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From the news


DECEMBER 02, 2016- 


Police Department                            Mayor Joseph P. Ganim

Chief Armando J. Perez                                       Bridgeport, CT


For Immediate Release                                                                             For More Information:

December 2, 2016                                                                                     Av Harris (203) 814-7992 


-Media Advisory-

Mayor Ganim to Swear-in New Bridgeport Police Academy Class Sunday December 4th at 4:00 p.m.


WHO:             Mayor Joe Ganim, Bridgeport Police Chief AJ Perez, Bridgeport City Council members, Bridgeport Police Officials, New Bridgeport Police Recruits, families, other dignitaries


WHAT:          Mayor Ganim to join Bridgeport Police Chief AJ Perez, other police officials, Bridgeport city council members and other dignitaries to officially swear in the new class of 22 recruits into the Bridgeport Police Academy.  The new class is the 2nd class to enter the academy so far this year, fulfilling the Mayor’s commitment to hiring 100 new Bridgeport Police Officers.  The class also represents the diversity of the city.


WHEN:          Sunday December 4, 2016 at 4:00 p.m.


WHERE:       Bridgeport City Council Chambers, 45 Lyon Terrace, Bridgeport, CT






Av Harris

Director of Communications

Senior Advisor for Public Policy

City of Bridgeport




Council grapples with Ganim’s cop budget

Updated 1:10 pm, Monday, May 2, 2016


Photo: Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media
BRIDGEPORT — Returned Mayor Joe Ganim campaigned last year on a promise to hire 100 new cops.

And his proposed budget boosts Bridgeport Police Department spending by a whopping $13 million. In contrast, the mayor’s plan cuts other departments’ spending, reorganizes offices, flat-funds education and relies on tax increases and $5 million in union concessions.

So as the City Council enters its final full week of budget meetings before having to vote, the police budget is one area that is being scrutinized for more savings.

“That’s somewhere we will most definitely look,” said Scott Burns, a chairman of the council’s Budget Committee. “We’re going to look everywhere, but that’s a big-ticket item.”

Asked if that might mean delaying a class of cops — 100 officers equals three classes at the city’s police academy — Burns said it is possible.

It can cost roughly $80,000 to train, pay and equip one new officer, according to the city’s Finance Department.

“If the mayor were willing to do that, that might make this year’s budget more palatable,” Burns said.

Ganim proposed his budget in early April. Burns and the Budget Committee have met almost daily with department heads. The full City Council has scheduled a budget vote for May 10 at the latest.

Last week it was Ganim’s new acting police chief and longtime political ally Armando “A.J.” Perez’s turn to defend his $53.5 million budget — which represents a $13 million increase over the current fiscal year.

Bridgeport’s Finest are important to Ganim, and not only because he defeated incumbent Bill Finch last year in part by focusing on the Police Department’s retirement-depleted ranks, and spikes in homicides and shootings. The police union also put its credibility on the line and endorsed Ganim, despite the fact his first administration was toppled in 2003 by his corruption conviction.

“We’re in dire straights over there,” the soft-spoken Perez said as he began his presentation to the council members. “We’re down a lot of police officers.”

He argued that sufficient manpower would allow the department to be proactive and prevent tragic crimes.

“You can’t put a price on public safety,” Perez said. “You can’t un-ring the bell. You can’t take a bullet back.”

Safety over schooling?

Before Perez went further in his presentation, Nestor Nkwo, the mayor’s budget czar, sought to debunk the $13 million hike to council members as a potentially fat target for cuts. He attributed much of the increase to unavoidable expenses like pension liabilities, holiday payouts and overtime.

So how do the 100 new cops impact Ganim’s budget? Even Budget Committee members admit it is difficult to tell, based on the document they received.

Perez said the department should have a staff of 427, and is currently down to 352.

The effort to recruit and train 100 new police officers actually began last year, under Finch, and the first of the hoped-for three new classes of around 32 is currently at the academy. The next class is scheduled for September or October.

According to Ganim’s finance office, approximately $2.7 million is set aside for new hires in Ganim’s draft budget.

“Chief, do we need that 100?” Councilwoman Evette Brantley asked Perez.

“You want to keep the overtime down?” Perez said. “You want to keep the streets safe?”

As of early January — halfway through the fiscal year — the $5.5 million overtime budget for Bridgeport police had already been spent, and officers were expected to rack up a total $10.5 million tab when the current budget expires June 30.

Sitting beside Perez, Captain Douglas Stolze argued that the department faces another wave of retirements. Stolze said that by October, 110 officers will be eligible to retire, and that number jumps to 187 by the end of 2018.

Stolze suggested that the longer Bridgeport waits to hire recruits, the greater the risk that the pool of qualified candidates find jobs elsewhere.

“They made a compelling case that we need to be ready to hire 100 cops,” Burns acknowledged afterward. But, he said, perhaps the timeline could be stretched out, with some of the funding pushed into the city budget that would begin July 1, 2017.

Some argue the council needs to share what wealth Ganim has provided the police, particularly for bolstering the flat-funded $254.6 million education budget.

Interim Schools Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz has claimed the school district would need a $15.1 million budget increase just to maintain the services it now provides. More than 200 teachers, parents and children recently packed a budget committee hearing and pleaded for more money.

John Marshall Lee, a city resident who for years has regularly attended budget meetings and scrutinized Bridgeport’s finances, recently told the council: “Ignoring increasing school expenses for 22,000 resident children in our school system is not fair in a year where police administration will increase $13 million. The needs of 350 to 400 police officers should not be allowed to shut out city support for a basic school budget.”

Patrolling the projects

Another potential pressure on Perez’s department is his and Ganim’s recent commitment to provide better policing at the city’s low-income, crime-ridden public housing projects.

Ganim courted votes at those sites and, following two shootings that left one dead and 10 wounded  his campaign opened an unofficial — and controversial — police substation near Trumbull Gardens.

In mid-March, Ganim and Perez announced they were establishing public housing patrols. The administration offered to invest $400,000 for infrastructure and beautification improvements at the projects if their owner, the federally funded Housing Authority, foots the estimated $600,000 bill for six months of police overtime.

“It’s $100,000 a month,” Perez said.

“Wow,” said Brantley.

Burns’ co-chairman, Councilwoman Denese Taylor-Moye, who lives at the Housing Authority’s Marina Village development, worried about what happens once the $600,000 is spent.

“I know the Housing Authority itself is in dire need of financial assistance,” Taylor-Moye told Perez. “When it (the money) goes, how is it going to be replenished? ... There was money put out before for policing and when the money ran out, that was it.”

Perez said the department is looking at grants. He also said a drop in crime from increased policing at the housing projects would inspire the city and its Housing Authority to come up with more funds.

“I know we’re going to do such a good job, it’s going to be a game-changer,” Perez said.


Mayor: community policing returning to projects

Updated 6:15 pm, Monday, March 14, 2016

BRIDGEPORT - Mayor Joe Ganim announced Monday he is bringing back community policing in the city’s housing projects.

The Bridgeport Housing authority has agreed to commit $600,000 to fund the community

policing effort and the city has committed to funding at least $400,000 in bonding

for infrastructure improvements and beautification in the various public housing projects.

“All Bridgeport residents are entitled to feel safe and secure in their own homes. Without police investing in our public housing communities, the criminal element is allowed to run illicit drug and gun rackets in the apartment buildings and towers,” Ganim announced while standing with Police Chief Armando A.J. Perez, residents of some of the city’s housing projects and members of the city council. “Often residents just trying to go about their daily lives in these housing projects are terrorized and afraid to even let their children outside to play out of fear of stray bullets. From today on, our police officers will be there to protect and empower the residents of these communities by gaining their trust and working in partnership. We are here to stay,” the mayor said.

The press conference was held in the new Trumbull Gardens police substation on Reservoir Avenue. Ganim had opened the office as a substation while he was campaigning for mayor only to have Mayor Finch attempt to shut it down and order officers not to use it.

“I can now call this an official police substation, right chief?” Ganim asked Perez. “That’s right,” replied Perez, shaking the mayor’s hand.


Ganim to begin new community policing effort

Published 1:51 pm, Sunday, March 13, 2016

BRIDGEPORT — Mayor Joseph Ganim on Monday plans to announce a new community policing effort for public housing projects in the city.

The mayor plans to hold a press conference at 11:30 a.m. in a parking lot at the Trumbull Gardens tower to reveal the new initiative, along with Police Chief A.J. Perez and Bridgeport Housing Authority Executive Director George Lee Byers.

The effort includes a memorandum of understanding between the city and the BHA to fund policing and security enhancements for the residents of the public housing projects.

Trumbull Gardens last year was the scene of numerous shootings and the violence in part helped propel Ganim’s successful run for mayor. As a candidate, Ganim promised to hire more police officers and focus on reducing crime.



Perez takes helm of Bridgeport Police Department

Updated 10:50 pm, Thursday, March 3, 2016

BRIDGEPORT — If Armando “A.J.” Perez has learned anything in his long quest to become chief of the city’s police department it’s patience.

That virtue paid off Thursday, when Perez took the oath of office as Bridgeport’s acting chief to the thundering applause of hundreds of police personnel, state troopers, city officials, religious leaders and private citizens.

Considered a shoe-in for the department’s top job when his friend, Joseph Ganim, was elected mayor, Perez, who climbed up the ranks from patrolman to head of the detective bureau in his 32-plus years on the force, saw his hopes dimmed when Bill Finch re-signed Chief Joseph Gaudett to another five years hours before Finch surrendered the mayor’s post to Ganim.

“To put it mildly I was disappointed,” Perez, 60, said earlier Thursday from behind police chief’s desk.

“I remember that next weekend, I went with my family to Manhattan and we were sitting in St. Patrick’s Cathedral for Mass, behind the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe,” he recalled. “The cardinal’s sermon was about patience —patience was a virtue — he kept harping on the word ‘patience.’ Later, when we were walking on Fifth Avenue, I turned to my wife and asked her if the cardinal was trying to tell me something.”

Three months after Perez reflected on that sermon, the new Bridgeport mayor swore him in at the City Council Chambers in City Hall, the domed ceiling echoing with Scottish bagpipes and Cuban guitar.

Police union President Sgt. Charles Paris told the Post he would look for a return to community policing under Perez, a policy he said had begun to make the city a safer place before being abandoned by the department.

“We missed out on it for many years,” Paris said. “It made a huge difference compared to where we were.”

The union endorsed Ganim over Finch, apparently angling for a police regime change.

When Paris took the podium Thursday, he remembered the cars Perez drove when the two friends were younger men. He especially recalled a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro with a decal — a rising sun — that puzzled Paris at the time, but now made sense.

“The sun rose in Bridgeport today,” Paris told the audience. “We have a new chief, and we’re proud of him.”

Sgt. Joseph Hernandez, the president of the Bridgeport Police Hispanic Society, remembered Perez’s softer side, even during busy shift changes.

“He always stopped you and asked you, ‘How are you? How was your day? How is your family?,’ ” Hernandez said.

Perez’s first act — after Ganim administered his oath as chief — was to remember and congratulate two of his colleagues who just became chiefs in other towns after long careers in with the BPD — James Viadero, now in Newtown, and John Cueto, the new chief of Duck, N.C.

Then Perez vowed to cut crime rates in Bridgeport, with the cooperation of other local law enforcement.

“We're going to clean this place up; we’re going to make this city the safest city,” Perez said. Later, he added, “I will not have 108 people shot in this city. I will not have 18 homicides. It is unacceptable.”

In 2015, there were 19 homicides in Bridgeport. So far this year there has been only one.

Perez said the thought of being chief had taken some getting used to, but it was the first thing to enter his mind when he woke up Thursday.

“I am the chief of the Bridgeport Police Department, and I will lead this department as long as God gives me strength.“

The new boss

Gaudett, agreed this week to resign as chief to take over the city’s emergency communications center as a consultant, for roughly the same salary he had earned.

When the chief’s seat is vacant, the city has traditionally mounted extensive searches to identify candidates. But the city’s hiring law allows the mayor to “appoint a member of the Bridgeport Police Department as the acting chief of police,” who is then entitled to run the department until a permanent successor is named.

Perez also thanked Guadett for his service at his swearing-in Thursday.

“Chief Gaudett is now in a good position,” Perez told the Post. “He is overseeing a system that he created, and I know we will be working well together for the betterment of the department.”

Perez also said he was not about to cast stones, “But the store is a mess.” The Police Department is down about a hundred officers through retirements and exoduses to suburban departments offering greater salaries.

The prior administration dismantled a number of the department’s units, handing those responsibilities to the state police and the feds. Thousands of dollars seized as evidence disappeared from a safe in the department’s records room.

And then there was the racist letter that an investigation determined was written by the officer who reported receiving it. That cop, no longer with the force, said he was told to write the letter by Lt. Lonnie Blackwell, the president of the minority police organization The Guardians and head of the training academy.

Blackwell has denied any connection to the letter but is on administrative leave pending a hearing before Perez.

“There is no room for that kind of hatred in the Police Department,” said Perez. “I believed we were past that. ... I have a lot of work to do, a lot of healing to do.”

With the encouragement of Ganim, Perez has brought together the different divisions into a unified anti-violence task force that has already been responsible for some high-profile arrests and seizures of guns and drugs.

He said the task force brings together veteran detectives along with younger officers such as Sgt Jason Amado, who has gotten very familiar with what’s going on in the streets. Perez is also giving the captains a greater role and the four deputy chiefs have been given new tasks.

Perez also hopes to eventually hook up the city’s camera surveillance system to those of stores and businesses.

“What we can now do with technology is amazing,” he said.

Sense of community

But Perez said he would also like to bring back the feeling in the department when he came on in the early 1980s.

“It was like a family,” he said. “And we were much closer to the people in the community.”

Perez recalled that on his second day on the job, he was assigned to the midnight shift in the P.T. Barnum housing project. He was riding with a veteran cop who ordered him to start ticketing cars parked illegally around one of the project’s courtyards.

“It was freezing out and my pen wasn’t working, and as I was going along I could hear people shouting ... out the windows at me,” Perez said.

When he got back into the car, the senior officer told him to go back out and take the tickets off the cars.

“When I finally go back into the car I was shivering, and this son of a gun asked me what I had learned. I told him I learned how to freeze ... accomplishing nothing and he told me, ‘No, you learned how to make friends in the project.’

“The easiest thing to do as a police officer is to arrest someone,” Perez continued. “Sometimes you have no choice, and no one is above the law, but there are a lot of poor people in the community and a lot of kids who just need an opportunity to belong.”

So the department is going back to community policing, with plans to reassign officers to the housing projects on a permanent basis.

“I spent my first five years in P.T. and it’s a tough place,” Perez said. “But to this day I can go there and walk around without any fear. The kids that I saw and talked to when I was first there are now adults and they remember me and that’s want I want for my officers.”

While Ganim is his friend, Perez was adamant that he is his own man.

“I run this department, no one else,” he said. “I’m going to be fiscally responsible and I’m going to run the department.”

Staff Writer Alex N. Gecan contributed to this report.


Perez appointed new police chief

Updated 8:42 am, Wednesday, March 2, 2016

BRIDGEPORT — On a day when 21 men and eight women were sworn in as recruits, the Bridgeport Police Department also got a new boss.

Mayor Joe Ganim appointed Capt. Armando "A.J." Perez as Bridgeport's new chief of police, replacing ex-Chief Joseph Gaudett, who has agreed to step down in exchange for a consulting job with the city.

Ganim announced Perez's new job Tuesday night.

"A.J. is deserving of this promotion; he has demonstrated time and time again that he is the best person to lead the Police Department of the city of Bridgeport," Ganim said. "Since he was appointed to head the new anti-crime task force, he has taken more illegal guns off the city streets, seized more contraband and made more serious arrests than this city has seen in a long time."

The move had been expected. But earlier Tuesday, when Ganim and Perez greeted what officials called the most diverse incoming class yet at Bridgeport's Newfield Avenue police academy, the mayor said no change in command was imminent.

"We still have a lot of paperwork to do before we can make an announcement about the next chief," Ganim said, adding that word might come by the end of the week.

As it turned out, things happened much faster than that. Hours after visiting the recruits, Ganim said Perez would be formally sworn in as chief on Thursday at 5 p.m., at City Hall.

"It's with this effective leadership that we will make the citizens of this city safer," Ganim said.

Gaudett, who resigned as chief under a deal that allows him to work in the city's emergency communication center, had not attended the afternoon police academy ceremony.

Ganim and Perez were there to meet the new class, as was police union President Charles Paris, public safety adviser Wilbur Chapman, academy commander Lt. Jeff Grice and state Rep. Charles Stallworth.

The recruits could be hitting the city's streets by the second week of September.

"This is a class that is a reflection of the population of the city of Bridgeport," Ganim told them.

And he said they should be ready for change.

"Chief Gaudett is going to take over a new role, and I am glad to support him in that role," Ganim told the recruits.

Perez will take the helm of a department that has seen a decrease through retirements of about 100 officers in the past two years. Ganim pledged to restore the police force to its full strength of about 400 officers.

"We have made this a top priority," he told the recruits. "If we can't have children safe when they go out and play in the city, then there really isn't a reason to be here."

Perez offered encouragement to the recruits, too.

"I remember sitting in that seat many years ago," he told them. "This is the best job you will ever have. The people you will see, the people you will help, will stay with you for the rest of your lives."


New cop recruit class sworn in

Updated 4:27 pm, Tuesday, March 1, 2016
  BRIDGEPORT — Hailed by officials as the most diverse class in the city’s history, 21 men and eight women were sworn in Tuesday as Bridgeport’s newest police recruits.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, they could be hitting the city’s streets by the second week of September.

“This is a class that is a reflection of the population of the city of Bridgeport,” Mayor Joseph Ganim said, as he addressed the fresh-faced recruits in a classroom of the Newfield Avenue police academy.

In the past two years, with a change in retirement benefits, the city has seen a decrease through retirements of about 100 officers, and Ganim pledged to restore the Bridgeport Police Department to its full strength of about 400 officers.

“We have made this a top priority,” the mayor said. “If we can’t have children safe when they go out and play in the city, then there really isn’t a reason to be here.”

Ganim said there are plans to start a second and third class quickly.

Ganim stood before the class with police union President Charles Paris, public safety adviser Wilbur Chapman, Capt. Armando “A.J.” Perez, academy commander Lt. Jeff Grice and State Rep. Charles Stallworth. Visibly missing was ex-Police Chief Joseph Gaudett who has agreed to step down in exchange for a consulting job with the city.

“We are going through a transition,” Ganim told the recruits. “We are going to have a change in chief. Chief Gaudett is going to take over a new role and I am glad to support him in that role.”

But Ganim stopped short from announcing, as expected, that Perez, a close adviser, would be filling the role of interim police chief.

“We still have a lot of paperwork to do before we can make an announcement about the next chief,” Ganim said later. He said the decision could be made by the end of the week.

But clearly the day was reserved for the new recruits in their tan training uniforms.

“I remember sitting in that seat many years ago,” Perez told them. “This is the best job you will ever have. The people you will see, the people you will help, will stay with you for the rest of your lives.”

Ganim sidelines cop chief, fires assistant

Updated 12:38 am, Saturday, January 9, 2016

BRIDGEPORT — The mayor has reorganized some of the city’s top cops, eliminating the controversial second in command, and further sidelining Police Chief Joseph Gaudett.

Assistant Police Chief James Nardozzi was the main casualty of Friday’s order from returned Mayor Joe Ganim: The mayor eliminated Nardozzi’s $123,420 position.

Hired three years ago by then-Mayor Bill Finch, Nardozzi’s initial mission was to rein in police overtime. He did a good job at first, but has been hampered by a drastic loss in manpower.

Nardozzi garnered a no-nonsense reputation that earned the ire of some in the department, including the union leadership, which endorsed Ganim’s comeback despite the fact his prior administration ended with a corruption conviction in 2003.

“Those duties currently performed by the assistant chief will revert back to the chief of police,” Ganim’s order said.

But Gaudett is unlikely to view that as a sign of Ganim’s faith in his abilities. The order further consolidates other police powers in Ganim’s office, with police Capt. A.J. Perez, a Ganim ally, in a seeming effort to force Gaudett out.

Gaudett is a holdover from the Finch administration. The chief’s contract was set to expire last month, a few weeks after Ganim was sworn in Dec. 1. While overall crime is down, Ganim leveraged spikes in homicides and nonfatal shootings to help defeat Finch in September’s Democratic primary.

During his last days in office, Finch extended Gaudett’s contract for five more years. Ganim could try to buy him out, but the mayor has been complaining about an inherited $20 million budget deficit.

So instead, Ganim has been sidelining Gaudett. The mayor brought in his former police chief, Wilbur Chapman, as a paid public safety adviser.

And Ganim has given more responsibilities to Perez, a longtime friend who is in charge of the detective bureau.

Ganim recently named Perez head of a crime reduction task force.

Friday’s memo states, “The commanding officer of the crime reduction task force will have overall authority for strategic appointment and overtime allocation.”

It begs the question, what is left for Gaudett to do?

At the time the memo was going public, Perez and some other law enforcement officials — without Gaudett and Nardozzi — were at Bridgeport’s emergency operations center showing off a newly purchased driving simulator.

