Friday, April 19, 2019
STATE'S ATTORNEY'S ERODING COMMUNITY/ POLICE RELATIONS
We have seen it nationwide, Baltimore, St. Louis and now New haven.
In Connecticut, we have seen first hand the reluctance of State's Attorneys to be transparent. It is not the Chief State's Attorney, it is the States Attorney's for the individual Counties. The County State's Attorneys do not actually answer to the Chief State's Attorney, it is a peculiar system , but that is the way it works.
A couple years ago when Hartford Police Officers were involved in a chase that ended on Flatbush Avenue in West Hartford, allegations of excessive force were made against Hartford Police Officers. The ensuing investigation was turned over to the Connecticut State Police and the Litchfield County States Attorney.
At the time, I was able to see first hand the messed up nature of the system. Chief James Rovella was HPD's Chief at the time and he understood the importance of being transparent and sharing details with his community partners. It was a matter of trust built on relationships with the community.
Despite numerous requests by Rovella to the investigators and the Litchfield States Attorney to release all video of the incident, they refused for almost a year.This did not help to build trust or confidence by the community in their Police Department.
Now let's look at the OIS by the Hamden Police on the streets of New Haven this past week It should be a training lesson by the Hamden Police Department and the State's Attorney in how NOT to handle a Police Shooting.
Recently when HPD had an Officer Involved Shooting, within hours the radio recordings were released. Hamden could insist on doing the same thing
Although there is substantial video and radio recordings of the incident, none of that has been released, even a tensions continue to build in the Community. There are more questions than answers coming out of this shooting and every day that goes by without answers it erodes the needed trust more. There is no reason not to release video or radio recordings, other than to show it was a mess.
Anyone that watched the video that was widely circulated from the business in front of the shooting scene should realize it was a terrible situation. The tactics used by the Hamden Officer should require a trip back to the Academy for retraining at the very least. Now none of us were there and it is easy to second guess the actions not knowing what was going on. The first thing is the way the Hamden Officer parked and ran up to the suspects car without any cover. Now his backup may have been coming in from the opposite direction, out of camera view. He didn't take cover and order the occupants out of the car along with backup officers, he appears to charge at the car firing.
Now if there were backup officers arriving to the right, out of the camera view, the Hamden Officer would have put them in the crossfire of an rounds he fired. Which apparently he did, and from what sources familiar with the investigation are telling me, the Yale Officer who was injured was grazed by a bullet from the Hamden Officer. We are very fortunate that LEO's are not planning a funeral this weekend and we are also fortunate that CSP are not preparing a homicide arrest warrant against a Hamden Police Officer and the passenger in the car is recovering.
Apparently no weapon has been found in the vehicle as of this time.
Hamden and the New Haven States Attorney need to come out and release their initial findings immediately. When did Hamden advise New Haven they were coming into their town? How did Yale PD find out what was going on to arrive before New Haven PD? All of that will probably be revealed in radio recordings and the video will be the same today tomorrow as well as a year from now and it will not change the facts one bit if it is released now. It will not change the facts one bit or taint a potential jury pool, but it will show the community, many of who already mistrust the Police, that they are being transparent. It also appears that the way that the call was dispatched was very flawed and indicated an armed robbery with a gun , but that appears to not be the case
The fact that Hamden has an "interim" Police Chief probably isn't helpful, especially if he is hoping to obtain the permanent Chief position.
But on the other hand, he should know the importance of being honest with the community he serves. If it was bad or if poor techniques were used or if training for his officers is less than adequate, he needs to be willing to say that and commit to making changes to fix it and work to begin rebuilding any community trust and good will that has been lost by this incident.
The New Haven States Attorney also need to see that tensions flaring serves no purpose and steps should be taken immediately to diffuse that. As for the involvement of the Connecticut State Police, former Hartford Police Chief , now the Commissioner of Public Safety, oversees CSP. Anyone concerned about handling this matter properly should call him and ask for some advice. Rovella has been through it before and I am pretty confident he understands the value of maintaining the public's trust and transparency and could provide some excellent guidance