing IAD Investigation, Chief Foley said that the video had already been released to the media in October. Unfortunately it was during a period when I was hospitalized and I didn't receive it. Foley said he would get a copy of all of this discs with video for me, and true to his word, within a couple days I had probably 12 DVD's with all of the video from HPD dashcams, CSP dash cams and West Hartford PD's dash cams. The same video investigators used and was given to the media previously
Would a Chief involved in a conspiracy or a cover up do that? I doubt it, but it sounds good if you want to start a conspiracy theory to further your agenda, whatever that agenda may actually be.
It was hours and hours of watching very boring video, until I found the clip from the cruiser dash cam of Officer Iacovino from West Hartford. I was a little surprised when I found the clip in question and wondered why I hadn't seen it anywhere before. I think everyone was focused on the Spell video and didn't take the time to thoroughly review all of the discs. So it really wasn't "new" video that had been hidden away as part of some grand cover-up scheme. And any Council person could have made the same request as I did to obtain a copy, if they were really interested in the truth
The allegations regarding the Civilian Police Review Board shakeup are pure nonsense. Any member of a Board or Commission that claims they are backlogged and can't meet because they don't have enough members to make a quorum, and haven't been vocal about the problem , should be removed.
There are plenty of ways to get the message out and force action, but to just sit back and live with bad conditions until you are threatened with replacement, is the height of incompetence and inexcusabe.
Any Board as important as the CPRB is to public trust in our Police Department ,would easily attract media Attention if Commission members dropped a dime to any TV station or media outlet. To sit on their hands and accept a backlog of cases and and lack of a quorum for months ,if not years, is disgusting and any Commissioner worth their weight should be ashamed in their lack of action. The public deserves better and so does our Police Department.
Another fact that seems to be conveniently overlooked is that Chief Rovella launched the initial investigation over his concerns after being made aware of the condition of the suspects in their arrest photos. People who usually are involved in a conspiracy and cover-up don't make the initial complaint to begin with.
It also should be made clear that Chief Rovella and Deputy Chief Foley have been extremely transparent when it comes to HPD. Sometimes that transparency is almost nauseating when I start getting messages and "tweets" from Foley at 6:00am on a weekend, but it is transparency.
I mentioned ignorance a couple times at the beginning of this post. It may be a strong term, but there is no other word to describe not taking advantage of opportunities to educate yourself. Especially when you are going to go off and write less than accurate resolutions that you know nothing about. As part of HPD's transparency , there are numerous opportunities for self education, unless of course that doesn't fit in with your personal agenda or desire to actually be somewhat knowledgeable as to what you are talking about.
The Public Compstat sessions are a product of Rovella and Foley's efforts at transparency. It would be enlightening to anyone that wants to know more about their Police department to attend one. It would definitely be beneficial to a CouncilPerson to maybe learn a little more about what our Police Department does and what actually goes on in Hartford .if they were to attend. To this date I don't ever recall seeing Councilwoman Bermudes at a Compstat meeting, athough I have seen Council President Clarke, Councilman Sanchez as well as Councilwoman Jennings there. I have never seen the Chairman or Vice Chair of the CPRB there either.
The next Public Compstat is this Thursday at 5:30PM at HPD Headquarters at 253 High Street. They are not intimidating, there is no need to sign in or even identify yourself. Just go to the front desk , tell them you are there for Compstat and someone will give you directions to the elevator and the 2nd floor Compstat meeting room. Questions and input are welcomed during the meeting and a lot of valuable information is shared and you can also talk to police officers and Command staff before and after the meetings.
To view my previous posting and the related videos to the incident, click here
On February 18th, HPD issued the following statement:
Council Person Bermudez is correct, the Police Department should not have any say on who sits on the Civilian Police Review Board (CPRB). Yet we have the right to say when CPRB is non-existent and failing the city. We realize how important effective and relevant oversight is to our community. But when CPRB is asleep at the switch for far too long, not paying attention to what is happening and then drags the police department into their political squabble to save their jobs- yes we respond. I believe Councilperson Bermudez was notified of the CPRB replacements well before they asked for the names of the officers. I believe she has the emails to prove it.
My full statement is below:
To effectively and actively lead the external oversight of the Police Department, the Civilian Police Review Board must take great care and effort to examine and understand circumstances, practices and facts. Many things in the resolution put forth last night are just incorrect. The resolution itself and some of the things said last night are likely reflective of the lack of effort and knowledge of the current CPRB.
External, independent oversight of the Hartford Police Department is critical to us and the Hartford community. That oversight has been non-existent. It’s unfortunate that only now they, the CPRB, have come to life, using the West Hartford incident as a political bargaining chip to save their positions. Oversight must be based on fact, not politics. Their lack of knowledge in the process and this ongoing investigation demonstrates a clear need for new effective and active oversight of the Police Department. We welcome and support external oversight.
We also share the same transparency goals as the CPRB. We have consistently been a leading police department in transparency and outreach. We have demonstrated this on many levels and on many occasions, including the handling of sensitive ‘use of Force’ incidents in our city. This resolution put forth is centered on the discovery of “new video”. The fact that the CPRB is claiming they have “new video” is insulting, embarrassing to them, and again demonstrative of their lack of involvement and effort. We put out all the video we had, (including the referenced “new video”) months ago, to every media outlet, the day after we received it. This “new video” was released to community members and media on October 5th, 2016. We made copies and provided DVD’s to anyone who asked, for free. From the moment we received it, this “new video” has always been and will be a part of our internal investigation. This “new video” has been and will be a part of the ongoing external criminal investigation.
Again, this West Hartford incident involving Hartford Police Officers was investigated outside of our jurisdiction. It occurred outside of Hartford and was investigated and is being prosecuted in another part of our State. The transparency of that external criminal investigation was not consistent with our own transparency practices. It should be noted that we initiated the investigation, on our own, hours after the incident occurred.
Separate from the ongoing criminal investigation, we also have an ongoing internal administrative investigation. We again are committed to making this internal investigation public upon its completion. We have also cooperated with the Civilian Police Review Board as it relates to this investigation. We give them everything they ask for and more in a timely manner.
The City of Hartford Civilian Police Review Board is external and separate to the Police Department, as it should be. We the Hartford Police Department, as well as the community, rely heavily on the active critical oversight provided by the CPRB. Regardless of who sits on the board, we will continue to cooperate with them completely, as required. We look forward to working with a functioning, active CPRB.
Deputy Chief Brian J. Foley