Asked if Ganim’s memo essentially put him in the driver’s seat of the police department, Perez said, “He’s (Gaudett) the chief of police. If I was in his shoes, I’d expect to have the respect of the rank and file.”

Police Sgt. Chuck Paris, the union’s president, was also on hand.

Asked if Ganim’s memo made Perez the de facto chief, Paris said, “I think it puts additional responsibilities on his plate he can handle, without a doubt. He’s going to help make some major decisions in the department, which we endorse.”

Neither Gaudett nor Nardozzi could immediately be reached for comment. Sources have said Gaudett has hired an attorney to protect his interests as the situation continues to evolve.

Friday’s changes further show the influence the police union has on this new administration, given its strong support of Ganim during the campaign.

The decision to ax Nardozzi was made just days after Chapman expressed confidence in the assistant chief and said he had been returned to the overtime beat to help the administration reduce the $20 million deficit.

“He’s a very intelligent guy,” Chapman said of Nardozzi. “He’s energetic, focused and a tremendous asset for accomplishing what city government wants.”

But Paris said Nardozzi, “came from a different department than Bridgeport.”

The bulk of Nardozzi’s career, thus far, was spent in Waterbury.

“He came in under the Finch administration with some strong messages, not taken very well,” Paris said.

Veteran cop advising Ganim

Updated 11:24 am, Monday, December 28, 2015

BRIDGEPORT — Ex-top cop Wilbur Chapman hopped into the passenger seat of the sporty car driven by Mayor Joe Ganim.

Chapman made a crack about having to squeeze into the vehicle’s trunk, and they were off. Former colleagues, old pals, both just returned to the city payroll.

Contrast their relationship with that between Ganim and Police Chief Joseph Gaudett. These days it seems the only place Ganim wants to drive Gaudett is out of town.

But Chapman insists he is only advising the mayor on improving public safety — in fact that is his title — and is working with Gaudett, not taking back his old job.

“It’s not an attempt to usurp anybody,” Chapman said during an interview Monday in the downtown government center. “That’s not my way. I don’t want to do that.”

Chief to adviser

Chapman, 68, was appointed Bridgeport’s first black police chief in 2000, the tail end of Ganim’s first 12 years in office.

Prior to that he was a New York City cop, working his way up from walking a beat in 1968 to chief of patrol in 1995. Chapman then shifted over to run the Big Apple’s transportation department.

After he left Bridgeport in 2005, Chapman returned to the NYPD as deputy commissioner of training.

When Ganim mounted a comeback this year, Chapman supported him and was initially part of the transition team ahead of the Dec. 1 inauguration.

Then outgoing Mayor Bill Finch, in one of his final acts, renewed Gaudett’s contract for five more years.

The expectation had been that Ganim — endorsed by the police union and critical of the drop in manpower, increases in homicides and non-fatal shootings — would replace Gaudett.

Some days passed as Ganim’s advisers mulled over whether Gaudett could be fired or bought-out. Then the returned mayor announced that Chapman would be hired as a senior public safety adviser, earning $64,000 for at least six months.

“I’m not going to be the police chief,” Chapman emphasized. “I have 40 years of experience and a great affinity for the men and women in the police department.”

“If what I can do for the mayor can be done in 60 or 30 days, that’s one thing,” he said. “We’ve left it open-ended.”

The assumption has been that Chapman’s real purpose is to drive Gaudett out. The chief, for example, was not invited to join Ganim and Chapman last week when they toured the Trumbull Gardens low-income housing complex following some shooting incidents there.

“I wasn’t there as a police chief,” Chapman said. “I’m not here to oversee the police or fire chief or anybody else.”

Chapman said he has been tasked with reviewing all emergency services for strengths, needs and efficiencies, “Working closely with the department heads.”

Chapman was hesitant to share his thoughts on Gaudett specifically, but said, “Joe worked very well for me as a lieutenant. Let’s leave it at that. I have no issue working with him, the fire chief or (Director of Emergency Management) Scott Appleby.”

Number crunching

When it comes to the police department, Chapman notes — as did Finch — that overall crime is down. But he echoes Ganim’s concerns that homicides are up 45 percent, not counting the victim of Friday night’s attempted armed robbery of Grand Pizza.

“They’ve reduced overall crime 23 percent, but there are still 18 fewer people who get to celebrate Christmas with their families this year,” Chapman said.

Chapman’s policing-related priorities will include finding ways to reduce overtime while helping Ganim deliver on a promise to speed up Finch’s efforts to graduate 100 new officers from the academy.

Finch’s administration hired James Nardozzi in late 2012 as an assistant chief tasked with cracking down on overtime. It did not improve the ex-mayor’s standing with the police union.

“He’s a very intelligent guy,” Chapman said of Nardozzi. “He’s energetic, focused and a tremendous asset for accomplishing what city government wants.”

Asked if those 100 bodies are the solution to Bridgeport’s woes, Chapman said a depleted police force results in burnout, injuries and fewer cops walking beats and getting to know the people and neighborhoods.

“When I was a foot cop in East Harlem, the junkies used to tell me who the burglars were,” Chapman said.

“But,” he continued, “You could have 200 more cops. If they’re not deployed appropriately that’s not going to solve everything.”

Still, Chapman said when it comes to figuring out how to improve safety and address the shootings, the actual police chief — Gaudett — is in charge of strategy.

Even so, during the interview Chapman was told that an officer was waiting to talk to him about Friday’s homicide. But Chapman emphasized he is not personally involved in the investigation and was only getting some information for a concerned mayor.

So is he the mayor’s liaison to the police department?

“I don’t think that of myself, no,” Chapman said.

45 minute drive

Ganim’s critics mocked him as an ambulance-chaser during the campaign because he frequently showed up at crime scenes, consoling victims, setting up vigils and demanding action from Finch and City Hall.

Chapman said that was not just a gimmick to garner votes, noting their recent visit to Trumbull Gardens.

“It shows something about him which is why I like him,” Chapman said. “He’s concerned about the victims.”

Chapman said that is an important quality for a chief to display as well. While a chief’s priority is “to supply the men and women who do the operation work with the resources, guidance, training, supervision and discipline,” Chapman added: “Police work is done on the street.”

“And that’s where the leaders need to lead,” he said. “Lead by example.”

Gaudett, though he lives in Newtown, rose through the ranks of Bridgeport’s Finest. Chapman, on the other hand, was criticized as an outsider with a home in New York state, where he still resides, and renting a Bridgeport apartment while chief.

Chapman acknowledged that, being an outsider, he had a particular responsibility to get to know the city.

But he defended his living arrangements, arguing that while he was always on call, it is not necessary for a chief to live close by.

“I got here in my own car in 45 minutes,” he said. “I’m not the one to kick down the door on a gun run.”

So, speaking generally, can a mayor and an inherited police chief learn to get along? “Theoretically possible,” Chapman said. “It’s really important to have the kind of relationship where there’s a comfortable level and trust.”

“Can it be built up?” he said. “I don’t know.”

Finch ignores Ganim, renews police chief’s contract

Updated 7:10 pm, Friday, November 27, 2015

BRIDGEPORT - In what some consider a final snub to Mayor-elect Joseph Ganim, outgoing mayor Bill Finch — with just days left in office — renewed Police Chief Joseph Gaudett’s contract for five years on Friday.

“It’s outrageous, it’s appalling,” said Police Union President Sgt. Charles Paris. The union endorsed Ganim with the hope that Gaudett would be shown the exit.

Ganim had urged Finch to refrain from making any policy decisions ahead of the Dec. 1 inauguration.

Asked earlier this week about rumors Finch was going to act on Gaudett’s contract, Ganim said it would be “a mistake for him, Gaudett, the police department, the city.”

“I think that would be reckless and hope he wouldn’t do it,” Ganim said.

But Finch in a statement Friday said his decision, which he believes does not require City Council approval, was all about what is best for Bridgeport.

“Police Chief Gaudett has proven himself to be a trustworthy leader as Bridgeport’s top law enforcement official,” said Finch. “I’m honored to reappoint Police Chief Gaudett to a second five-year term.”

A 35-year veteran of the police force, Gaudett became acting chief in October 2008, during Finch’s first year in office, following the resignation of Bryan Norwood.

In December 2010, Gaudett was appointed chief. While past chiefs have been required to live in the city, Gaudett’s contract permitted him to continue living in Newtown.

Locking Perez out

Finch’s support of Gaudett could have more to do with the individual who Ganim was rumored to want instead -- Chief of Detectives Capt. Armando “A.J.” Perez, a 33-year-veteran of the force.

Ganim, who served as mayor for 12 years until a 2003 corruption conviction, mounted an aggressive comeback this year, beating Finch in September’s Democratic primary and winning November’s general election in a landslide.

Perez was Ganim’s driver during his first administration and often at his side during the recent campaign.

It was Perez who, though never charged with anything, stored cases of expensive wine at his home that Ganim received as part of his past pay-to-play schemes.

“How does that make the city look?” said one Finch ally who wished to remain anonymous but confirmed Perez’s possible promotion to chief was of concern. "How do you help the city move forward if that’s the optic?“

Perez has since worked his way up through the ranks and is admired by many of his peers as a hardworking supervisor. In an interview last year he told the Connecticut Post: “Joe Ganim is my friend. And I am very loyal to my friends. I never saw him do anything wrong, only good for the city of Bridgeport and that's it.”

Whatever Finch’s motives, his announcement Friday appears to leave Ganim with two choices: Work with Gaudett, or buy out the chief’s new contract.

The mood was very somber at the police headquarters Friday, with many officers concerned that Gaudett’s reappointment may tear them apart.

Some contended that a new chief would provide a fresh start in light of the two investigations of the department now going on -- the disappearance of up to $38,000 from the safe in the department’s record room and a racist letter that was disseminated in the department.

The city’s Office of Internal Affairs concluded its investigation of the letter, but its report has been sitting on Gaudett’s desk for six weeks with no action.

Paris hinted the union may take some action in response, but declined to comment further.

Finch credited Gaudett with making "tough decisions that have resulted in a stronger department.”

“He’s earned the trust of our community by serving as a strong voice for fair and honest law enforcement practices. He’s led-the-charge in cracking down on crime in the state’s largest city, which has resulted in some of the lowest crime rates the city has experienced in nearly a half-century,” Finch said.

During the campaign Finch frequently touted overall lower crime statistics, while Ganim focused on the rise in homicides and non-fatal shootings, and criticized the administration for not acting sooner to bolster a department depleted by retirements.

As of Wednesday, the mayor’s spokesman, Brett Broesder, said he did not think Finch would renew Gaudett’s contract.

But both the mayor and the chief skipped out that morning on a press conference they had been scheduled to attend to promote the enhanced use of video surveillance.

Bridgeport chef treats cops to Thanksgiving feast

Updated 6:20 pm, Thursday, November 26, 2015

BRIDGEPORT — Michel Martinez is eternally grateful he is alive — thanks to a Westport cop who stopped him from driving drunk onto I-95 in 2008.

“He stopped me near the Sherwood Island connector,” Martinez said Thursday. “I couldn’t even stand up. If I had ever gotten onto the turnpike, I would have killed myself, or worse, someone else. That police officer saved my life.”

And he did so by treating Martinez with “the utmost respect’ and convincing him to change. Martinez did that by going back to school.

In 2011, Martinez added a diploma from the French Culinary Institute in New York to the one he received from Harding High School in 1993.

On Thursday, Martinez, who owns Festive Food Caterers on Stratford Avenue, gave up his Thanksgiving to serve the people in blue as well as anyone else who stopped by the canopy set up outside police headquarters.

Martinez was not alone on Thursday. Volunteers across the nation worked with organizations like United Congregational Church on Park Avenue to provide a hot meal to those in need, but spending the holiday to feed police officers was more of a unique experience.

“When something bad happens who do you call?” Martinez said. “When tragedy strikes who are the first people on the scene? The police. Our police across the country have been getting a bad rap lately.”

So for the past five days, Martinez and his helper, Jorge Sepulveda, a 17-year-old Bassick High student, planned, purchased and prepared the feast.

They baked eight turkeys, peeled pounds of potatoes for a salad, boiled bags of rice, candied yams and concocted a special sausage, carrot and celery stuffing. Sepulveda’s dad even roasted a pork for the feast. And their creations, along with bakery-purchased pumpkin and coconut custard pies, filled a rented van they used to cart the food to Congress Street.

There was enough for at least 150 meals. The leftovers were going to be donated to shelters, Martinez said.

“This is awesome,” said Sgt. Chuck Paris, head of the police union who stopped by the feast. “It says to our officers that people care. We don’t ask for pats on the back, but it’s nice to get one once in awhile.”

“For him to give up his own holiday to serve us means a lot,” added Sgt. Stacy Lyons, who was on duty inside the headquarters. “I’d probably be eating Chinese food or a sandwich today.”

Among those who stopped by to thank Martinez was mayor-elect Joe Ganim.

“Whether its Chef Martinez, or the 300 meals Danny Roach’s organization handed out or what the soup kitchens are doing today — this is the true spirit of what Thanksgiving is all about,“ Ganim said. “It’s the good that’s in Bridgeport.“

But for Officer Joseph Liskiewicz, this was a first.

”“I‘ve been a cop for 18 years and never saw anything like this before," he said.

“It’s nice to be appreciated, especially with all the negative things being said about cops,” Police Officer Minerva Feliciano said.

But it wasn’t just the officers who got served. Martinez and Sepulveda made plates for anyone who walked by the police station.

That included a young mother with her baby and Marisol Huertas, a Hancock Street resident who showed up to report a theft.

“That is so beautiful,“ Huertas said. “I’m going to call him for any functions I have.”


Paris re-elected police union head

Updated 7:04 pm, Thursday, October 22, 2015

BRIDGEPORT — The Bridgeport Police union has re-elected Sgt. Charles “Chuck” Paris to serve a fourth term as president of the 361-member bargaining unit.

“It is an honor and a privilege to lead the Bridgeport Police union,” Paris said. “We have an extraordinarily dedicated group of men and women whose priority is to make Bridgeport safe and livable. I appreciate the faith our membership has in me, and I look forward to continuing the work we have started.”

Local 1159 members also elected Patrolman Ricardo Lopez as vice president and Sgt. Phil Sharp as treasurer. Officer Danny Gomez, Sgt. Greg Granello, Officer Jim Ivanko and Lt. Ron Mercado were elected as executive board members.

Paris said that union leadership will continue to seek improvements in staffing, safety and morale.

“We work hard to keep our families and communities safe,” he said. “It’s only by having a union and a voice at work that we can speak up to improve the quality of our jobs and our relationships with the people of Bridgeport.”

Paris said one the union’s priorities will be to work with city officials to improve access to quality, affordable health care by joining the state health care plan - an option made possible this year by state law.

Four officers promoted to detective in Bridgeport

Published 9:18 am, Monday, September 28, 2015

BRIDGEPORT — Four city police officers will be promoted to the rank of detective in a ceremony Monday afternoon.

Frank Delbouno, Michael Cantrell, Thomas Harper, and Jeffery Holtz will be sworn in as detectives in the Bridgeport Police Department at 4 p.m. in the Margaret E. Morton Government Center, 999 Broad Street.

Mayor Bill Finch, Chief Joseph Gaudett and Assistant Chief James Nardozzi will preside over the ceremony.

Bridgeport Police Chief Gaudett announces K-9 training for officers

Bridgeport Police Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr. announced the beginning of K-9 training for two Bridgeport police officers.

Police Officers Marie Cetti and John Pachera began their first day of training at the Connecticut State Police Canine Unit in Meriden, Conn.

Each officer is paired with a dog, trained as a team, and then will enter the field together.

Officer John Pachera with K-9 Caleb.

Officer John Pachera with K-9 Caleb.

Officer Cetti is paired with K-9 Nemesis, and Officer Pachera is paired with K-9 Caleb.

Officer Marie Cetti with K-9 Nemesis.

Click here for photos of Officer Cetti with K-9 Nemesis, and Officer Pachera with K-9 Caleb:

Police dogs perform an invaluable service by helping to detect drugs, locate suspects or missing persons, and assist in arrests,” said Police Chief Gaudett. “I am excited for Officer Cetti and Officer Pachera to begin this training and to eventually join the storied history of specialized units in the Bridgeport Police Department. Both officers have demonstrated incredible professionalism, work ethic, and dedication to earn this appointment. These efforts go a long way toward keeping kids and families safe in Bridgeport.”

Once the training is complete, Officer Cetti will make history as the first female K-9 officer.

“We are particularly proud that the K-9 unit will be getting the first female officer in its history,” said Chief Gaudett.

The training includes a fifteen week course in handler protection, evidence recovery, building searches, obedience, and classroom education.

K-9 training is considered one of the most rigorous and intense trainings an officer can take.


Family appreciative of support for injured Bridgeport cop

Updated 10:39 am, Thursday, August 20, 2015

BRIDGEPORT — The mother of a Bridgeport police officer critically injured in a motorcycle crash last week said Wednesday that his family is heartened by the support of city residents and police officers.

Sheldon Mayne, 32, has been upgraded to stable condition at Hartford Hospital, his mother Elva Mayne said. The five-year veteran of the Bridgeport police department had been critical and in a coma following crash Friday night on Interstate 91 near Hartford.

“He is doing better, and police officers are in touch with us every day,’’ Elva Mayne said. “Many of them have visited him in the hospital. We are also thankful for the support people have shown us.’’

The family has set up a GoFundMe page that has raised $14,480 from 150 people in just two days.

Mayne was riding his motorcycle on I-91 at about 11 p.m. on Friday when he was clipped by a car and thrown several hundred feet, said friend Carolyn Vermont.

Elva Mayne said her son “is a wonderful father, even though he is my son.’’

Although the officer has no children of his own, he is the primary support for the family and a role model to his nephew, a family friend said on the fundraising site.

Mayne came from Jamaica 14 years ago and settled in Bridgeport. He enjoys playing and watching basketball and riding his motorcycle, family members said. Mayne normally works the 4 p.m. to midnight shift.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Officer Mayne and his family,” Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr. said in a prepared statement. “He is a great officer, brother, son, and uncle. The entire Bridgeport Police Department hopes he makes a full and speedy recovery.”

Bridgeport police have also set up an account to help Mayne at the Bridgeport Police Credit Union. Details can be obtained at 203-374-6500.

“Becoming a police officer is a special calling, and when one of us needs support, we come together like a family,” said Sgt. Chuck Paris, president of the Bridgeport Police Union. “Sheldon Mayne is that brother that needs assistance.”

“Thank you again so much for all of your support in each and every way! Please keep the prayers coming!” wrote Rachel Pelkisson Jarvis, a family friend, on the GoFundMe page she created for Mayne.

Many of the donors also promised to pray for Mayne and his family. “Strength, hope, and prayers are sent to my brother in blue and his family,’’ wrote Tom Scanlon in a typical message with his $100 donation.; @FrankJuliano

Police union criticizes mayor’s ‘diverse’ remarks

Updated 12:48 pm, Friday, July 31, 2015

BRIDGEPORT - The city’s police union has taken issue with Mayor Bill Finch’s recent remarks about needing a more diverse police department.

“Every day, Bridgeport police officers put on a uniform and place their lives at risk, solely to keep our community safe. We are proud not only of our work, but of the city and its people. We, too, are part of the community, not an entity apart from it,” said Union President Sgt. Charles Paris is a statement Friday.

“So while we agree with the Mayor that diversity in hiring is important, we find it less than responsible for him to imply that Bridgeport is somehow less safe because its police force is not reflective of the community. To even suggest that is preposterous,” he stated.

“Bridgeport police officers urge the mayor to tackle the real problems facing our police force, from staffing levels to equipment problems. The fact that the Finch administration has yet to address the outcome of an investigation into a racist letter is indicative of their inattentiveness to our morale issues.

The Bridgeport police force strives every day to be a respected part of our community. We don’t make hiring decisions or push papers. We focus on serving the community to the best of our ability. We don’t categorize each other by race or gender or any other identification. That only color or label that matters is blue. It’s our uniforms that bind us and symbolize our commitment to keeping Bridgeport safe and livable.”

The union has endorsed Joe Ganim for mayor


Mayor announces new cop list

Daniel Tepfe, Connecticut Post
Published 8:25 am, Monday, July 27, 2015

BRIDGEPORT - City officials Monday morning took the next step to hiring new police officers, announcing a new civil service list for police recruits.

“We worked hard to find not only the best people and also people who reflect the diversity of our great city,” said Mayor Bill Finch. “I’m proud of the work by our recruiters. They were out in the community and worked with the community. That another example of how Bridgeport is getting better every day.”

The city expects to hire, train and deploy 100 new police officers in the next 18 to 24 months.

The announcement comes amid criticism of the mayor and police chief by the police union and other in the community for not being proactive in heading off numerous recent retirements of police officers.

The mayor is making a formal announcement of the new list at 11 this morning at the Margaret E. Morton Government Center, 999 Broad St.


Police union wants results of racist-letter probe

Daniel Tepfe, Connecticut Post
Updated 5:03 pm, Thursday, July 16, 2015

BRIDGEPORT — The city’s police union is demanding to know the outcome of an investigation into a racist letter that was circulated around the Bridgeport Police Department in February.

“It has been five months since you jointly launched an investigation into the racist letter that was typed on city letterhead and distributed throughout our department,” Union President Chuck Paris stated in a letter Thursday to Police Chief Joseph Gaudett and Dora Schriro, state commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection. “Therefore, on behalf of the union that represents nearly 380 City of Bridgeport Police Officers, I am writing to ask for a report on the outcome of the investigation and your findings.”

Schriro, who heads the Connecticut State Police, and Gaudett did not immediately return calls for comment Thursday.

“Our officers are waiting to know what the investigation has brought out, we need closure,” Paris said. “Our name and reputation has been spread across the country by this letter but we were not included in the process.”

Police officer Clive Higgins, who was the target of the letter, recently resigned after being questioned by the city’s Office of Internal Affairs, sparking speculation but providing no hard facts as to the origin of the letter.

The racist letter was typed on city letterhead and distributed through the Police Department and began and ended with "White Power," a term coined by the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party in the late 1960s and ’70s. It asserted that Higgins didn’t belong in the Police Department.

The letter went on to make negative comments about African-American officers.

The racist letter came on the heels of Higgins’ acquittal in January of felony civil rights violations in the May 2011 stomping of Orlando Lopez-Soto in Beardsley Park. A video of that incident made by a passerby in the park went national.

Gaudett requested that the state police investigate where the letter came from after the local chapter of the NAACP demanded a probe.

NAACP Chapter President George Mintz did not return calls and emails for comment Thursday.

“As you know, our union welcomed and cooperated with the investigation into this terrible incident,” the letter to Gaudett and Schriro continues. “I said at the time that department morale was at the lowest level I’ve seen in a long time. This is a very difficult time to be a police officer and we all need to be mutually supportive of each other. The absence of any information regarding your investigation continues to be a drag on our morale and an impediment to moving forward.

We signed on as police officers to make a difference through our service to the public. We are proud of the work we do — often under dangerous conditions — walking our beats, patrolling our communities, and working for the betterment of Bridgeport.

While we will never waver in our commitment to duty, we will continue to voice our concerns about negative working conditions that impact our lives and our reputations. We deserve better than to have “radio silence” regarding the outcome of your investigation. We cannot heal wounds when we don’t know the nature of the injuries.”


New police contract could spur exodus

Frank Julian, Connecticut Post
Updated 12:27 am, Monday, July 13, 2015

BRIDGEPORT — It can take more than a year for a newly hired police officer to begin patrolling the city streets alone.

It takes about 10 minutes for a veteran officer to retire, and the Bridgeport Police contract that went into effect July 1 makes that option more attractive, current and former officers say.

At a time when the city’s police manpower is the lowest it has been in years, the prospect of a new class of recruits filling the gap is a mirage, current and former department members say.

“Seven have retired this month, and I anticipate 10 more going next month,’’ said Sgt. Chuck Paris, the union president. “Those are just the ones we know about. Anyone can file paperwork today and be retired tomorrow.

“We have 379 (certified officers) right now, which is the lowest I remember it being since I came on in 1993,’’ Paris said. “Morale is low. This is the critical time; we’re always busier in summer.’’

“I think 20 or 30 more might go by the end of the year, and there is no way hiring can catch up to that,’’ said David Daniels, a retired Bridgeport police lieutenant who said he plans to run for mayor as an independent.

Assistant Police Chief James Nardozzi said the department plans to train, hire and deploy about 100 new officers over the next two years.

“We plan to seat back-to-back-to-back classes at our Bridgeport academy and are discussing sending additional recruits to other academies, if spots are available,’’ Nardozzi said. “In the meantime, we continue to keep the same number of officers on the street.’’

Union: Starting pay low

But Paris said that hiring goal seems optimistic, given background checks and other lengthy preparations still need to be done.

“I don’t anticipate an academy class beginning much before the end of the year,” he said. “And that takes six months to complete.’’

After that, probationary officers work with experienced cops for several months before they can patrol on their own.

Under the new contract, any new officers hired will not have paid health benefits at retirement, and the department’s unlimited sick days have been eliminated. Although the contract provides raises of 2.5 percent in each of its four years, three of those years are retroactive, meaning a new round of negotiations will happen next year.

The starting pay of $52,061 for a Bridgeport police officer is low for a city its size, Paris said. A newly hired Milford police officer, for example, earns $59,784, that city’s 2015-16 budget shows.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, however, said with the transition to the Connecticut Municipal Employees Retirement System, the Bridgeport Police Department has become one of the most attractive in the state.

“The city offers a very competitive retirement package, continues to offer 100 percent tuition reimbursement for police officers and, as a larger department, provides an opportunity to work on specialized units such as the Marine Unit, SWAT, the Mounted Unit, K-9 and traffic,’’ the mayor said in an email sent by an aide.

The Bridgeport Police Department receives an average of 400 calls for service each day, Paris said.

“There is no community policing going on, no informal contact with residents,” he said. “We’re just chasing calls. So much needs to be done that isn’t being done.’’

City and police officials stress that full coverage is being provided, despite the reduced number of officers. All two-person patrol cars are going out with two officers, and all shifts and sectors are covered, they say.

Crime is also continuing its downward trend overall, though homicides and non-fatal shootings in Bridgeport are both up from a year ago.

Filling gaps with overtime

The shifts are being covered by overtime and extra duty, meaning the same number of cops are doing more work. While they are generally pleased to have the extra duty and higher pay, Paris and Daniels say there is a specter of a department being spread too thin.

Daniels and Paris say another contract provision—giving the chief the authority to fire a department member without going to the Board of Police Commissioners — will have a chilling effect on morale.

“Most officers believe that the chief is a tool of the mayor and that it will be the mayor doing the firing,” Daniels said.

Finch faces a tough battle to win a third term. Democratic challengers Mary-Jane Foster and former mayor Joe Ganim have been sharply critical of the mayor’s oversight of police staffing.

Daniels, as the department’s community relations officer, had been outspoken in his criticism of some decisions Finch and Gaudett have made.

“They wanted me gone, but I also wanted to leave,’’ the retired lieutenant said. “The Bridgeport Police Department hasn’t had a formal community policing program in 10 years, and all of the positive things the department can do are an offshoot of that.’’

Daniels and Paris said the retroactive raises, which will bump up pension calculations, could lead more police officers to file for retirement.

“I was making $80,000 as a lieutenant when I retired last April, which meant I could retire at $40,000,’’ Daniels said. “But when we switched to the state system, which looks at the three best years, that bumped it up another $20,000. Would you stay?’’


Ganim gets police union’s official support

Brian Lockhar, Connecticut Post
Updated 7:09 pm, Thursday, July 2, 2015

BRIDGEPORT — It’s a new version of “cops and robbers,” with the mayor’s office at stake.

On Thursday, the city’s police union, after interviewing most of the Democratic candidates for the job of Bridgeport’s chief executive, including incumbent Bill Finch, chose the one who held it for 12 years until he was sentenced to prison for corruption.

Bridgeport’s Finest’s endorsement of Joseph Ganim comes as Finch continues to try to convince voters that the city is safer under his leadership, despite some high-profile homicides and a rise in non-fatal shootings.

“I’m honored to have the overwhelming support of the Bridgeport Police Department, and look forward to working in partnership to make the city safer,” Ganim said following the union’s afternoon vote at the Port 5 Naval veterans club in the waterfront Black Rock neighborhood. “These are the individuals, more than anybody, out there facing challenges in our neighborhoods.”

Ganim noted the endorsement, made by only around 70 of the union’s few hundred members, was particularly meaningful because of his criminal history and because Finch and the department, after months of contentious negotiations and one failed vote, recently agreed to a four-year contract.

Because three of those years are retroactive, however, the union and the next mayor will be at the negotiating table in 2016.

Ganim has campaigned on bolstering the department’s thinned ranks.

On Thursday, he said he also supports equipping officers with body cameras, something the Finch administration is pursuing in the face of some reservations by union leadership.

“I don’t think it’s the end-all answer, but it’s a piece,” Ganim said.

The union’s decision to embrace Ganim was no surprise, considering some officers, including Sgt. Chuck Paris, the union president, have attended his fundraisers.

Still, as she exited her interview Thursday, businesswoman Mary-Jane Foster, who enjoyed police support during her unsuccessful attempt to unseat Finch in 2011, was optimistic about her chances.

“They know I am a friend and supporter and have the utmost respect for our force,” said Foster, who hopes to appeal to voters who do not want Finch for a third term but cannot stomach returning Ganim to office.

At least one officer, who did not wish to be identified, said a warm goodbye to Foster in the club’s parking lot, and said she is the best of the candidates expected to face off in September’s Democratic primary.

“She’s intelligent. She doesn’t have the political ties that have corrupted this city for years and years and years,” said the cop, who has moved out of town.

Many police union members cannot vote in Bridgeport. Still, Paris said, they have influence.

“We all have family, friends in Bridgeport,” he said. “We have contact with many people in the community.”

Paris did not reveal the details of Thursday’s vote, other than to say it was “overwhelmingly” for Ganim and that around 70 union members participated.

He said that group represented an array of the department’s divisions, but Finch’s camp downplayed the endorsement as made by just a few cops.

“It’s ironic that in a backroom-deal setting, a small group of select union members decided to support Joe Ganim — a criminal who as mayor was convicted of 16 felony charges and spent seven years in jail for systematically steering city contracts to friends in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes,” said Finch campaign manager Maryli Secrest. “Mayor Finch remains focused on earning support from hardworking Bridgeporters across the city — and the hundreds of Bridgeport police officers who are protecting our streets every single day, helping the city see some of its lowest crime rates in nearly a half-century.”


City will interview 800 for 40 police openings

Frank Julian, Connecticut Post
Updated 4:46 pm, Tuesday, June 16, 2015

BRIDGEPORT — More than 800 candidates for 40 openings for Bridgeport police officers will be funneled through the Webster Bank Arena for their oral interviews this week.

The candidates already have completed the written portion of the civil service exam as well as the physical agility exam, said city spokesman Brett Broesder. Each one will now be interviewed by one of 14 three-person panels. Each panel will include one city official, one ranking police officer and one community member, Broesder said.

Once the oral interviews are completed, the testing company will calculate each candidate’s score. Bridgeport residents will receive an additional 15 percent of their score for residency.

The goal is to seat up to 40 police recruits in an academy training program this fall, the city spokesman said Tuesday. They would graduate in the spring.

There are 79 unfilled positions in the Bridgeport police department, said former mayor Joseph Ganim, one of three Democrats opposing incumbent Mayor Bill Finch’s bid for a third term. Ganim and Finch organized competing prayer vigils last week, after nine people were shot and one man killed at the Trumbull Gardens apartments.

The shooting remains unsolved; the Bridgeport police are being assisted by the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force in the investigation.

Finch has touted a sharp drop in crime during his administration. Violent crime in Bridgeport has dropped 40 percent over the past 10 years and the homicide rate has been nearly halved from the 22 killed in 2012.

Police Union President Charles Paris sees it differently. “It’s a sad day for the city of Bridgeport,” Paris said after the Trumbull Gardens shootings on Thursday. “We need to step up patrols in the area. We are short and we need help.’’

Mary Jane Foster, a Democrat who is making her second mayoral run, was also critical of Finch for “sitting back while police staffing levels have plummeted to their lowest level in decades.”

Carmen Colon, an executive director of the Central Connecticut Coast YMCA, and Carolyn Vermont, the director of urban initiatives for Connecticut Against Gun Violence, will be citizen representatives on the interview panels.

Colon said she believes that it is the first time that residents have been invited to participate in the hiring process for new police officers.

“As community leaders, each day we are out there in the community,” Vermont said. “We know what some of the needs are. We know that we need to strengthen the relationship between police officers and the community.’’

Finch said residents are “stakeholders’’ in the city and deserve to be part of the process. “Bridgeport is a very diverse and inclusive community so we want diverse and inclusive panels to conduct the interviews.’’; @FrankJuliano


Bridgeport cops cleared in deadly force case

Updated 11:07 pm, Wednesday, May 20, 2015

BRIDGEPORT -- It was an undercover operation to grab a gun dealer that quickly devolved into pandemonium.

Within 28 seconds, four city police officers -- later claiming they thought they were being fired upon -- riddled the gun dealer's car with more than 20 shots in a dark Boston Avenue parking lot.

Bullets killed the passenger, Carnell "Nay Nay" Williams, 23 and wounded the driver, 24-year-old Kiarra "Kiki" Davis, in the head.

On Wednesday, following a year and a half investigation, Litchfield State's Attorney David Shepack cleared the four -- detectives Chris Borona, James Borrico, Sean Ronan and Officer Everton Walker -- of any criminal wrongdoing in the incident.

"Officer Walker and Detectives Ronan, Borrico, and Borona believed the use of deadly physical force was necessary to defend themselves and their fellow officers from the imminent use of deadly physical force. It is further concluded that their belief was objectively reasonable," Shepack stated in his report.

Shepack said the officers were justified in their use of deadly physical force and that "such force was appropriate under (state law). Accordingly, no further action will be taken by the Division of Criminal Justice."

"I think there was a lot of creative writing on his (Shepack) part," said Davis' lawyer, Robert Berke, who is preparing to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city's police department over the shooting. "This is not as clear cut as he concludes."

Questioning the probe

Berke said it is clear that only police officers fired any shots and he pointed out that the officers involved were not questioned by state investigators, but instead were allowed to submit written reports that were not done under oath and were made a month later.

When state police examined Davis' car after the shooting they found two unloaded guns with the bullets for both guns in a backpack. There is no indication in the report when the guns were tested to see if they had recently been fired.

Williams was shot five times with the fatal shot entering his mid back and exiting his chest, according to the report. The Chief State Medical Examiner later determined the fatal shot was fired while Williams was in the car.

Berke also questioned the statement of a civilian witness at the scene who corroborated the police officers' accounts. Although he said he has received a number of reports on the incident from the Police Department, the report by the witness was not one of them.

"This was an extremely tough situation for everyone involved," said Bridgeport Police Chief Joseph Gaudett. "It's a very difficult decision for any police officer to use force, but on rare occasions it's necessary in order to keep our neighborhoods safe and secure. And, after a comprehensive investigation of this incident, the Litchfield County State's Attorney's Office determined the officers in this case were justified in using force."

In November 2013, the Gang Task Force, made up of Bridgeport, state police and state corrections officers, received information that Davis had two guns to sell for $750. Officer Walker posed as potential buyer and arranged to meet Davis on the night of Nov. 25 in the Bayview Plaza parking lot to make the deal, according to police reports.

Twelve police officers were involved in the operation. Borona, Borrico and Ronan were called in as backup.

Borona was still under investigation at the time for fatally shooting a Bridgeport man, Bryan Stukes, outside a fish market on Pequonnock Street the previous April.

In that case, Borona had been visiting the owner of a fish market on Pequonnock Street when he was told Stukes was outside the store pointing a rifle at another man. Borona ordered Stukes to drop the gun and when Stukes refused, Borona shot him in the leg. As Stukes then fled with the gun, Borona shot him in the upper back, the report states.

In July 2014, Stamford State's Attorney David Cohen, who had been appointed to investigate the case, found that Detective Christopher Borona's use of deadly forced was justified by law.

"Gun! Gun! Gun!"

Officer Walker was talking to Davis through the passenger window of her car when he said Williams picked up a large revolver from the floor in front of him.

"He was holding the revolver by the handle ... from where I was standing I could see the rear of the cylinder and I noticed that there were bullets inside the weapon," Walker said later in his written statement. "Based on my observations I believed the gun was loaded."

Walker gave the signal that a gun was in play and everything broke loose. Unmarked police cars pulled up to prevent Davis and Williams from fleeing while encircling the suspects' car.

The officers were yelling: "Police! Police! Police!" and then "Gun! Gun! Gun!" according to authorities.

Borona, who was standing by the windshield of Davis' car, said he shined his flashlight into the car.

"I could see a male passenger within the passenger compartment moving and looking around within the car with a large revolver in his hand," he stated in his report. He said he yelled for the man to drop the gun but the man didn't comply.

"There was continued movement in the car and I heard a single gunshot. I could not tell who fired the shot, where it came from or whether it had hit any officer. I discharged my service pistol into the front passenger door where I believed the armed suspect was seated," his report states.

Davis' car drove forward before crashing into a high curb; the passenger door opened and Williams fell face down on the pavement.

Borona stated that Williams was twisting on the ground with his hands under him. He stated Williams refused orders to show his hands and Borona, fearing Williams still had the gun, fired another shot at him.

Borrico stated he heard gunfire and fearing Williams was firing at him, he unloaded his gun on Williams.

The report states Borona fired eight shots, Borrico, nine shots, Ronan, six shots and Walker two shots.




New cop contract may spur more retirements

Published 12:22 am, Monday, May 18, 2015

BRIDGEPORT -- Already short nearly six dozen officers heading into the busy summer months, the city's Police Department could be grappling with an additional wave of retirements come July 1 because of a new contract.

"We're estimating probably 30," Sgt. Chuck Paris, the union's president, said. "It could be more."

The department now has a roster of 380 sworn personnel, down from the desired 447.

While Mayor Bill Finch's administration launched a recruitment drive to send as many as three consecutive, 32-member classes of cops to the city's police academy, the first group of new officers will not hit the streets for on-the-job field training until next winter at the earliest. And it will be this time in 2016 before they can patrol independently.

At that point, the city will have already decided whether Finch, who has been touting reductions in crime, deserves a third term, or if one of his opponents, many of whom have been criticizing the thinning ranks of Bridgeport's Finest, deserves a chance.

According to the Police Department, as of May 10, serious felonies -- murders, robberies, rapes, assaults, burglaries and car thefts -- were down 15.8 percent from this period last year.

"I'm proud to say that our city is safer and stronger today than any other time that I can remember," Finch said recently.

But there have been seven homicides this year as of Friday, compared with two during the first five months of 2014, and non-fatal shootings are also up from 16 in 2014 to 27 so far this year.

"There's a very small group of violent young people who are hell-bent on shooting each other," Police Chief Joseph Gaudett recently told members of the City Council. "There's a proliferation of illegal weapons on the street. ... If these kids have access to a weapon and a desire to use it, it's going to end up with tragic results."

Paris said the homicides and shootings are a growing concern for his members, at least some of whom are supporting ex-Mayor and convicted felon Joseph Ganim over Finch.

"It's getting down to a point where we need help," said Paris, "Summer's coming. We're very concerned."

Big changes

Yet the cause of the additional retirements would be a new police contract that Paris wants the council to approve Monday.

Paris told the council's Contracts Committee this week that the new agreement will give "horrible" morale a needed boost.

After rejecting a three-year deal last May, city and union negotiators worked out a four-year contract that union members passed in March, 260 to 79 votes.

Three of those four years are retroactive.

The council's Contracts Committee, following a meeting with Paris and Neil Austin of the city's labor relations office, unanimously forwarded the document on to the full 20-member legislative body.

The contract contains some big changes expected to spark retirements.

Pay raises would help veteran officers boost their pensions.

Also, Gaudett will have the ability to fire officers -- a decision now left to an appointed Police Commission -- and to assign officers based on criteria beyond seniority.

Unlimited sick time will be eliminated. The union and the city will partner on creating a bank of sick days, which participating officers who have used up all of their time, including vacation, can access depending on the circumstances.

"It's not going to be a runny nose," Paris told the Contracts Committee.

Assistant Bridgeport Police Chief James Nardozzi said he understands Paris' reasoning that a new contract could result in retirements.

"(But) I don't have a single set of retirement papers on my desk right now. Not one," Nardozzi said. "So any number from Chuck Paris or anybody else is purely speculative at this point. I can't run the Police Department based on rumors. If the union has information of specific names and numbers, I'd love them to share that with us."

Future recruits

Discussing the current 67 vacancies, Nardozzi said, "Are there still the same cops on the street? The answer's `yes.' It's just they're being staffed on a time-and-a-half basis. There are still the same cops and cars out there on every shift."

A few weeks ago, Gaudett told council members the vacancies affected a new 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. swing shift, specialized units like the traffic division and officers with desk assignments.

"We're very lean when it comes to administrative police officers," he said.

While the city's police academy can only handle a maximum of 32-student classes at a time, Nardozzi said the plan is to try to get the second and third classes going halfway before the preceding class graduates.

Classes typically run for six months, followed by 10 working weeks of field training.

"So every three months, you'd graduate a group of 32," Nardozzi said. "And every three months, starting this time next year, they'd work independently. That would be our best-case scenario."

While in the near term the new contract could further deplete the police ranks, the hope is that the changes aid recruitment in the future and retain young officers.

Paris told the Contracts Committee that "we're still one of the lowest paid departments in the state."

But the new salaries do make Bridgeport more competitive.

And Nardozzi said the new flexibility when it comes to assignments will prove a boon as well.

"How frustrating is it when you're a young officer who possesses a special skill set and you know you'll never have an opportunity to serve in that position until you have 20 to 25 years on the job?" Nardozzi said.

"Think about for (military) veterans. Think for our Bridgeport citizens who may possess special skills. What a great recruitment tool."


Bridgeport police approve new contract

Updated 11:22 pm, Wednesday, March 25, 2015

BRIDGEPORT -- Some members held their noses doing it, but on Wednesday the city's police union overwhelmingly approved a new four-year contract that includes raises, concessions and grants the chief more power.

"It's the best we're gonna get," said one cop, as he walked out of City Hall in mid-afternoon after casting his ballot.

The vote, tallied by 6 p.m., was 260-79, according to Sgt. Chuck Paris, the police union's president.

Last May, the union turned down a three-year deal, though the actual vote was not released.

"We needed to come together as a membership," Paris said. "I think it shows the union is willing to negotiate as long as it's fair."

The agreement, while ending the current arbitration process, only provides a brief reprieve to both sides. Three of the contract's four years are retroactive, so the sides are going to be back at the bargaining table by mid-2016.

That will be just a few months into either Mayor Bill Finch's third term or the tenure of a victorious opponent, depending on the results of this year's election.

That fact there are some mayoral options out there -- Finch's fellow Democrats, ex-mayor-turned-felon Joseph P. Ganim and businesswoman Mary-Jane Foster are both considering runs -- is hardly lost on the police department's rank and file.

As a reporter spoke with two officers outside City Hall, a passing driver shouted, "Joe Ganim for mayor" out of his window.

Paris had been urging his men and women to reach a deal, rather than leave the matter in the hands of an arbitration panel, and that message resonated.

"We honestly feel if it goes to arbitration, we've got more to lose," said one officer.

In a statement released by his office, Finch welcomed the contract approval.

"I couldn't be happier for the work that our police union, city and others put into finding a resolution that works for everyone involved," he said. "Our police officers do a tremendous job protecting kids and families across the city."

But Paris made it clear that Wednesday's "yes" vote should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the Finch administration.

"This has been a long, three-year struggle" to try and get a little more for his members, Paris said.

Complicating recruitment

Paris said with the ranks depleted by retirements -- 70 as of last year, with perhaps 65 officers eligible this year -- he remains very concerned about officers' safety.

"We need support from the administration and whoever is in the office of the mayor, and (the union) will be making a decision on whomever we may support in the near future," Paris said.

Another cop, who like other officers declined to be named in this story, said the deal is a good one, but added, "I'm on my way out the door."

Still others feared the new contract would hurt Finch's efforts to bolster ranks and to convince younger officers to make a career out of serving the city.

For example, the contract eliminates medical coverage for retirees.

"Bridgeport's going to become a weigh station" for young officers to build a resume, then leave for better-paying positions in the suburbs, said one union member.

The administration on Sunday ended a recruitment drive, garnering over 1,000 candidates who had fulfilled all of the necessary requirements.

The police academy can only graduate classes of about 30 people at a time, so some of those potential recruits will likely move on over time, while others will be weeded out for various reasons.

Under the new deal, police will receive a 2.5 percent increase for each of the four years, but also lose five days of pay.

And Gaudett will have greater latitude to establish or eliminate new units, divisions and assignments.

Most importantly, the chief said last year, he will be able to fire officers. His authority to discipline now stops at 30-day suspensions; anything further is in the hands of an appointed Police Commission.

"It's kind of unusual for the boss not to be able to fire somebody," Gaudett said in an interview during last May's contract vote.

Not everyone satisfied

Asked to comment on officers' concerns about the disciplinary changes, Paris said the majority of Bridgeport's officers are hard-working, good, honest people.

"Come to work, work to the best of your ability, keep your nose clean, you should have nothing to worry about," he said.

Some officers interviewed Wednesday expressed frustration that they had been offered what was considered a poor contract, even as their jobs get harder and harder.

"We have local terrorists, world terrorists, regular crazy people," said one.

Meanwhile, the rise of technology and social media means that officers are constantly under scrutiny in public, not just from the top brass, but people in the community who witness them in action.

Most recently, two veteran officers were convicted on federal charges of beating a suspect in Beardsley Park. Footage of the incident was caught on video and circulated online.

And minority leaders are keeping a close watch as the state investigates a racist letter typed on city letterhead and distributed through the Bridgeport Police Department.

"It's a really bad time for law enforcement," the officer said.


Bridgeport receives 2,000 applications for police officer jobs

Published 6:49 pm, Sunday, March 22, 2015  (CT POST)

BRIDGEPORT -- A recent police recruitment effort drew more than 2,000 applications from men and women who want to become officers, city police said.

"I want to thank the Bridgeport Guardians and the Bridgeport Hispanic Society for their support," Mayor Bill Finch said Sunday.

"Together, we have worked to recruit the best candidates and a diverse group of future officers who will reflect the community and our keep kids and families safe," Finch said.

The city and police department worked with the community in an aggressive recruitment campaign to connect with a diverse group of potential recruits committed to Bridgeport, officials said.

"With over 2,000 applications in, we're optimistic that we're on track to have an applicant pool that is more representative of our community," Finch said.

Police Chief Joseph Gaudett said violent crime in the city is at the lowest level in 40 years.

"But there is more work to be done," Gaudett said.

"These new officers will be protecting our residents for the next 25 years. We want the best," he said. "Our kids deserve the best. The recruits will be the new faces of this department for generations, men and woman who will be building relationships with neighbors and the community."


Vote on Bridgeport police contract comes at turbulent time

Published 1:42 pm, Saturday, March 21, 2015

BRIDGEPORT -- These are interesting days for the police department in Connecticut's largest city.

A recruitment blitz is ending and current officers are preparing to vote on a contract, all amid some internal racial tensions and a simmering mayoral race.

Ten months after rejecting a three-year contract, Bridgeport cops Wednesday will vote on a four-year deal with Mayor Bill Finch's administration.

"I'd rather have us make decisions than an arbitration panel," said union head Sgt. Chuck Paris on Friday.

The contract dispute has been in arbitration since May's "no" vote.

State law allows the city and the police to try to work out an amicable agreement even as arbitration is ongoing.

Like May's proposal, the new contract offers 2.5 percent pay raises each year, seeks concessions and gives Police Chief Joseph Gaudett greater latitude to establish or eliminate new units, divisions and assignments.

"It would be in the union's favor to get this approved," Paris said.

Police rejected the original offer in part because of management reforms sought by Gaudett. The chief can now only suspend officers, with terminations ultimately decided by a mayor-appointed Police Commission.

The latest draft also provides termination power for Gaudett. That is a concern for Lt. Lonnie Blackwell, head of the Bridgeport Guardians, which represents black officers.

An email signed by Blackwell and circulated in the community called the deal "the worst contract ever presented to our membership, or any other Connecticut police department, in our history" and urged a "no" vote.

Blackwell, who did not return phone calls seeking further comment, also questioned whether a section of the draft contract eliminates the ability to file a grievance over "unjust discrimination."

It is a sensitive issue, given that State Police are investigating racist letters targeting black officers that were distributed within the department.

Responding to Blackwell's email, Paris said, "Lonnie never reached out to me or anyone else in the union attempting to understand the content of the tentative agreement. If he did, he would be more educated regarding each issue and what the impact would be for all members."

Paris said avenues remain for contesting any alleged discrimination.

Asked what he is hearing in terms of support for the draft contract ahead of Wednesday's vote, Paris said, "It's pretty much 50-50."

A disgruntled union could cause headaches for Finch, who is facing potential challenges for a third term from businesswoman Mary-Jane Foster and ex-Mayor Joseph P. Ganim.

Meanwhile, Sunday marks the deadline of the city's recruitment effort to bolster a police force depleted by a surge in retirements, leaving 70 vacancies. Gaudett earlier this year said optimal staffing is 447 people.

There was an emphasis on recruiting locally, with Bridgeport residents receiving extra points on their applications.

As of Tuesday, 1,013 candidates had met the qualifications. Of those, 139, or 14 percent are residents.

The number of minority applicants disappointed some.

Of the 1,013, 560, or 55 percent are white; 233, or 23 percent Hispanic; and 152, or 15 percent are black.

Finch a week ago held a news conference with black leaders to emphasize the need for more diversity in the Police Department. While the city has been recognized as making gains in that area over time and having the most diverse police department in the state, there remain concerns that Bridgeport's Finest still do not reflect the community.

George Mintz, new head of the city's reconstituted branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, expressed some disappointment with the recruitment numbers.

"I would have liked to have seen those numbers reflect the community of Bridgeport," Mintz said Friday. "I think the numbers tell a story and we need to find out what it is."

Asked if the racist letters, which made national news in mid-February, could be partly to blame, Mintz said, "One would think, but I'm not a person to have opinions based on conjecture."


Lawsuit dismissed after former cop walks

Updated 11:57 pm, Tuesday, January 20, 2015

MILFORD -- A lawsuit brought by a recently retired Bridgeport police lieutenant, claiming he was defamed by the police union and a fellow officer over drug testing, came to an abrupt end when the plaintiff grabbed his coat and left the courtroom.

Superior Court Judge Theodore Tyma then ruled he had no choice, but to dismiss the case brought by William R. Bailey.

"All I wanted was an apology, I didn't want their money," Bailey explained Tuesday. "I realized I wasn't going to get that so I grabbed my coat and said, `I'm done with you,' and left."

Bailey, who retired from the police department last November after 31 years on the force, had filed suit in October 2012 against the police union, its president Charles Paris and officer Ivan Clayton.

Bailey is now director of public safety at Holyoke Community College.

"I'm happy the proceeding didn't go forward and we wish Lt. Bailey the best of luck," Paris said.

Bailey had been in charge of drug testing of officers in the department. In 2012, Clayton failed the drug test and was subsequently suspended with pay. However, Clayton accused Bailey of tampering with the test, according to the lawsuit.

The suit states that Paris asked Police Chief Joseph Gaudett to investigate whether Bailey had tampered with the test and as a result of that request Bailey was investigated by the city's Office of Internal Affairs.

As a result of the actions of Clayton and Paris, Bailey "has been required to respond in writing to the aforesaid false accusation, has been undermined in his professional relationships with his superiors and subordinates and has been caused to suffer emotional distress and humiliation," the lawsuit states.

"In the hallway my attorney was shocked. I told him how embarrassed I was to see police officers like those I left in that court," Bailey said. "They are the reason people in America do not respect or trust us. I dropped the court case because I am nothing like them and wanted nothing from them."; 203-330-6308;


Depleted Bridgeport PD emphasizes local hiring

Updated 10:41 pm, Tuesday, January 13, 2015

BRIDGEPORT -- The city wants to bolster a depleted police force with cops who live in and know Bridgeport.

"Last time, we gave 10 (extra) points to residents" on their police exam scores, Police Chief Joseph Gaudett, who is heading the recruitment effort, told members of the City Council on Monday. "This time, we're giving 15."

On Tuesday, the city announced that applications are due March 22, with the written test scheduled for April 11.

Asked if the starting patrolman salary of $47,164 is too low, Gaudett told council members the emphasis is on doing good and serving the community.

"We really try to get people who really want to be here for reasons other than money," Gaudett said.

For months, the department has struggled with a surge in retirements, which occurred in part because of a switch in pension plans that allows eligible officers to collect based on the average of their best three years' earnings, including city overtime and overtime earned from contractors at job sites.

Hiring has not kept pace, and there are 70 vacancies in a department that Gaudett wants staffed by 447 people.

Bridgeport, which has its own satellite police academy, was able last year to graduate 17 new officers, culling their names from the remnants of a list of a few thousand candidates that dated to 2011. But Gaudett said he had been authorized to hire 21 recruits.

"We ran out of candidates" because of the age of the list, he said.

Officials have been building a new police recruitment list since the fall, but until Tuesday a test date had not been scheduled. Gaudett said that made it hard to advertise.

Still, 1,500 have applied, he said.

The academy can only handle classes of 32 at a time. Given the length of the application and training process, and funding availability, it could be two years before those 70 openings are filled.

"The pension plan has done exactly what we expected it to: give officers the ability to leave earlier and financially more secure," said Sgt. Chuck Paris, president of the Bridgeport police union. "So we did our part. The city's part is to recruit and establish the list that new officers will come (from). I have a major concern this is not being done and they are far behind."

Paris said that even as the city tries to fill those 70 slots, new vacancies will be created. He is also concerned about the starting pay rate, which can be several thousand dollars below that of other cities and towns, he said.

"The men and women in this department put their lives on the line every day," Paris said. "We need to do some things that are going to draw some people in. ... Obviously, the salaries are a concern."

The union voted last May to turn down a new three-year contract that would have given officers 2.5 percent raises each year in exchange for $650,000 in concessions and major changes in sick time and shift schedules, while giving the chief the ability to fire personnel rather than going through an appointed Police Commission.

Paris said while he appreciates the efforts to reach out to Bridgeport residents, "we need too many people," so the department should cast a wide net. He suggested focusing on military veterans.

Mayor Bill Finch, who is seeking a third term this year and facing possible challenges from fellow Democrats like businesswoman Mary-Jane Foster, retired Police Lt. David Daniels III and mayor-turned-felon Joseph P. Ganim, said Monday the city has made a lot of progress against crime.

"But we still have work to do," Finch said. "That's why I'm asking those who are interested in protecting kids and families to join the Bridgeport Police Department. As a police officer, you can help make our city better every day."

In October, State Police reported that violent crime was down 10.8 percent statewide and 15 percent in Bridgeport in 2013. But Gaudett told the council's Budget Committee that the lack of personnel has made it difficult to achieve some goals. For example, efforts to decrease motor-vehicle fatalities were complicated by retirements in the traffic unit.

"So (we're) not doing as well as we'd hoped, but it's something we keep on the front burner," Gaudett said.

Homicides in the city were down 8 percent, Gaudett said, but non-fatal shootings were up, with 78 incidents in 2014 versus 66 in 2013.

Prior to the department exodus, Gaudett, at the urging of the City Council, had been working to crack down on overtime. Halfway through the current fiscal year, overtime is up $1.2 million, but that is offset by savings in benefits.

"It's about a wash right now," Gaudett said. "(But) I'd really like to have a full complement of officers, and not a lot of overtime."; 203-414-0712;


Bridgeport PD seeks to grow, diversify

Updated 9:58 am, Tuesday, October 7, 2014


HARTFORD -- The Bridgeport Police Department is looking for a few good people.

With dozens of retirements and low morale battering the city's law enforcement agency, the department is looking to attract a diverse group of women and men to become the next generation of police officers.

Assistant Chief James Nardozzi, filling in for Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr. at a Monday news conference releasing crime statistics in the state Capitol, said the agency is looking to fill 17 vacancies and to hire more as imminent retirements of older officers occur.

"We would love to recruit more Bridgeport residents," Nardozzi said in an interview. "We want to make the Police Department much more reflective of the community that we serve. Anything we can do to promote diversity in the Police Department: gender diversity, ethnic diversity, racial diversity, religious diversity, we think that is a recipe for improving police-community relations and forming a real partnership in the community."

The department has 376 officers, a decrease of 51 positions from last year. Seventeen new officers graduated last week from theBridgeport Police Academy and the department expects to train another 32 officers a year. Starting salary is $47,164.

Nardozzi said the city's Civil Service Commission will soon schedule an examination for applicants.

"We anticipate hiring a class, followed by another class, followed by another class," he said.

Applications are available online in the Civil Service section of the city's website, or people can get them at the Civil Service office at Bridgeport City Hall.

"If someone would like us to speak at a group, or a church, or in front of whatever their organization is, we can certainly send someone out to help them recruit there as well," Nardozzi said.

Cromwell Chief Anthony Salvatore, a Capitol lobbyist for state police chiefs, said retirements are hitting departments all over Connecticut and chiefs are developing ways to replace staff quickly.

"The salaries between certain departments is always competitive," Salvatore said, adding that the academy trains about 250 recruits a year in five classes.


Bridgeport police promote in challenging time

Daniel Tepfer (CT POST)

Published 8:39 pm, Thursday, September 4, 2014

BRIDGEPORT -- Dozens of the city's men and women in blue joined with hundreds of their family and friends Thursday night to salute two new police lieutenants and 14 new sergeants.

But there was a black cloud hanging over the ceremony, a cloud whipped up by theBridgeport Police Department's poor morale, surging retirements and the prosecution of three of their own for the now infamous Beardsley Park stomping incident.

"The environment for being a cop in Bridgeport is not very good," said City Councilman Rick Torres, R-130. "Morale in the department is really low right now and the city is in a state of shock as upwards of 100 cops are gone or going."

As a result of retirements, there are now 376 officers on the force, down from 427 last year.

Sgt. Chuck Paris, the police union president, said the officers who are left are going to have to hold the line until more recruits can be brought in.

"There are going to be many more retirements as the years go on," Paris said. "I can only hope the city has a plan in place."

Police Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr. said there is a plan.

He said there will be 17 new officers graduating from the police academy in October, and after that the department will begin hiring 32 new officers each year.

"We want everyone here to put the word out that we will be hiring police officers," Mayor Bill Finch told the hundreds assembled for the promotions ceremony at the City Council chambers.

The mayor said he wants a police force as diverse as the city it serves.

"We want them to represent all our communities in enforcing the law," he said.

Finch contends that Bridgeport hasn't seen the friction between its community and cops that other areas of the country are experiencing, such as the turmoil in Ferguson, Mo., because the police department's diversity.

"Bridgeport police represent the city in all ways," he said.

But many Connecticut suburban communities are also advertising for police officers, and in many cases they are offering more money and better benefits than Bridgeport. Entry level police officers earn $47,164 here.

"We are one of the lowest in salaries and one of the highest in medical costs to our officers," said Paris.

"I understand the competition with other communities over the money situation," said Gaudett. "But I believe we are more attractive with our pension."

The police department recently switched to the state pension plan which allows eligible retires to average their three best earnings years, including inside and outside overtime -- paid by companies to have officers at job sites -- in determining what their pensions will be. In some cases, officers are can retire at 80 percent of their base pay.

"I expect we are going to hear from certified police officers from other communities who want to come here because they want a real pension instead of a 401(k)," the chief added.

Brian Dickerson and Jeffrey Grice were each promoted to lieutenant.

The new sergeants are: Stacey Lyons, Trevor Niestemski, Frank Jacobellis, William Simpson, Scott Waehler, Paul Scillia, Ivan Delgado, Lawrence Lazaro Jr., Eric Schneider, Bernard Webb, Jonathan Duharte, Adam Rozum, Christopher Robinson and Gabor Meszaros.

Webb's wife, who is also a sergeant in the Bridgeport Police Department, pinned the gold badge to her husband's chest with the assistance of their daughter.

"I want to thank you for having the strength to be a Bridgeport police supervisor and I pledge to give you whatever you need to do your job," Gaudett told them all.; 203-330-6308;


Robert R. Craw, Bridgeport police captain, dies at age 57

Robert R. Craw Jr., age 57, died Saturday, August 16, in his home surrounded by his loving family. He enjoyed 30 years of marriage to the love of his life, Sheila Byrnes Craw.

Robert R. Craw Jr.

Robert R. Craw Jr.

He joined the Bridgeport Police Department in 1978, devoting 36 years of service. He served as a patrolman and quickly rose through the ranks to captain, where he last served as Captain of Central Command, Patrol Division. He was always proud to serve and protect the City of Bridgeport.

Along with his wife, Robert is survived by his loving daughters, Meghan L. Craw and Erin S. Craw of Monroe.

Born in Bridgeport on November 26, 1956, he was the son of Robert R. Craw Sr. of Sebastian, Fla., and the late Leona Semonich Craw.

A graduate of St. Joseph’s High School class of 1974, Bob went on to study at the University of New Haven where he earned a bachelors degree in Criminal Justice.

Bob was also a member of the Msgr. James F. Murphy # 0140 Council Knights of Columbus, serving St. Patrick’s Parish for 30 years. He was a past member of the Bridgeport Elks, Moose Club of Bridgeport and the Germania Schwaben Club. In addition to his beautiful wife and children,

Bob is survived by his brother Daniel Craw and his wife Michele of Stratford, Thomas Craw and his wife Karen of Milford, and his sister Aileen Craw Madar and her husband John of Stratford. He is also survived by his aunt Ruth DeMott of Bridgeport and his aunt- in-law Sister Mary Agnes O’Neil of Albany, NY, also several sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, several nieces and nephews and two grand nephews.

Our tomorrows with him are gone but the memories will live on forever.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 10:00am, from the Redgate – Hennessy Funeral Home, Main Street and Gorham Place, Trumbull, and at 11:00am, a Mass of Christian Burial will take place at St. Patrick Church, 851 North Avenue, Bridgeport. Interment with Police honors will follow in Resurrection Cemetery, Newtown. Friends may call Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at the Redgate-Hennessy Funeral Home, from 3 to 8pm.

The family wishes to thank Dr. Neal Fischbach and all of his staff in the Fairfield office, along with the nurses of Tower 7 and the level 9 MICU at Bridgeport Hospital. They would also like to thank VITAS Hospice care nurses for the home care they gave him the last four days of his life.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Craw Children’s Education Fund c/o People’s United Bank of 888 White Plains Rd., Trumbull, CT. As well as Swim Across the Sound, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, 2800 Main Street, Bridgeport, CT 06606.


Suspended deputy police chief could be back on job

Updated 11:45 pm, Thursday, May 2, 2013  (CT POST)

BRIDGEPORT -- A deputy police chief who spent the last two years on paid administrative leave could be back to work next week.

James Honis, a 41-year veteran of the department who was suspended in May 2011, is expected to return to his $108,405-a-year job on Monday, according to a report on

Elaine Ficarra, a spokesman for Mayor Bill Finch's office, could not confirm the report Thursday. Efforts to reach Honis and Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159 were not successful Thursday.

Honis' suspension in 2011 arose out of a complaint filed with the police department by Lt. Thomas Lula, who accused Honis of participating with other officers in obstructing the investigation into the June 22, 1977, killing of Anita Marie McIntosh. Police forwarded the complaint to the FBI.

A convicted prostitute and young mother, McIntosh was beaten, bound and thrown out of a white van onto Stillman Avenue, where firefighters returning from a blaze later discovered her body.

In March, city officials met with the police union to discuss Honis' reinstatement, Sgt. Chuck Paris, president of the Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159, said at the time.

It marked the first action taken on the matter since March 2012, when Honis agreed to remain off duty in a private agreement reached with the city just minutes before a scheduled arbitration hearing to address the grievance filed by the police union on Honis' behalf.

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Police overtime to get the knife

Published 12:31 am, Monday, April 22, 2013

BRIDGEPORT -- Call it James Nardozzi's $3 million performance evaluation.

Mayor Bill Finch's administration hired the assistant police chief in November specifically to rein in the overtime racked up by Bridgeport's Finest.

The 427-person department is projecting it could be $2 million over the current $5.4 million overtime budget when the fiscal year ends in late June.

Nardozzi plans to drive that deficit down. But even if he succeeds, Finch expects more progress next year. The mayor wants to give police $1 million less -- $4.4 million -- in overtime in 2013-14.

Councilman Susan Brannelly, D-130, said after meeting last week with Nardozzi and his boss, Chief Joseph Gaudett, she is optimistic.

"(Nardozzi) seems to be the guy who is a dog with a bone -- thorough and thoughtful," Brannelly said.

As a budget committee co-chairman, she and her colleagues are combing through the mayor's proposed spending plan looking for ways to avoid Finch's average, $400-per-household tax increase.

Overtime has historically only gone up, no matter how much money is budgeted to force the police department to live within its means.

But Nardozzi and Gaudett last week assured council members they are taking tough measures to control the expenses and discipline overtime abuse without jeopardizing public safety.

"We believe the amount the mayor's recommended is an amount we can live in,"Gaudett said.

To begin with, as of late January the chief made it more difficult for his officers to rack up the hours.

"Overtime has been canceled," Gaudett said. "There's no overtime unless it's preapproved by myself or the assistant chief, with very few exceptions. The message to the department is there is no money left in the checkbook."

Nardozzi monitors overtime daily, and any requests require more detailed explanations than were previously submitted. The department is also working to implement new computer systems to better analyze overtime in the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Budget Committee Chairman Angel dePara Jr., D-136, asked Gaudett if the chief could provide some data sooner "so we're able to better put together a realistic and responsible budget."

"The short answer is no," Gaudett said.

Some council members questioned how realistic stricter overtime limits are for some units in the department, like the detectives who work long hours closing cases. The budget committee wanted to know if Gaudett could discuss areas where the overtime limits might be more flexible.

"Everybody (every unit) thinks they need a lot of overtime," Gaudett said. "It's our job to manage that."

The chiefs have also targeted abuse of sick leave. Under the new policy, any officers who exceed five sick days over the course of 12 months cannot receive overtime for 30 days.

Nardozzi said so far eight officers have had their overtime privilege suspended, and 26 others have been warned. The department did not provide further details on the alleged abuse.

"We don't have any extra officers, to be quite honest with you," he said. "We have been extra vigilant on monitoring sick-time usage."

And the chiefs are also working with the city law department to "forcibly retire" a handful of police who have taken extended sick leave. Again, no specific details on those personnel matters were provided.

The police department does have 19 new officers who will also help relieve overtime later this year. However, they remain on probation and must be accompanied by a colleague during field training.

New Councilman Steven Stafstrom, D-130, whose waterfront Black Rock district would be hit the hardest by tax hikes, told Gaudett he does not understand why overtime is required whenever an officer takes a sick day.

Stafstrom said the department could perhaps be more flexible with use of manpower.

Gaudett agreed and said that is a major goal of the ongoing contract negotiations with the police union.

"We're stuck in the 1980s when it comes to how we do things. We're trying to get that addressed through contract arbitration now," Gaudett said.

Councilman John Olson, D-132, told Gaudett the police have a public relations problem. "The public does not understand overtime at all," he said. "They think it's just fat. If we hired more police officers, would it be less expensive (or) increasing the budget even more? All the years I've been in the city I keep hearing if we had more officers we'd have less overtime."

Gaudett said the idea would be to have a steady department of 448 with "a reasonable amount" of overtime in the budget.

The Bridgeport police union did not return a request for comment.; 203-414-0712;

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Game to help first responders fighting cancer

Updated 10:50 pm, Sunday, March 31, 2013

BRIDGEPORT -- Spotting Doug Bepko in his Bridgeport Police hockey jersey at a Sound Tigers game in January, a firefighter from Westchester County, N.Y., slipped the city police officer a business card and offered a challenge.

"We got a team," he told Bepko. "We'll play you anytime."

By then, it had been about six years since Bepko had worn his jersey on the ice. The team of about 20 Bridgeport police officers lasted only two years before calling it quits in 2007.

Not one to walk away from a challenge, Bepko and the reunited Bridgeport Police team will play the Westchester Fire squad Friday at 5:30 p.m. in the Finest vs. Bravest two-day hockey tournament at Webster Bank Arena.

Half of the gate from the $30 tickets, which cover admission to both days of the event and include a Sound Tigers game on Sunday, will benefit four members of the Bridgeport Police Department diagnosed with cancer and their families, along with the family of a Valley EMS paramedic who recently succumbed to the illness.

"This is something that the team does," said Bridgeport Police Officer Brian Pisanelli, another member of the team. "We play to help out brother and sister officers and bring everybody out to have a good time."

The Bridgeport Police game against the Westchester Fire will be the third game on Friday's schedule. The Milford Fire Department will play the Stamford Police Department at 3 p.m., followed by the Danbury and Westport fire departments squaring off at 4:15 p.m.

After the Bridgeport game, the New Haven Police Department will play a team of police officers and firefighters from Watertown at 6:45 p.m. The day's winning teams will advance to the semifinals starting at 8 p.m.

Once Bepko and the Westchester firefighter agreed to play, the Bridgeport cop and his former teammates held a tryout and ended up with a 17-man roster.

"We were like, `Let's get the team back together,' and it basically spiraled," Pisanelli said.

On Sunday, tournament ticket holders can attend the Sound Tigers game against the Adirondack Phantoms at 5 p.m., followed by the Finest vs. Bravest championship game, said John Reis, group sales representative at the arena.

Patrons can expect all the amenities of a Sound Tigers game during the entire tournament, Reis said, although only one concession stand and one bar will be open Friday. All stands will open Sunday.

The officers' fundraising goal for the event is a simple one -- to raise as much money as they can to help the five police and EMS families affected by cancer.

"It's 10,000 seats, so if we could pack the arena with 10,000, that would be excellent," Pisanelli said.

Tickets for the tournament are available at the arena and Bridgeport police headquarters on Congress Street, Pisanelli said., @domalleyctpost, 203-330-6230

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Will police and fire be on the chopping block?

Updated 10:25 pm, Saturday, March 30, 2013

BRIDGEPORT -- Would the city award badges to 19 new police officers, only to take them away weeks later?

Mayor Bill Finch is set to deliver his 2013-14 budget to the City Council at its Monday night meeting, and city residents and employees are waiting to see what jobs or services might be on the chopping block.

Faced with a possible $10 million cut in state aid in the governor's budget, the mayor has already presented two unpalatable responses to residents: Open their wallets or weather cuts to public safety.

"You can't cut $10 million out of this budget without reducing the number of police and fire, or increasing property taxes. It's just not possible," Finch said recently following a speech to the business community. "I lead with those (departments) because they're the biggest."

There are 430 uniformed members of Bridgeport's finest and 287 of the city's bravest.

It's a startling warning from a mayor who, between imposing a youth curfew, initiating a gun buyback program and hiring more cops, has labored to make constituents feel more secure and change Bridgeport's violent image.

Police Chief Joseph Gaudett says he is already running a tight operation and doing more with less.

That begs the question: Is Finch serious or simply trying to make a tax hike more palatable to an already overburdened constituency?

"We would have to seriously consider that because there's just not much beyond that," Finch said of the public safety cuts.

Sgt. Charles Paris, president of the Bridgeport police union, is not losing sleep.

"We feel pretty secure," Paris said.

Many union contracts in Bridgeport have a "last in, first out" clause requiring the newest hires to be let go in case of layoffs. In the case of the police, Paris said, that would be those 19 new officers sworn in at City Hall in mid-February.

The first three years' worth of salaries and benefits are paid for by the federal government. In return the city must maintain staffing levels and retain the new officers a fourth year, Paris said.

"To lay police officers off, we believe the city would have to give money back to the federal government," Paris said.

During a forum with community leaders in the Black Rock neighborhood Wednesday night, Finch said his hands are tied when it comes to cutting the newest hires, even though the new police and fire recruits work hard and earn the least.

Paris said he believes the mayor is simply trying to convince residents to accept a tax increase.

"It's a little disconcerting that they are using the Police Department, in a way, to scare the taxpayers and the governor," Paris said.

The police union endorsed Finch's rival, Mary Jane Foster, in the 2011 Democratic primary. But the mayor received the support of the city's fire union.

Twenty-one new firefighters joined that department over the winter.

David Dobbs, a fire union vice president, said he understands the challenges the Finch administration faces crafting a budget before the governor and Legislature pass a fiscal plan.

"I think the difficulty is trying to prepare a budget in the blind," Dobbs said.

He said he is adopting a wait-and-see attitude about Finch's threatened cuts.

"Hopefully, it doesn't come to that," he said.

Another option for the Finch administration would be to target overtime. Both Police and Fire departments have caused their share of overtime headaches. In fact, Finch and Gaudett hired Assistant Chief of Police James Nardozzi in November to tackle the problem.

As of that month, the Police Department was already $3.5 million over its budget because of hurricane response. The most recent data was unavailable from the city, but is expected to be higher because of the February blizzard.

Gaudett argues that a case can be made that overtime is a symptom of already strained staffing.

"If we had a larger department, ergo, we'd have less overtime," he said.

Councilwoman Susan Brannelly, D-130, new co-chairman of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, agrees the city faces a dire budget situation.

But Brannelly is not prepared to talk about balancing the budget on the backs of police and fire personnel.

"I just think that's an emotional start of the discussion ... because who wants to give up police and fire coverage?" Brannelly said.; 203-414-0712;

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Excessive Force Lawsuit Against Two Bridgeport Police Officers Dismissed

March 26, 2013|By KELLY GLISTA,, The Hartford Courant

BRIDGEPORT — A lawsuit alleging excessive force by two city police officers was dismissed on Tuesday by a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

The case, brought by Junior Huertas against officers James Ivanko and Omar Jimenez, lacked the evidence to continue to trial, according to the judge's decision.

Court documents say that in June 2009, Huertas was at a party on Park Avenue to watch the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade. The party continued into the night after the parade and spilled out on to the street where people were dancing — approximately 2,500 to 3,000 people in all — according to Ivanko's statements in court documents.

At around 8:45 p.m., officers, including the defendants, were trying to clear the road and sidewalk, court documents state.

Huertas was on the porch of 358 Park Ave., and alleged that officers entered the yard and started arresting people without reason, the documents state.

According to officers' statements, Jimenez walked to the porch and began talking with a person later identified as Wilmer Garcia, who began to yell at him and incite the crowd. When Jimenez ordered Garcia to step down from the porch, Huertas stepped between him and Garcia with an alcoholic beverage in his hand and stated, "You ain't touching him."

"Huertas was, by his own estimation, standing only eight to ten inches from the officer arresting Garcia and he refused to move when the officer asked him to do so twice," judge Vanessa L. Bryant said in her decision.

According to the court documents, Huertas also admitted to consuming "like ten beers" before the officers arrived, but denied that he was intoxicated.

Officers moved to separate Huertas from Jimenez but Huertas resisted and fell over the porch railing, according police statements. An officer grabbed his legs to prevent him from falling, but let go when a woman attacked him from behind, police said.

Huertas alleged that he then stood and officers attempted to force him to the ground, according to court documents. He also alleged that Ivanko leaped from the porch and struck him in the face. Ivanko, according to court documents, said Huertas stood and first put him in a headlock, while repeatedly attempting to remove his service weapon. Ivanko also said that while they grappled, other people from the party were grabbing at him as well.

Other officers assisted and Huertas was taken into custody, the documents state.

Huertas suffered an eye injury, a fracture of the right orbital floor, according to a doctor's statement. Huertas further alleged that he suffered pinched nerves in his neck, an astigmatism in his right eye, facial and body contusions, a sprained shoulder and emotional repercussions.

Bryant granted the city's motion for a summary judgment in the case — ruling in favor of the defendants on all complaints.

"Huertas' conduct created a clear and present danger to the safety of police and to the members of the public present in the vicinity," Bryant said.

Huertas was charged with second-degree breach of peace, inciting a riot, interfering with an officer and assault on public safety personnel, court documents state.

"The court finds that probable cause for Huertas' arrest existed for at least one — if not more — of these violations based on the facts known to the officers at the time of Huertas' arrest," said Bryant.

According court documents, the state decided not to prosecute Huertas on these charges after he completed an accelerated rehabilitation program and two years of probation, performed 200 hours of community service and made a $250 donation to charity.

Union: Suspended deputy police chief might return

Published 6:57 pm, Tuesday, March 19, 2013

BRIDGEPORT -- Nearly two years after placing Deputy Police Chief James Honis on paid administrative leave, city officials have approached the police union about reinstating him to his $108,405-a-year job, a union official said.

Honis, a 41-year veteran of the department, was suspended in May 2011 after Lt. Thomas Lula filed a complaint with the police department accusing Honis of participating with other officers in obstructing the investigation into the June 22, 1977, killing of Anita Marie McIntosh. Police forwarded the complaint to the FBI.

McIntosh, a convicted prostitute and young mother, was found beaten and bound, her body thrown out of a white van onto Silliman Avenue. Her body was later discovered by a fire engine returning from a blaze.

Last week, city officials requested a meeting with the police union to discuss Honis' reinstatement, said Sgt. Chuck Paris, president of the Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159.

"We did meet with the city last week," he said. "They approached us about returning Deputy Chief Honis to work."

Paris said it's unclear whether the city has conditions for the reinstatement.

"There's a closure issue, obviously," he said. "He's never been charged with anything."

In fact, no action has been taken on the matter since March 2012, when Honis agreed to remain off duty in a private agreement reached with the city just minutes before a scheduled arbitration hearing to address the grievance filed by the police union on Honis' behalf.

When asked about the possibility of Honis returning to work, mayoral spokeswoman Elaine Ficarra consulted with the City Attorney's Office.

"There is a pending personnel matter regarding Deputy Chief Honis and there will be no further comment at this time," she said.

Ficarra would not answer questions about whether Honis, who rarely took a day off and was among the highest paid city employees for years, has received any raises per union contract during his suspension, whether the time would count toward his pension, or if he would be allowed to retire with full benefits.

At the time Police Chief Joseph Gaudett turned Lt. Lula's report over to the FBI in 2011, the federal agency had an ongoing investigation into alleged illegalities involving city of Bridgeport towing contracts, as well as the way confiscated drugs were handled by police at the 2009 Gathering of the Vibes concert at Seaside Park.

Honis' name surfaced in both instances because he oversaw police towing work, as well as security at the Vibes concert.

In 1988, Honis also was accused -- and cleared -- of any connection with the murders of other young women in the city.

Former police Officer George Lawson, then on trial for selling drugs while on duty, claimed he was actually working undercover to investigate a connection between Honis and the murders of other women in the city, including Estella Brantley, a young prostitute.

That case was closed last summer, when the Police Department's Cold Case Unit matched 53-year-old Leonard Jackson, who had been known to hang around young female prostitutes in the city, to DNA evidence that had been preserved from Brantley's body.

Voicemails left for Honis were not returned. His attorney, John Gulash, said he has not been contacted by city officials about any possible agreement or re-instatement. He said Honis had indicated no intention of resigning his position.

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Police: Guys in kilts fight on McLevy Green

Published 5:40 pm, Monday, March 18, 2013

BRIDGEPORT -- City Councilman Bob Curwen on Monday called blarney claims his kilt-wearing son threatened officers following his arrest last Friday at an after St. Patrick's Day parade brouhaha on McLevy Green.

"I am familiar with the situation and my son didn't say anything like that," Curwen said. He continued, that although he wasn't at the scene, it isn't in his son's personality to threaten officers.

But in her report, Officer Christine Burns claims Robert Curwen Jr. became combative and, using his father's name, threatened to get officers involved fired.

"You're an (expletive) officer. My father is Bob Curwen, I'm calling the mayor and you're going to be gone," the report quotes the young Curwen.

The 36-year-old Curwen has been mentioned as a candidate for the council seat of his father who recently declared his intention to retire.

Shortly after 7 p.m., Friday, police said they responded to the green on a report of two men in kilts fighting.

When officers got there they said they found 35-year-old Raymond Collette bleeding from his left ear and Curwen with blood on his left hand and left side of his face.

Police said Curwen claimed he suffered the injuries when he tried to catch Collette who had taken a fall in front of a bar on State Street.

At that point police said Curwen told officers he is politically connected. As a crowd began to form Curwen then began shouting at officers and yelling for someone to record the incident on video.

Police said Curwen's wife, Kasia, arrived on the scene but instead of taking her husband's side, she began yelling at her husband, "Shut up, you (expletive) you do this every year!"

Once officers had calmed her she added: "They are (expletives) who get drunk and fight every year ¦ well, maybe every other year."

Curwen, who continued to shout for people in the crowd to video record the incident, was taken to the police department where he was charged with breach of peace and interfering with police.

"The police report speaks for itself," said Police Spokesman William Kaempffer. "If Mr. Curwen has an issue with how he was quoted he can file a complaint."; 203-330-6308; http://

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City detective injured in two-car crash

Published 8:09 pm, Monday, March 18, 2013

BRIDGEPORT -- A city police detective suffered neck and back injuries Saturday after a car blew threw a red light and crashed into his unmarked Dodge Charger.

Bridgeport police spokesman William Kaempffer said Detective Daniel Domkowski was driving his car north on Washington Avenue when a Ford Focus driven by Juan Montes, of Bridgeport, crashed into it at James Street.

A witness told police that Montes passed a stopped car on the right and then drove through a red light before hitting the detective's car, Kaempffer said.

Domkowski was hospitalized for neck and back injuries, he said.

Montes was cited for failure to obey a traffic signal and passing on the right., @domalleyctpost, 203-330-6230

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Bridgeport patrolman to be honored

Published 5:05 pm, Monday, February 18, 2013 (CT POST) 
BRIDGEPORT -- David Neary, a member of the city's police department for 15 years, is being honored for his work with the Special Olympics.

Neary, a patrolman, will receive the outstanding volunteer award at the Special Olympics Connecticut Hall of Fame Dinner March 20th at the Aqua Turf Country Club in Plantsville.

The annual event honors extraordinary athletes, volunteers and supporters who demonstrate leadership, spirit and selflessness, inspire joy through sport and promote inclusion and respect for individuals of all abilities.

Neary has supported Special Olympics as a member of the Bridgeport Police Department for more than 10 years. Tickets, which must be reserved in advance, are $25.00 per person and may be obtained by calling 203-230-1201, ext. 276 or emailing

28 New Police Recruits Graduating

January 30th, 2013 · 5 Comments · Cops, News and Events


On Friday the Bridgeport Police Academy will graduate 19 new city officers who will begin field training, as well as nine officers from area departments who will complete training and join their respective forces, according to Bridgeport police spokesman Bill Kaempffer. Graduation will take place 6 p.m. in City Council Chambers, 45 Lyon Terrace. Mayor Bill Finch and Police Chief Joe Gaudett will be in attendance.

During their six months in the academy, recruits completed a state-mandated curriculum established by the Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council as well as community oriented projects such as reading to classes of fourth graders, serving food to the homeless and unemployed and, most recently, assisting the Point in Time Count, conducted annually to count the number of sheltered and unsheltered homeless people and families nationally.

Members from the graduating class:

Bridgeport Police: Juan C. Esquilin, Daniel J. Orlich III, Marcus A. Teixeira, Luis M. Moura, Anthony J. Caiazzo, Michael P. Neumahr, Eric J. Holder, Michael A. Novia, Michael A. Mazzacco, Joshua Ortiz, Keith W. Hanson, Carlos Pabon Jr., Donald D. Matejek Jr, Ian T. Schumaker, Codey Remy, Anthony Gianpoalo, Stavros Mirtsopoulos, John Topolski and Matthew Goncalves

Milford Police: Kyle D. Magnan

Stratford Police: Matthew K. Ackerman, Marc H. Halper, John J. Facto II, Kyle C. Lavin

Norwalk Police: Kelly M. Hollister

Naugatuck Police: Taylor H. Field, Anthony Mistretta

North Branford Police: Corey R. Lemmons

300 kids surprised with new bikes for Christmas

Published 11:43 pm, Sunday, December 23, 2012

BRIDGEPORT -- In a time of precious little good news in the region, nearly 300 inner-city kids at the Central High School gym got new bicycles Sunday for Christmas.

What began in October as an effort by police officers to brighten the lives of about a dozen children mushroomed into the largest bike giveaway event in the city's history, and perhaps the state's, officials said.

"There has never been, in the city of Bridgeport, so many bicycles in one place," said a beaming Mayor Bill Finch as he gestured toward the shiny new bikes aligned in rows on the gym floor.

Assisting the 20 or so police officers on the project, the school system maintenance department transported bikes and the city's public works department assembled them.

Money for the project came from area businesses, private citizens and more than a few cops. Bikes came from a number of area retailers. Helmets were donated by Bethel Cycle Sport.

School social workers and guidance counselors helped police identify needy children, many of them in housing projects and homeless shelters. Most were between 6 and 9 years old.

"We went to every school in the city -- public, private and charter -- to make sure the whole city was covered," said police Sgt. Paul Grech of the School Resource Officer unit.

About noon Sunday, parents and children filed in and waited, with assorted relatives, on the gym's pull-out bleachers. The crowd numbered about 1,500.

First to get a bike was Katelin Gordon, who on April 30 was caught in a crossfire between two rival gangs. The girl still has a bullet lodged in her bottom, but her parents said it will be removed when she's a little older.

Katelin was happy to get the bike, but her dad, Marlon Gordon, said his daughter has emotional scars.

"It's been a little rough," he said. "She's terrified of the area, and we're taking it one day at a time."

Katelin's cousins, Hailey and Gabriella James, who were with her at the time of the shooting, were the next ones to get bicycles. A beaming Hailey, now 7, said she couldn't wait to pedal around her neighborhood, not far from the Mountain Grove Cemetery.

The Newtown massacre was marked by a moment of silence before the children's names were announced. Then, one by one, the kids collected their two-wheeled treasures and posed on Santa's lap for a picture.

More than a few, with grins on their faces, tried out their rides on the gym floor.

"I just can't wait to take off the training wheels," said Cody Northrop, 6.; 203-330-6403;

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Police help mother and child home for Christmas

Updated 12:06 am, Monday, December 24, 2012

BRIDGEPORT -- A criminal-justice major and aspiring police officer, Amanda Arnold believes cops are the good guys.

Still, when her car broke down on exit 25 off Interstate 95, the most she expected was a jump start and some kind words. The Bridgeport Police Department did better than that.

Within hours of the mishap, Arnold, 25; her 19-month-old son, Kason; and their cats, Piper and Tyler, had a place to stay, a free car repair and extra cash for the holidays.

"This is really like a miracle," Arnold said Sunday, sitting on the couch of Bridgeport Police Sgt. Melody Pribesh's Derby home. Pribesh said she decided to offer as soon as she saw Arnold and her fair-haired toddler.

"I always ask myself what would Jesus do and last night she was my manger story," Pribesh said. "Her eyes were just so sweet."

"It was the tears," Arnold joked.

The Florida native was driving home for good Saturday night from New Hampshire, where she had lived for the past five months. Just before 7 p.m., the engine alert lit up.

Arnold pulled off at exit 25, and her 1991 Buick Park Avenue shut down completely.

"I was stuck at an intersection," she said.

She called 911, and as she waited one man tried unsuccessfully to jump start the Buick, and a woman parked across the street to make sure nothing bad happened. Arnold was crying in frustration when Sgt. Brad Seeley came upon the car.

With police on the scene, the situation brightened.

Officers Ivan Delgado and Mark Martocchio were able to get it towed to a McDonald's parking lot for free by Cityline Towing and Recovery, and they offered to repair the Buick. Seeley asked fellow officers for donations to buy a new alternator and belt.

"Within 10 minutes we had over $260," said Delgado. He kept money to buy discounted parts from the Auto Zone on North Avenue and gave Arnold the leftover $110.

It was past midnight when Pribesh called her sister for a cage, blankets and food for the cats, who stayed overnight in the police department garage.

By 2 p.m. the next day, Delgado and Martocchio had repaired the Buick as Arnold looked on and Pribesh watched Kason.

"I'm going to be sorry to see him go," she said.

Then Delgado handed Arnold an envelope with $180 from additional donations. The young mom almost cried. Money had been tight this year.

"Now I'll have money to buy Kason a Christmas present," she said.

Delgado said he doesn't feel like he's done anything special.

"It's not just going after bad guys," he said. "We have to help people.", 203-330-6321,;

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Nardozzi named assistant police chief

Police Chief Joseph Gaudett announced the appointment of James F. Nardozzi as the assistant chief of police.

Nardozzi, who most recently served as the dean of Post College and director of its master of public administration degree program, retired in 2007 as deputy chief of the Waterbury Police Department, where he served since 1989. He will serve as second-in-command to the chief coordinating daily business, operations and administration of the department.

“Dr. Nardozzi will be an excellent addition to the force, working with the chief to rein in overtime and reduce expenses while ensuring the officers are deployed in the most efficient manner,” Mayor Bill Finch said. “His extensive police management experience as well as his work as a consultant to many Connecticut police departments makes him especially suited to assist Chief Gaudett in the day-to-day management of the department.”

“I look forward to working with Dr. Nardozzi on moving the Department forward in a positive manner, keeping an eye on overtime and assisting me with the day-to-day operations and administration,” Gaudett said. “He has a stellar track record in organizational effectiveness and policy development, which will be of great assistance here.”

While serving as Waterbury’s deputy chief, Nardozzi reduced departmental overtime by $2 million annually, implemented new fiscal controls and monitored systems and procedures to increase efficiency and effectiveness of various department programs and operations.

Nardozzi was chosen from among the top three finalists presented to the Finch after a nationwide search conducted by Randi Frank Associates. The assistant chief position was approved and budgeted by the City Council in Fiscal Year 2012-13.

Nardozzi’s appointment is provisional pending his recertification by the Police Officer Standards and Training Council. He will be paid $113,220.

Nardozzi earned his doctorate in public administration from Nova Southeastern University. He has a certificate in criminal justice education from the University of Virginia and graduated from the University of New Haven with a master’s degree in public administration and a senior professional certificate in forensic science. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, the FBI LEEDS program and the Connecticut Municipal Police Academy, and is a certified police Instructor in Connecticut.


Jury clears Bridgeport, cop in fatal shooting

Updated 2:27 p.m., Tuesday, October 23, 2012

BRIDGEPORT -- A Superior Court jury Tuesday cleared both the city and one of its police officers of any civil wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of a South Carolina man following a chase four years ago.

Members of the dead man's family sat shaking their heads in the Main Street courtroom as the clerk, Tanisha Williams, read each verdict finding that Lt. Brian Fitzgerald had used reasonable force when he shot the unarmed Frederick McAllister in the back in the Success Village housing complex on Jan. 31, 2008.

"This is not agreeable," said McAllister's mother, Martha McAllister, who broke into tears after the verdict. "My son was killed unjustly. That cop slaughtered him and this verdict is not right."

Following the verdict, Judge Dale Radcliffe told the sobbing McAllister family that while he understood the result was not what they expected he still hoped they got some closure.

The city's lawyer, Betsy Edwards, later called the verdict a "complete vindication not just for officer Fitzgerald but for all the officers who put their lives at risk every day to try and keep us safe."

Fitzgerald declined comment as he left the courthouse with Edwards.

The jury of three men and three women deliberated over four days before announcing their verdict shortly before noon.

"Our deliberations were long and very difficult and we felt we came to the right decision," a woman juror, who would not give her name, said later.

Fitzgerald fatally shot the 33-year-old unarmed McAllister following a chase in which police mistook McAllister for his cousin, Justin Dewitt Ellerbe, who was wanted by South Carolina police on outstanding felony charges.

During the three-week trial Fitzgerald testified he was working an overtime assignment when he heard a radio report that Ellerbe was heading in his direction in a sports utility vehicle. He said he pursued the SUV to the housing complex where it crashed through a fence and drove across a field before hitting a tree. He claimed the driver of the SUV, who he believed was Ellerbe, began advancing toward him, pointing an object he believed was a weapon. He then fired six shots at the man.

Fitzgerald said he then chased the man into a narrow alley and fired at him when he said the man made a motion towards his waistband.

It was later determined that the object in his hand had been his Blackberry.

Edwards contended that the fatal shot occurred in the field after McAllister had advanced toward Fitzgerald.

"If a police officer has a reasonable belief that deadly force is necessary to protect himself or to apprehend a dangerous felon he can use deadly force," she told the jury. "No one got on the witness stand and said Brian did anything wrong."

Among her witnesses during the four-week trial was former Bridgeport State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict who had cleared Fitzgerald of any criminal wrongdoing following an investigation by State Police.

However, the McAllister family's lawyers, Antonio Ponvert III and Preston Tisdale, argued that evidence showed Fitzgerald shot McAllister in the back as McAllister was running away from him in the narrow alleyway.

"If a police officer shoots an unarmed, misidentified man in the back the officer must tell the truth about what happened and take responsibility for his actions," Ponvert told the jurors. "You do not have to find that Brian Fitzgerald is a bad man, an evil man, that he hates black people. You just need to find he made a mistake and was careless."; 203-330-6308; http://

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Fundraiser set for Bridgeport officer

Updated 11:47 p.m., Tuesday, September 4, 2012

BRIDGEPORT -- Hearing a "10-32, officer needs assistance" broadcast on the radio immediately prompts officers to spring into action to aid a fellow officer in need.

But the urge to keep each other safe goes beyond the field.

Bridgeport police officers will demonstrate that on Sept. 28, when they join with family, friends and strangers to raise money to help an officer in need, Sgt. Jessica Tillson, who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.

A benefit dinner will be held that day at the Vasco De Gama Club in Bridgeport. Tickets are $30.

Tillson was cancer-free for five years, but doctors said the disease has returned and has been found in her lungs, abdomen and lymph nodes, and she is undergoing chemotherapy.

Fellow officers organizing the event say she would like to spend her time traveling with her 10-year-old daughter to places they haven't been before.

The organizers of the benefit are seeking donations in the form of raffle prizes, silent auction items, gift certificates, food trays, beverages and anything else to help the cause.

Anyone who wishes to help can email or call one of the following: Tricia Lougal ,; Scott Lougal, , ; Brad Seely, ,; Tami Speer.

T-shirts are also being sold for $20 that have a Bridgeport police badge on the front and "Finish Strong," on the back. Anyone interested in buying a T-shirt can contact Bridgeport Police Capt. Douglas Stolze. Those interested in attending the benefit dinner should also contact Stolze.

Cop union tepid to new Bridgeport curfew

Updated 11:59 p.m., Wednesday, August 1, 2012

BRIDGEPORT -- When he signed a new youth curfew into law this week, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch emphasized that the restrictions, criticized by some as an infringement on basic freedoms, are what the community demanded.

Not so the rank-and-file police officers, however. According to union officials, they were never consulted.

"I do have concerns about how it's going to be implemented as far as the impact on the officers' routine work," Police Sgt. Chuck Paris, president of the Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159, said. "They are chasing calls quite a bit right now, and to add this to what they need to do during the shift, I think, is going to be a lot of work."

Paris added, "And I don't know if we're prepared to go forward with this as of yet."

Finch and the police have had a rocky relationship. The union during last year's Democratic mayoral primary endorsed Finch's opponent, Mary-Jane Foster.

Asked to respond to the claim that the union was not consulted, Finch's office issued a terse statement from Police Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr. that the curfew is in place and the department will enforce it.

"Every one of our police officers takes an oath to uphold and perform the duties and responsibilities of a police officer in the city of Bridgeport," Gaudett said. "We expect that all our officers will abide by that oath."

Passed last week by the City Council after about seven months of deliberation, the curfew at first glance appears simple enough: Residents under 18 are not allowed in public between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and between midnight and 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday without a parent or guardian.

But there are plenty of exemptions for work, religion, extracurricular activities and unspecified expressions of "First Amendment rights of free speech (and) freedom of assembly."

Also, youths can break the curfew if carrying a note from a parent or guardian explaining they are on an "errand."

During Finch's signing ceremony Monday, Police Capt. Robert Gearing said the curfew was another tool officers will use to get out of their cruisers and interact with the community.

But he and Finch also acknowledged it will take at least a month to implement the regulations and police officers will require training.

While enforcement will mainly involve issuing warnings and fines, under certain circumstances officers may not be able to leave a youth at home and have to transport them to the police department or another safe spot until a parent or guardian or social services agency can be contacted.

Paris said, "In the event you have to take these youth into the police department, where are you going to bring them? How long (is it) going to take for the state Department of Children and Families or a parent to come and release them?"

Reactions among rank-and-file officers to the curfew's passage ranged from the humorous to real concerns about the practicalities of carrying out the law.

One cop who walks a beat joked he is going to be carrying around a height bar with him.

Others expressed concern they may be asked to concentrate curfew enforcement in specific neighborhoods that have experienced violence, like the East Side, leading to claims of racism.

Although Paris said he would have appreciated if city officials reached out to the union while the curfew was debated, he acknowledged that the union did not approach the city.

The curfew was proposed in January following the slaying of 14-year-old Justin Thompson.

"It was never an assurance this was going to happen," Paris said.

Staff Writer Daniel Tepfer contributed to this report.

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Bridgeport detective urges different approach

Published 11:46 p.m., Friday, June 1, 2012

BRIDGEPORT -- The officers arrived just before class, settling into seats at the police academy -- 24 men and women representing departments across the region.

Most were clad in jeans and T-shirts. Others, still on duty, had guns and handcuffs strapped to their belts.

They had come for an always popular subject.

The lecturer arrived last, in suit jacket and tie. He hooked up his laptop computer, clicked open a PowerPoint presentation and began with a quick history of American gangs. Detective Harold Dimbo, 50, breezed through the Irish mob of the 19th century, cruised past the Italian Mafia of the 20th and made quick work of the gangs of the '80s and '90s that he had helped dismantle.

Working the same city streets he was raised on, often undercover, Dimbo worked to bring down the Latin Kings and other gangs, beating back the tide of violence that caused up to 60 homicides here a year.

Looking out at the class, Dimbo said they thought they had solved the problem.

"But we didn't," he said. "We created another one."


In Dimbo's mind, two events launched his path from a child of Bridgeport's East End to dean of organized crime on this city's police force -- and, lately, to the belief that new tactics are needed to address the trouble.

As a boy, playing in water streaming out of a Stratford Avenue fire hydrant, he saw an officer approach, flipping a baton. While most kids scattered, Dimbo and his friend, too small to open the hydrant themselves, stuck around. His friend told the officer that someone else had opened it. The officer walloped his hand.

Years later, one of Dimbo's friends was killed by a drug dealer.

It was Dimbo's father who challenged him to make something positive out of these bad memories, and so he applied to become a cop.

"I wanted to show the community what a police officer can be," he recalls. "And I wanted to show the police department how you can (more fairly) police the community."

A few years in, Dimbo joined a State Police anti-gang task force, the first in a series of posts with the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Each step brought more training and experience infiltrating gangs like the Latin Kings and a Jamaican gang here in Bridgeport.

He traveled to cities with deeply entrenched gang cultures, like Chicago and Los Angeles, and he learned to build cases against lower ranking members to get to the top of the rings.

He saw how gangs had bylaws, chains of command and visions for their ethnic communities, even if they heavily trafficked in illegal activities. You often had to be a high school graduate to join; they frequently wanted members to become attorneys, judges or something else respectable.

It wasn't long after Dimbo returned full time to Bridgeport and became a detective that he was asked to share his knowledge.

"He's the most seasoned gang instructor in the state," says Lt. Lonnie Blackwell, the training academy and recruitment commander in Bridgeport. "I challenged him to bring it to the classroom."


As his class wore on, Dimbo moved from the gangs of old to the ones that torment Bridgeport, and sometimes neighboring towns, today.

First came the Stack Boyz in the Marina Village Public Housing complex, who emerged as drug dealers out of a failed hip-hop group, he said. When they started making loads of money, they began a second outfit about a mile north. Before long, the Elmwood Avenue Stack Boyz were selling superior drugs and making more money, which led to shootouts.

Meanwhile, a group formed on the East End called the Bloods, unaffiliated with the notorious gang of the same name from Los Angeles.

The fastest growing gang today, Dimbo said, is the East Side Bloods, which accept almost anyone who wants to hang out along East Main Street, regardless of where their home is. They like flashing "2xx," he said, which stands for "two times the hood."

Today's groups lack bylaws and hierarchy and social agendas, Dimbo said. They recruit kids as young as 12, sometimes foisting their guns upon the kids so that, if the police strike, a court will rule more leniently.

The members often come from broken homes, Dimbo said. And unlike with previous generations, these kids have grown up playing endless hours of violent video games like Grand Theft Auto -- where stealing cars, shooting officers and raping prostitutes is part of the game.

Yet the actual ring leaders in the groups are few. If there are 75 to 90 members of the East Side Bloods, Dimbo said, there are maybe 10 real troublemakers that the police are aware of.

The rest want to fit in, to hang out with the gun-wielders to avoid getting robbed or shot at themselves.

"I don't see them as gangs," Dimbo said. "I see a person who wants to do criminal activity and he don't want to go by himself.

"Like most bullies."


Dimbo cued a video that shows a teenager who has smuggled a dozen firearms into school under his baggy clothes. It's a blessing, he said, that regional school districts haven't experienced shootings. But he asked the officers to consider a possibility:

What if someone sneaked in multiple guns and dispersed them to friends. Instead of chasing a single armed target, you enter a hellish scene where untold weapons are inside the school -- maybe a shootout between rivals.

He paused.

Picture yourself walking around a corner, finding an armed 9 year old.

"We're not trained to shoot a little kid," he said. "But to that kid, you're a video game."


What drives Dimbo today, he says, is figuring out how to keep residents out of handcuffs in the first place.

With his class, he wants to update officers on the latest realities, make them aware of concepts that could keep them safe. But he also wants them to consider drug dealers and other trouble makers on a more personal level. He wants them to be able to win trust from the community, so that they can better prevent crime rather than chase it.

"To protect and to serve," he says, "doesn't necessarily mean you need to make an arrest."

Three years ago, he took over the Bridgeport Young Adult Police Commissioners, a group of 15 or so teenagers that meets in the North End.

Each spring, they perform a play that deals with issues plaguing the city's youth. This year, Dimbo wrote the script from his experiences as an officer. The play debuts Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Golden Hill Methodist Church on Elm Street

It's about teenage bullying, a gun in school and a funeral.

The teenage commissioners have helped Dimbo brainstorm ways to combat youth violence without arresting people.

Once, they took in a girl from a housing complex who'd repeatedly been in trouble for assaulting people.

A large girl, she soon had a collection of followers who hung nearby for protection. When Dimbo and a partner visited her home, they found a bug-infested sofa, cockroaches crawling across the floor and a box spring acting as the girl's bed that was covered by a sheet.

Instead of arresting her, they secured her family an apartment in a neighboring town.

"We changed her whole life," Dimbo told the officers in his gang class. "Everyone was saying, you can't do nothing for her, she's a lost cause...But they're kids we're dealing with today."

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Bridgeport cops getting more firepower

Updated 07:00 a.m., Thursday, May 3, 2012

BRIDGEPORT -- With the proliferation of more and better quality guns in the hands of criminals, local police are finding they have to step up their weaponry to keep up.

The Bridgeport Police Department recently signed with Smith & Wesson to equip its patrol officers and detectives with the .45-caliber military and police semi-automatic pistol.

The weapon replaces the .40-caliber Sig Sauer semi-automatic pistols that police officers have carried since 2004.

Currently the gun of choice on the streets is a 9mm, according to Police spokesman Det. Keith Bryant. He said the 9mm, popularized in many crime movies and television shows, has been used in many recent shootings. However, police would not say what caliber bullets were found at the scene Monday at Maplewood Avenue and Poplar Street, where a 3-year-old girl was shot.

Lt. John Cueto said the .45-caliber bullets that will be used by police officers in the new guns will be larger and have more stopping power than the 9mm, which was similar to the .40-caliber currently used by officers.

Cueto said the best part is that they are getting the new guns at no cost.

"The Smith & Wesson people approached us about switching over to their guns," he said.

Cueto said the Massachusetts State Police recently tested all handguns available for police use, and the Smith & Wesson .45-caliber came out on top.

Under the agreement, he said Smith & Wesson will make a swap, trading the department's roughly 450 Sig Sauers for their guns. Patrol officers will carry a full-sized gun, while detectives will have a more compact model. Each gun has a capacity of 11 bullets in a magazine. The gun retails for $600.

While all semi-automatic pistols fire each time the trigger is pulled, Cueto said that the current Sig Sauers are double action/single action, which means that the first time the trigger is pulled it also cocks the gun, causing the first pull to be harder than subsequent pulls. This can result, he said, in the first shot not being as accurate. With the Smith & Wesson, each trigger pull is the same.

"That results in better accuracy and more ease of operation," he said.; 203-330-6308;


Honis, city reach agreement, stays on payroll

Updated 10:19 p.m., Friday, March 23, 2012

BRIDGEPORT -- Deputy Police Chief James Honis, who is under investigation for allegedly obstructing an investigation of a killing, remains on the city payroll after the city reached an agreement with him and a grievance hearing Friday was indefinitely delayed.

Police Chief Joseph Gaudett placed Honis, a 41-year veteran of the department, on leave last May after Police Lt. Thomas Lula filed a report accusing Honis of participating with other officers in obstructing the investigation into the June 22, 1977, killing of Anita Marie McIntosh.

McIntosh, a convicted prostitute, was found beaten, bruised and bound, her body thrown out of a white van onto Silliman Avenue and nearly run over by a fire engine returning from a blaze.

Gaudett turned Lula's report over to the FBI, which had an ongoing investigation into alleged illegalities involving city towing contracts as well as the way confiscated drugs were handled by police at the 2009 Gathering of the Vibes concert in Seaside Park. Honis' name surfaced in both instances because he oversaw police towing work, as well as security at the Vibes concert.

Honis, who makes $108,405 a year, has never been charged with any criminal offense and has said the allegations are false.

Months ago, Police Sgt. Chuck Paris, president of the Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159, said the union was requesting an expedited appeal and Honis' attorney, John Robert Gulash, said his client was looking forward to being reinstated to his position.

But, minutes before the scheduled hearing before arbitrator J. Larry Foy in City Hall on Friday, Honis, wearing a dark suit and his long, white hair in a sleek low ponytail, met privately in an upstairs room with union officials and John P. Bohannon Jr., the outside counsel representing the city.

Half an hour later, all but Honis returned to the first-floor conference room, where Foy waited, after having reached an agreement, which they discussed privately for a few minutes.

Union officials declined to comment on the agreement. Bohannon declined to discuss specifics.

"We entered into an agreement, which enters the matter into abeyance and maintains the status quo," Bohannon said. "What that means is Deputy Chief Honis shall remain off duty and on administrative leave with pay at this time."

Bohannon called the delay a simple administrative procedure. "It is not intended to cast aspersions upon the deputy chief," he said, "but merely to maintain the integrity of any pending investigation."

No other arbitration date has been set.

The city's contract with the police department allows the chief to place a member of his department on leave "if a condition exists which might compromise, limit or prohibit the employee from effectively performing his or her duties or exposes the city to liability."

In the two-paragraph letter, Gaudett told Honis that he was on leave pending "the outcome of an investigation of a very serious nature."

Honis was required to turn in his gun and badge and prohibited from returning to the department without first receiving Gaudett's permission.

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Suspended deputy chief to get hearing

Updated 08:31 p.m., Monday, February 20, 2012

BRIDGEPORT -- As an FBI investigation continues, Deputy Chief James Honis, accused by a fellow officer of helping obstruct the investigation of a 1977 murder, is set to appear before an arbitrator next month to make his case to be allowed to return to work.

Honis has been on paid leave from his $108,405-a-year job since May 24, when he was suspended by Police Chief Joseph Gaudett. The chief took action after Police Lt. Thomas Lula filed a report accusing Honis of participating with other officers in obstructing the investigation into the June 22, 1977, killing of Anita Marie McIntosh.

Honis has said the allegations are false. No charges have been filed against the 41-year veteran of the department.

McIntosh, a convicted prostitute, was found beaten, bruised and bound, her body thrown out of a white van onto Silliman Avenue and nearly run over by a fire engine returning from a blaze.

Lula's report names a 73-year-old man who was friendly with some of the involved officers as the killer.

However, the individual has not been charged.

No arrests were ever made in McIntosh's slaying. Only Honis and a retired officer linked by Lula to the matter are still alive.

Gaudett turned Lula's report over to the FBI, which had an ongoing investigation into alleged illegalities involving city of Bridgeport towing contracts as well as the way confiscated drugs were handled by police at the 2009 Gathering of the Vibes concert in Seaside Park. Honis' name surfaced in both instances because he oversaw police towing work, as well as security at the Vibes concert.

Through the summer and early fall, FBI agents interviewed several past and current officers in connection with the Vibes and towing investigations. Honis has never been charged with any criminal offense.

"Deputy Chief Honis has not been charged with any wrongdoing either internally or externally by any agency," said John Robert Gulash, one of Honis' lawyers. "We are not specifically aware of any investigation or the details of any report that has been filed. Neither my client nor myself have been provided with any complaint of any kind."

Honis will get a chance to argue for his return during a March 23 hearing at City Hall before Joseph Celetano, a private mediator and arbitrator.

"We sought an expedited appeal," said Chuck Paris, president of the Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159. "He is being represented by our lawyers, and he's eager to go forward."

Gulash said Honis is "very anxious to put this behind him and be restored to his position in the department."

The city will be represented by John P. Bohannon Jr., an outside counsel.

Celetano will determine whether the action taken against Honis by Gaudett was appropriate, whether the administrative leave should continue and, if so, the length of time for which it should be continued. If Celetano continues the leave, he will retain jurisdiction in the matter.

The city's contract with the police department allows the chief to place a member of his department on leave "if a condition exists which might compromise, limit or prohibit the employee from effectively performing his or her duties or exposes the city to liability."

In the two-paragraph letter, Gaudett told Honis that he was on leave pending "the outcome of an investigation of a very serious nature."

Honis was required to turn in his gun and badge and prohibited from returning to the department without first receiving Gaudett's permission.; 203-330-6286;

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Questions raised over lease deal for PD units

Updated 04:46 p.m., Saturday, February 18, 2012

BRIDGEPORT -- The Police Department's plan to consolidate its specialized units in a West Side building whose owner owes thousands in back taxes and is facing foreclosure is being criticized by some members of the City Council.

In 2010, the police department and Office of Economic and Community Development asked the City Council to approve a three-year lease for the property at 485 Howard Ave.

At the time, the property owner Stephen Bachleda, principal of Four Kids Enterprises LLC, was facing separate foreclosure actions due to his failure to repay a $100,000 mortgage on the West Side property to Community Capital Fund and more than $70,000 in property tax liens.

One week after the lease was referred to the City Council, though, the tax bill was paid.

The deal drew the ire of several City Council members, who found the $157,000 annual lease to be excessive and questioned why the city would make that deal with a financially troubled business owner.

Included in the lease amount would be the property taxes and payments Bachleda owes for a construction loan he took out to construct the building in 2004.

Former City Council member Robert Walsh admonished the department for not issuing a formal request for proposals in their efforts to find a site, as required by the city's charter.

After the proposal failed to make its way to the full council, OPED officials agreed to put it out to bid. The RFP went out last year and this month the council's contracts committee and full council were asked to once again consider the Howard Avenue site.

Lt. John Cueto said he knew the property would get the bid because several RFPs had been done in the past and he had done his research before selecting the site the first time. "I've done everything by the numbers so it's absolutely legitimate," he said on Friday.

The RFP produced seven responses and council members were invited to visit the sites with Cueto and other selection panel members. At $4 or $5 per quare foot, some sites, like one on Lindley Street, would have offered lower leases but that amount would have been negated by the price of renovating the space.

Cueto said the current 4,000-square-foot River Street facility occupied by the police department since 1989, owned by the DiNardo family, no longer fits the PD's needs and provides security issues for the federally funded equipment stored there.

The city pays $63,500 a year for that site, he said.

The Howard Avenue site would have enough space to consolidate several departments, including the Tactical Narcotics Team, K-9 and traffic divisions, while allowing room for the PD to add create departments.

At 16,275 square feet, the new building would also allow the PD to securely store the department's specialized vehicles, most of which were purchased with federal funds.

Council member James Holloway, the lone member of the contracts committee to vote the lease down this week, said he was opposed to the lease in 2010, and still is, not because of the department's proposed use, but because the council has voted in the past not to approve contracts with individuals or companies that have outstanding tax bills.

He noted that the current fiscal year's $40,000 tax bill, due in July, has yet to be paid. Holloway said most homeowners in the East End neighborhood he represents are forced out of their homes if they don't pay their taxes or default on their mortgage. Developers and business owners should not get special treatment, he said.

Cueto said the department only wants to ensure that the property is not put on sale on the open market. He said the Grow America Fund -- which is scheduled to foreclose on the property in April because of Bachleda's failure to pay a $1.5 million construction loan -- has agreed to take over the city's lease once Bachleda is out of the picture.

The city's plan is to purchase the property, for an estimated $1 million, once the lease expires.

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City swears in 24 new police officers

Updated 12:47 a.m., Saturday, October 29, 2011

BRIDGEPORT -- Several hundred people filled the city's Common Council chambers Friday night to greet the newest city police officers.

There were calls for `Fabio' and `Ashley' along with the flash of camera strobes as each of the 24 members of the 34th policy academy training class walked down the aisle of the chambers to be congratulated first by Police Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr. and then Mayor Bill Finch.

They were led by the Police Department's Honor Guard and retired police detective Peter Stevens playing the U.S. Marine Hymn on the bagpipe.

The last cadet, John Ballard Jr., was warmly greeted by his new boss Milford Police Chief Keith Mello.

"I stand in awe at the commitment and sacrifice you are making for us," U.S. Rep Jim Himes told the graduates. "The job you are pursuing is one where you will put your life and limb at risk for us."

Gaudett thanked Himes for helping to push legislation through the Congress to find not only this class of police recruits but a new class of 20 after the first of the new year.

"The reason you are here is to help people and give back to the community," Gaudett continued to the graduates. "I am asking you to always treat people like a member of your family because all these people are part of the community you serve."

Those graduating the academy were: Phillip Norris Jr., Michael R. Carter, Eliud Henry II, David W. Rivera, John Carrano Jr, Jonathan Duharte, Eric R. Schneider, Timothy Leonard, Jamie Jarrett, Daniel Paz, Fabio W. Pereira, Michael Stanitis, Christopher Zaleta, Marie Cetti, Ean Smith, Clinton Jarvis Jr., Thomas Harper, Ashley Taylor, Marco Brito, Jeffrey Franco, Albert Palatiello III, Sheldon Mayne, Adam Rozum, Paul Cari and Ballard.

Mayne gave the class address. He drew laughs from the audience as he described the ordeal the cadets had to undergo in the academy including being pepper sprayed and hit with a Taser.

The graduates received the oath from the mayor and then family members approached the stage area to pin the shiny silver badges on their new graduates.


Jury clears 6 Bridgeport cops of excessive force

Updated 08:05 a.m., Thursday, October 13, 2011

HARTFORD -- A federal court jury Wednesday cleared six Bridgeport police officers of claims they violated the civil rights of a Bridgeport business owner when they arrested him following a scuffle outside his business.

The jury deliberated about four hours before finding in favor of Lt. Joseph Santillo, Sgts. Robert Gasparri and Kevin Gilleran and officers Manuel Santos, Kenneth McKenna and David Uliano.

"We are very pleased the jury vindicated our officers' rights and obligations to protect the public and themselves," said Associate City Attorney Betsy Edwards, who represented the officers and the city during the six-day trial before U.S. District Judge Alvin Thompson. "The jury did the right thing."

The officers had been accused of excessive force, false arrest and malicious prosecution under the federal Civil Rights Act in connection with the July 21, 2005, arrest of Trevor Smith, of Kossuth Street.

Smith's lawyer, Alexander Schwartz, did not return calls for comment.

The incident began when Gasparri attempted to get Smith to move his truck from in front of Smith's steel-framing business on Kossuth Street because the officer said it was sticking out into the intersection.

Police said Smith became belligerent with the officer and Gasparri called for backup. When the other officers arrived, police said Smith fought with them.

Both Gasparri and Smith ended up going to the hospital. The officer for back, shoulder and knee injuries and Smith for shoulder injuries and the effects of being pepper sprayed.

Smith, who was charged with two counts of assault on a police officer, three counts of interfering with police and one count each of third-degree assault and breach of peace, was later found not guilty of the charges by a Superior Court jury.

During the trial, he testified he had come out of his business to move his truck, which was parked across the opening to the garage of his shop when Gasparri pulled him down from the truck without warning. He claimed Gasparri and the other officers then began pummeling him.

Smith then sued the officers and the city in federal court.

Contact Daniel Tepfer at 203-330-6308 or Follow him on

Two cops recovering from Bridgeport crash

Updated 11:14 p.m., Thursday, October 6, 2011

BRIDGEPORT -- A city police officer suffered a broken right leg and broken hip, and two women were seriously injured in a two-car crash Wednesday night at the intersection of Barnum and Hallett streets.

Police Officer Carlos Vasquez is recuperating at Bridgeport Hospital following surgeries to mend his broken bones. His partner, Jorge Larregui, also was treated and later released from the hospital.

Neither the names of the two women who occupied the second car or their conditions were available Thursday. The crash is being investigated by the major accident reconstruction team.

Both cars were heavily damaged. A witness described the police car's front end as being crunched.

Chief Joseph Gaudett said he visited Vasquez on Thursday and spoke to Larregui.

"Jorge told me he is very sore," the chief said.

In the department, Larregui is considered "a walking miracle," the chief said. While cleaning his backup 9 mm gun at home, where he was recuperating from a broken right leg in 2008, Larregui accidently shot himself in the left thigh and nearly bled to death. He was flown to Hartford Hospital, where he was resuscitated three times and given last rites. He also underwent numerous blood transfusions while having 25 surgeries on the leg.

Larregui has been known to wear a gold necklace bearing the words "St. Michael Protect Us." St. Michael is the patron saint of police officers.

During Wednesday's crash, Gaudett said air bags deployed in the police cruiser, saving the officers from further injury.

Around 9:30 p.m., the officers were on patrol on Barnum Avenue when they received a call that another officer was in need of assistance. Gaudett said the two officers responded by turning on their lights and sirens, which a witness confirmed.

As they approached the two-way stop sign, a green sedan being driven by one of the women stopped at the sign, inched up a bit before proceeding into the intersection, according to a witness. That's where a collision, which Gaudett described as a "T-bone," occurred.

A witness said the police car bounced off the vehicle and came to a rest near a fence.

The chief said he expects the investigation to be completed quickly.

In March, Larregui and Vasquez responded to a domestic violence call in Marina Village, only to uncover a marijuana sales operation in the apartment.

Six years ago, Larregui and Sean Lynch were nearly run over by the driver of a stolen car when they tried to stop it. Both officers fired at the occupants, wounding them.

Warren DelMonte

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DELMONTE, Warren G. DelMonte, age 56 of Shelton, entered into eternal rest on September 5, 2011 at St. Vincent's Hospital. He was the beloved husband of Rebecca DelMonte, and the loving father of Nick and Michael DelMonte. Warren was born in Manhattan on July 1, 1955 son of the late Roy and Evelyn (Del Gaudio) DelMonte. In 1990 he began his career as a Police Officer for the City of Bridgeport and later became a detective in 1995. During Warren's time on the force he was a member of both the Fugitive Task Force and Narcotics & Vice. Detective DelMonte was a gun enthusiast who loved playing golf and most importantly spending time with his family. He is the adoring brother of Dorienne DelMonte. Friends and family may call at the Riverview Funeral Home on Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Riverview Funeral Home, 390 River Road, Shelton. His funeral procession will leave the funeral home on Friday at 9:45 a.m. for a Mass of Christian Burial at 10:30 a.m. in St. Joseph Church, Shelton. Burial will follow at Riverside Cemetery, Shelton. Memorial contributions may be made to The Lustgarden Foundation, 1111 Stewart Avenue, Bethpage, New York 11714. Condolences may be left to Warren's family at

Bridgeport set to hire 20 police officers

Updated 10:12 p.m., Wednesday, September 28, 2011 (Connecticut POST)

BRIDGEPORT -- One year after recruiting efforts began, Bridgeport is set to hire 20 police officers with the help of a $5 million federal stimulus grant. The grant is administered under the COPS, or Community-Oriented Policing Services program, and will pay for the salaries and benefits of the 20 officers over three years.

"The addition of 20 new officers to the Bridgeport Police Department, thanks to this federal program, will enhance the department's community policing and overall crime prevention efforts," said Police Chief Joseph Gaudett.

The officers will serve as part of the city's Strategic Enforcement Team, which focuses on preventing and reducing teen, gang and drug-related crimes.

"This grant means 20 new cops on the street, 20 new jobs and a safer Bridgeport," said U.S. Rep. Jim Himes. "As tough economic times squeeze local police budgets and make it more difficult to keep crime rates low, this grant will help the Bridgeport Police Department protect our neighborhoods, families and businesses."

"We are very thankful to Congressman Himes' efforts in securing these funds, which will help improve public safety in our city," said Mayor Bill Finch. "We look forward to bringing in 20 new officers to protect and serve the residents of Bridgeport."

The city has seen a long-term decline in violent crime in recent years, but after dipping in 2009 the homicide total increased to 22 in 2010. On Tuesday, the city recorded its 15th homicide for the year when a woman was found dead in her Madison Avenue home.

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Police Union Endorses Foster


September 23rd, 2011 · 15 Comments · City Politics, Cops

From the Foster campaign:

President Charles Paris, Vice President Bernard Webb, and the executive board of Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159 have voted unanimously to endorse Democratic candidate for mayor of Bridgeport Mary-Jane Foster. Local 1159 represents over 400 police officers in Connecticut’s largest city. Bridgeport has the largest police force in Connecticut.

“Mary-Jane brings a great deal of energy and new ideas to our city,” explained Paris. “In this economy, Bridgeport needs a leader who understands the important role that public safety plays in securing needed growth and development. We look forward to working with Mary-Jane to help Bridgeport and its residents move forward.”

“It is clear that my message about public safety and its connection to economic development and quality of life hit home with the union and that we’re on the same page,” stated Foster. “To stabilize taxes, Bridgeport needs to jumpstart development and that cannot happen unless people feel safe and secure. Public safety is a basic building block to any successful municipality.

These brave men and women put their lives on the line each and every day to protect and serve the residents and visitors to our city. They deserve our utmost respect and that hasn’t happened under the Finch administration.”

City police union files grievance over deputy chief's leave

Updated 11:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 13, 2011

BRIDGEPORT -- The city's police union has filed a grievance charging that Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr. and the city violated the union contract in imposing an administrative leave on Deputy Chief James Honis.

Honis, a 41-year veteran of the department, was placed on paid administrative leave by the chief on May 24 while under investigation for a "serious criminal" matter, the chief said in a news release. Sources said Honis was placed on paid leave after a veteran police lieutenant filed a complaint that Honis and other unnamed police officers had obstructed the investigation of a prostitute's murder 34 years ago, sources said.

Chuck Paris, president of Local 1159, said he is seeking an expedited hearing before the state Labor Department's Board of Mediation and Arbitration.

"We believe this has been totally mishandled by the city and Chief Gaudett," Paris said. "We are seeking a quick resolution."

Honis was required to turn in his badge and gun and clean out his desk.

Paris said the nearly two-month long administrative leave "constitutes a long time." He said the conditions of the leave and how it is being handled are different from other administrative leaves imposed.

He said he has not yet heard from the chief or the Office of the City Attorney.

Nor has John Robert Gulash, Honis' lawyer.

"We've received no notification of the nature of the allegation which resulted in the administrative leave," Gulash said.

He declined to comment on the police union's action.

The outside agency investigating the allegation is the FBI, which for the past two years has been investigating allegations from Bridgeport police officers that confiscated drugs, particularly nitrous oxide, seized at the 2009 Gathering of the Vibes music festival in Seaside Park were mishandled. Honis supervised police activity at the event that year.

Additionally, they have been questioning towing operators about Honis' relationship with towing firms.

Shortly before Honis was placed on administrative leave, Gaudett received a report compiled by Police Lt. Thomas Lula alleging that Honis, along with at least two other former cops, was involved in obstructing the investigation into the June 22, 1977, murder of Anita McIntosh. No arrest was made in that murder.

Honis has denied any wrongdoing and not been charged with any crime.

Under the contract with the police union, grievances first go to the chief and the city's Labor Relations Department. If a resolution is not reached, the grievance is forwarded to the state Labor Department by the union's legal team.

The Board of Police Commissioners becomes involved if the chief imposes a suspension of more than 30 days on an officer. Administrative leave carries a separate set of rules.

Neither Gaudett nor the Office of the City Attorney responded to requests for comment Wednesday.

Contact Michael P. Mayko at 203-330-6286 or by email at You can follow him on twitter at MMayko2011.

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Bridgeport breaks ground on memorial to slain police officers

Updated 04:08 p.m., Monday, May 30, 2011

BRIDGEPORT -- It was a long time coming, but Jane DiJoseph said the wait was worth it.
DiJoseph was left a widow in 1980 when her husband, a city police officer, was killed in the line of duty. It was during a traffic stop on James Street, DiJoseph said, gesturing over to the area, just feet away from where a memorial is planned to honor her husband and seven other deceased police officers.
Monday was the groundbreaking for the "End of Watch" wall, which will be constructed on the median, actually a small park, between City Hall and police headquarters.
"I think it was meant to happen now that my children are older and can appreciate it," DiJoseph said. When her husband died, her children were just 4, 7 and 8, she said.
"I was lucky to have them," she said, adding her husband was just 32 when he died. "My children are what kept me going."
In 2009, plans for the memorial were resurrected after Sgt. Charles Paris took over as president of Local 1159. He said 10-year-old plans for the monument were brought to him by Officer Brian Pisanelli. "Since then, I've made it my mission not to let another 10 years go by before we honor our fallen brothers," Paris said. He and Pisanelli, along with other police union members, have been working to move construction of the memorial forward.
"This is a very proud day to be a Bridgeport police officer," Paris said during the 11 a.m. ceremony.
"This might be the smallest park in the city, but it will be the most meaningful," added Mayor Bill Finch.
He said having the groundbreaking on Memorial Day was fitting since it's a day to honor "all the fallen."
Finch called police officers the "uniformed saviors of the city."
"How can we ever repay their sacrifices?" the mayor asked. "They left their families so that we can be safe with ours."
"It is also fitting that it will be across from police headquarters," added Police Chief Joseph Gaudett.
"We first heard about this in the fall and have been doing anything we could to help raise funds -- we even sold T-shirts," said Danielle Goncalves, the DiJosephs' daughter and youngest of their three children.
She said it was 30 years ago this past November that her father was killed. "It's a big honor, but it is long overdue," she said following the ceremony.
She said the memorial will serve as a reminder of the officers who gave their lives. "We can't lose sight of that meaning," she said.
What happened to her father, she added, doesn't happen all that often, in fact he is the last Bridgeport officer killed while on duty. "But it can happen any day," Goncalves said. Her two brothers, Jerrod and Matthew DiJoseph, were also at the ceremony and so were the DiJosephs' four grandchildren.
The memorial, which is expected to cost a little more than $400,000, will list the names of the deceased officers and will include a statue of a police officer, fashioned from bronze, kneeling in tribute. There will also be uplifts behind the wall, one for each fallen officer, that will be directed into the sky.
The mayor and the city council have agreed to split the cost of the memorial with the police union, which has held fundraisers toward that goal.
Reach Anne M. Amato at 203-330-6496 or by email at

Photos from Police Memorial Ground Breaking-click here

Bridgeport cop saves girl who jumped into river

Updated 10:17 a.m., Friday, May 27, 2011

BRIDGEPORT -- A 15-year-old girl was in good condition Thursday night after jumping into the Pequonnock River off the Stratford Avenue bridge.

Police Lt. Brett Hyman said the girl, who had earlier been reported as a runaway, jumped into the water from the Fairfield Avenue side of the bridge.

He said Sgt. Chris Stepniewski jumped after the girl and managed to pull her to shore. She was taken to Bridgeport Hospital.

Hyman said the girl was in about 10 feet of water when she was rescued. He had no motive for her actions.

Asked for a comment as he stood in the roadway dripping wet, Stepniewski said: "I'm going to get something to eat."

A short time later, police received a call of a jumper from the nearby Congress Street bridge. They all roared over there only to find it was a false alarm.

Bridgeport cop spokesman resigns over emails

Updated 09:27 p.m., Friday, May 20, 2011

BRIDGEPORT -- Tim Quinn, the information officer for the city's Police Department, resigned Friday, about a week after he sent the news media a culturally insensitive email suggesting that generic cartoon mug shots of criminal defendants could be created with such names as "Miguel the Murderer" and "Tyrone the Thief."
Quinn, a longtime personality at WICC-AM who was appointed to the $69,000 position by Mayor Bill Finch in February, had been suspended without pay since May 12.
In the email that prompted his resignation, Quinn suggested that news organizations would be better served hiring a cartoonist rather than requesting so-called mug shots of arrested persons.
"Why wait for mug shots?" he wrote in the email. "I've got a better idea than calling me and seeing if we have pictures of what, invariably, turn out to be some of the ugliest critters on God's green earth. You guys should hire a cartoonist and he could create a whole set of characters then just pop one on the screen to fit the appropriate crime..."
Among the names he suggested were "Miguel the Murderer (kind of a skinny rat wearing a dirty T-shirt)" and "Tyrone the Thief (an ugly mixed breed mongrel with sunglasses)."
A short time after sending out the message, Quinn emailed an apology: "Guys ... I'd like to apologize for the earlier email about cartoon characters rather than mug shots. Poor sense of humor on my part, no intention to be demeaning of anyone, just my Thursday stupid pill. In any event, I sincerely apologize."
Adam Wood, Finch's chief of staff, said he supports Quinn's resignation as a means to resolve the incident.
"We understand it was not his intention to offend anyone," he said in a prepared statement, "but as Mayor Finch has said, offensive or culturally insensitive remarks cannot be tolerated from city employees."
Quinn did not return calls for comment.
Reach Brittany Lyte at or 203-330-6426. Follow her at


Recruits ready to begin rigorous physical training

It began in April of 2010 with an Open House announcing the City of Bridgeport was starting the process for a new class of police officers. Initially the city received more than 2,100 applications. Today, the 25 finalists began their formal training.

The first Bridgeport police class since 2008 opened with some physical training and then lots of paperwork at the Bridgeport Police Training Academy, located in the former Newfield School building.

The highlight of the day for the khaki-clad candidates came mid-afternoon when they were sworn in by Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch. The ,mayor and Police Chief Joseph L. Gaudett Jr. addressed the 26 cadets.

Of the group, 25 will become Bridgeport patrol officers, and one is a member of the Milford Police Department.

The cadets snapped to attention as Mayor Finch welcomed them.

“While this is an exciting day for you, it is even more exciting for us,” Finch said.

They all raised their right hands as the Mayor swore them in. At the conclusion of the swearing-in those who came to the ceremonies, including some members of the city council, police commission and police department, all gave the candidates a round of applause.

However, as the class silently stood at attention, the mayor took over and told them, “I order you to give yourselves a round of applause”, which they did.

Then the mayor went on to remind the cadets to, “give a round of applause to President Obama and Congress as well for helping us pay your salaries.”

The city received more than $4.8 million in federal funding under the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) hiring program, which will pay the salaries of 20 of the 25 new Bridgeport officers for the next three years.

Gaudett told the 23 men and three women that they should feel proud of themselves for getting this far. “It’s been a long road for all of us, and I look forward to working with you. Give it your all, listen and learn,” he said.

Captain Robert Sapiro is in charge of the Training Division and said today is the first day of 26 weeks of grueling physical, mental and emotional instruction. “It’s never easy to train to do something new, particularly in the public safety field,” he said.

This class comes from diverse backgrounds. Two are attorneys, one is a former border patrol officer, and they come from several states, one as far away as Arizona.

Gaudett said he expects they will be out driving their own patrol cars in the first quarter of 2012. Presently there are just under 400 officers in the Bridgeport Police Department.

City and firefighters reach contract agreement

Published 10:45 p.m., Thursday, March 10, 2011

BRIDGEPORT -- The city and its fire department have reached a tentative contract agreement that could result in $1.3 million in taxpayer savings resulting from a hiring freeze, no pay raises for two years, doubled employee health care contributions and the conversion of overtime pay to straight pay for three months.

Mayor Bill Finch and David J. Dunn, the acting personnel director, commended the city's firefighters for being the largest union to agree to an increase in health care contributions, which will mark the biggest savings over the life of the contract.

Dunn said under the contract, which runs through June 2014, any new firefighter hires will immediately be paying 25 percent of their health care costs, as well as an additional 1 percent, which is cumulative every year until 50 percent is reached.

The agreement with the firefighters may improve the city's bargaining position with other unions when discussing increased contributions for health care insurance.

Currently, the city is in contract arbitration with the police union; the National Association of Government Employees, which represents the city's white-collar workers, including secretaries, clerks and school cafeteria workers; and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents the city's blue-collar workers, including sanitation, public works, the park department and teachers' aides.

The contract, which was ratified by Bridgeport Firefighters Union local 834, must now go before the City Council's Contract Committee. Once it is approved, it will go before the City Council for a final vote. Once approved, it would run through June 2014.

"This agreement will provide the city with the savings it needs through the life of the contract, while preserving public safety and allowing firefighters to preserve pension benefits under the state-run system," Finch said. "I want to thank the firefighters for their willingness to help the city during these difficult financial times."

In exchange for the union concessions, the city will move all union members into the Connecticut Municipal Employees Retirement System, which will also save the city money.

The city said it will save $800,000 during the two-year lid on pay increases and $94,000 by firefighters taking straight time rather than time-and-a-half for overtime work from April 1 through June 30. Additionally, the city maintains it will save $303,000 by freezing vacant firefighter positions through June 30 and $135,000 by doubling the health care contribution.

"This has been a give-and-take process," said Robert Whitbread, union president. "Our membership understands the need to help the city meet its obligations."

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Bridgeport seeks delay in pension fund contributions

Published 11:10 p.m., Wednesday, March 2, 2011

HARTFORD -- Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch is quietly working behind the scenes in the General Assembly to extend a moratorium and postpone paying as much as $20 million in city contributions for police and firefighter pensions.

The issue has been lingering a dozen years, back to when Mayor Joseph P. Ganim gambled on selling bonds and making profits in the stock market, which fell a couple times before finally tanking precipitously in 2008, costing the city half of a $350 million investment.

In 2009, legislation that would allow the city to delay further contributions for two years failed in the last days of the General Assembly, but it was added to the state budget approved in early September after a summer of partisan wrangling.

This year, Finch hopes to have the measure included in language tacked on to the state's two-year budget, which starts July 1. Such a step would avoid an up-or-down vote on the pension issue alone during the legislative session, which runs through June 8.

State law requires that municipal pensions are funded at 75 percent.

"There are several towns that are all in the same boat," Finch said in an interview in the Legislative Office Building. "This June the extension would expire, and our Pension Fund A is still at less than 50 percent. To bring it up to 75 percent would be a huge hurdle for us. So whatever the other towns get is what we'd like, so if it's another year or two, whatever they're going to agree for the other town, do for Bridgeport, too."

It was unclear which other towns are seeking similar pension contribution moratoriums. Finch said one of the other municipalities looking for relief is West Haven.

In 1999, Bridgeport sold pension obligation bonds totaling $350 million. The city's investments subsequently fell in value to $269 million by the end of 2006, $263 million in 2007 and about $161 million by the spring of 2009.

The fund provides pensions for 1,000 police and fire employees and retirees who joined the plan by 1980.

A half-dozen other communities were also caught by the stock market losses.

Finch, who's predicting a razor-thin $3 million surplus for the city in its overall budget, said Bridgeport still needs breathing room. The city has been investing about $3 million a year in Pension Plan A, but without the moratorium, it would be required to chip in nearly eight times that.

"To get from where we are now, which is like 45 percent, to 75 percent is a huge hurdle," Finch said. "The problem is, let's say you make an assumption you're going to get 8.5 percent interest. Maybe you will over 30 years, but if you lose all this money and you now only have (about $160 million) to invest, it doesn't matter if you're getting 8.5 percent on that. You're always going to lose and that's why you never should have done it."

Finch said he has to make annual payments on the bonds and pay cash for veteran police and firefighters who are retired. "So I'm paying 175 percent, eventually," Finch said, adding that over the last year, the rebound of the stock market has resulted in the city's obtaining about $6 million back.

Of Ganim's investment gambit, Finch said, "They did it because they didn't want to have to put the $20 (million) to $30 million every year in cash to pay these people."

John Stafstrom, Bridgeport's bond counsel, said the pension fund pays $30 million to retirees each year.

"The plan was well-managed, but everyone took these kinds of hits," he said.

Finch said that each year the city has to pay a higher percentage of its budget for retirement benefits.

"When it's half, what am I going to do?" he said. "It's going like this rapidly. This is for people who are not working. I know I made them a promise, but I have to put fires out. No one wants to talk about this."

Singing Bridgeport police officer posts edited-down YouTube video

Published: 11:45 p.m., Wednesday, January 26, 2011

BRIDGEPORT -- City Police Officer Ken Ruge only wanted to create a video that served as a message for anyone looking for help figuring out what his or her place is in the world.

It may have been a lofty goal with good intentions, but in the end, his unusual, musical YouTube performance drew the ire of Police Chief Joseph Gaudett.

Last month, Ruge, a veteran officer, violated department policy by wearing his Bridgeport police uniform and appearing next to his patrol car in the video, although he said he made sure to hide any identification of the city.

After Gaudett said he wasn't "amused" by the video, Ruge took it down. But the music video is back online, without the images of his uniform or patrol car.

"The video was never meant as a Bridgeport Police issue," said Ruge. "I could not understand why the Chief made the statement `I wasn't amused.' It is not meant to be amusing."

"I put in the police part because I believe that a police officer is sort of an angel of God," Ruge added.

The edited video, according to Gaudett, is no longer a problem.

"I see no problem with the officer's video as it stands," Gaudett said in an e-mail. "He was made aware of the department's policies about the use of uniforms and vehicles for purposes other than police work, and it's clear that he now understands those policies."

Ruge, a Roman Catholic, can be seen in the video standing on the altar of his church, St. Ambrose in Bridgeport. He said the video has a deep religious message that is different for everyone who watches it.

"The video is a place for all lost souls to go and hear a message from God which is, `I am always with you and will always love you,'" he said.

The video includes scenes from the city, references to fighting the urge to use drugs and depictions of many tragedies around the world.

Ruge said he hopes he can help those in Bridgeport who are in need of guidance.

"Now that there is no police reference I put in Bridgeport, Conn., because I was born, raised and still live in this city which I love and believe is heading for greatness once again," he said.


Injured Bridgeport cop's condition 'greatly improved'

Published: 10:35 a.m., Tuesday, January 11, 2011

BRIDGEPORT -- Veteran police officer Roderick Doda, who fell through a skylight on the roof of a Lindley Street building while chasing burglary suspects on foot last week, is still at St. Vincent's Medical Center, but his condition has "improved greatly," according to Det. Keith Bryant, a police spokesman.

Bryant said Doda will likely be recuperating in the hospital for "some time," but is recovering well.

Doda was chasing two suspects who allegedly attempted to steal copper piping from a vacant house on Parrott Avenue. One other suspect was arrested on the scene, while the others took off running.

After pursuing the suspects onto the roof of Lindley Food Services at 515 Lindley St., Doda slipped on the icy surface and fell 20-feet through a skylight to the concrete below. He was found by officers who broke through the front door of the business to get to him. He was unresponsive and bleeding.

Three other officers have recovered from minor injuries.

Police arrested James J. Oler, 19; Misty Oler, 25, and Brian Hope, 27, all of Linwood Avenue, in connection with the incident. The suspects face several charges, including assault on a police officer and conspiracy to commit burglary.

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Bridgeport police officer falls 20 feet through skylight during chase

Published: 11:16 p.m., Thursday, January 6, 2011 (Connecticut POST)

BRIDGEPORT -- A nine-year veteran police officer is hospitalized with life-threatening injuries sustained early Thursday when he fell 20 feet through a skylight on the roof of a Lindley Street building while chasing burglary suspects on foot.

Officer Roderick Doda is in stable, but critical condition at St. Vincent's Medical Center, where he is being treated for a fractured skull, bleeding from the brain and broken ribs, police said.

Police said officers initially responded to reports of a burglary on Parrott Avenue shortly before 1 a.m. Thursday. Three suspects were discovered at that location, allegedly attempting to steal copper piping from a vacant home, police said. One suspect was apprehended, while two other suspects fled, prompting officers to begin a chase on foot, police said.

The pursuit ended on the roof of the Lindley Food Services building at 515 Lindley St. when Doda caught up with the two suspects, police said. With a flashlight, Doda signaled two other officers to assist him in handcuffing the suspects on the flat, icy roof, police said. Then, while picking up a stun gun he had dropped during a struggle with the suspects, police said Doda lost his footing and fell backward through a skylight onto the cement floor 20 feet below.

After the fall, police said Doda lost consciousness and lay convulsing in a pool of blood streaming out of his left ear until medics arrived. He was then transported to the intensive care unit at St. Vincent's.

Three other officers were injured during the pursuit. Officer Roberto Quintanilla was treated at St. Vincent's for a tailbone injury endured after he fell in an attempt to climb the roof. Officer Jarah Mathews-Dixon suffered a laceration to his head and Officer Christopher Smith suffered a minor knee injury, but both refused medical attention.

Police arrested James J. Oler, 19; Misty Oler, 25, and Brian Hope, 27, all of Linwood Avenue, in connection with the incident. The suspects face several charges, including assault on a police officer and conspiracy to commit burglary.

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After three decades, city regains full control of police force

Published: 10:50 p.m., Monday, December 20, 2010

BRIDGEPORT -- Moments after the official swearing-in of the city's new police chief Monday afternoon, Mayor Bill Finch grabbed Joseph Gaudett Jr. by the shoulder.

"He's coming in at just the right time," Finch said, "because it's a normal department again."

Gaudett, a 28-year department veteran, was nodding his head. He knew he would soon inherit more power over the police force than any chief he's served under in his career.

That became evident hours earlier, when U.S. District Judge Janet Arterton declared that the federal government's 27-year oversight of Bridgeport's police department has come to an end. Her announcement capped a 17-month transition period, and Arterton said she will submit a written decision on the matter before the new year.

The ruling returns to the police chief the power to administer, assign and discipline his officers -- powers which were revoked after a federal judge ruled in 1983 that the department was discriminating against its minority officers.

At the time, the late U.S. District Judge T.F. Gilroy Daly had just learned during a weeklong trial that all but one of Bridgeport's 33 black officers were assigned to patrol the city's most dangerous neighborhoods, with the remaining officer working in the record room. None had a supervisory position.

So Daly transferred oversight of the department's handling of its minority officers to a special master, and selected New Haven attorney William Clendenen for the job. One of Clendenen's chief duties was to hear all complaints of racial discrimination from within the department. The city was forced to pay Clendenen for his services.

Clendenen served in that role for nearly three decades. He did not return a phone call Monday seeking comment.

While under federal oversight, the department experienced a boom in minority participation -- both in numbers and in those officers' ascendancy to higher ranks -- Gaudett said Monday that it has hurt his ability to transform the way officers conduct business.

"At one point every nine months, every officer would have to rotate through a particular beat," he said, referring to the officers' neighborhood assignments. "That didn't lend itself to community policing, because you have so little time to get to know your area. But now we'll have the ability to make assignments and to leave an officer in a beat."

The police chief will now also handle any officers' complaints of racial discrimination which, he and Finch were quick to point out, have dropped considerably in recent years.

Things were different in 1970, when the handful of black officers on the force formed the Bridgeport Guardians, which spearheaded the legal action against the department. The Guardians filed its first suit against the department in 1972, according to Ted Meekins, a retired black officer who was on hand Monday afternoon.

"When we started, there were 10 black officers and no Hispanic or woman officers," the 69-year-old said. "And there were no promotions for us. No blacks above the rank of patrolman."

A decade later, the Guardians, having retained the services of the Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder law firm, won the landmark trial that ushered in the federal oversight.

Asked to reflect on the Guardians' four decades of effort, Meekins said: "We went from not being able to patrol in white communities, from being limited to housing projects, to where we are today. We've had two black police chiefs and one Hispanic chief, and I'm looking forward to better days ahead."

Then he draped his arm around the Guardians' current president, Lt. Lonnie Blackwell, and added, "I see victory."

Blackwell joined the police force 10 years ago, he said, and was promoted to his current rank about three years ago.

"For me, this is a fresh start," Blackwell said. "We like to see the department reflect the demographics of the city."

He said he thinks the current department succeeds in that area, estimating that it has nearly 60 black officers in a department of about 400 officers. That equates to about 15 percent, while the 2000 U.S. Census reported that nearly one-third of Bridgeport's residents are black. Blackwell said there are now about 140 Hispanic officers.

In addition to racial balance in the department, Meekins has another reason for thinking positive. Eyeing Gaudett across the mayor's office Monday, he recalled a time in the early 1980s. "I was Joe's training officer," he said with a smile.

Gaudett named Bridgeport police chief

Published: 11:08 p.m., Friday, December 17, 2010

BRIDGEPORT -- Joe Gaudett Jr. is not acting anymore.

The 28-year veteran of the city's police force, who has been acting chief since October 2008, was appointed its new chief Friday, besting two other finalists, one from Texas and the other from Delaware.

Mayor Bill Finch, who made the selection after a search that began earlier this year, said while all three candidates were eminently qualified to fill the $123,551 five-year position, Gaudett's familiarity with the workings of the department and his participation in the city's Take Back The Night anti-crime crusade put him over the top.

"I was really impressed with Joe's interaction with the public during those walks," Finch said. "I sleep well at night knowing this is now Joe's department."

But the 50-year-old Gaudett quickly pointed out that it has basically been his department for the past two years. He was appointed acting police chief Oct. 15, 2008, following the resignation of Bryan Norwood.

"I'm honored to have been chosen to lead a great organization and I'm looking forward to working with the mayor to make Bridgeport the safest big city in Connecticut," he said.

But Gaudett also acknowledged that there have been some mighty big bumps in the road during his tenure as top cop. These "bumps" include the recent firing of a senior officer and the suspension of four others for covering up the drunken driving crash of one of the officers, the suspension of another senior officer for making a racial slur over the police radio, the arrest of the department's arson investigator for allegedly hiring someone to torch her car, out-of-control police overtime and a rise in the city's murder rate.

"I have a chief who is going to be asking for stricter discipline in the police department and he will have my full backing to be as strict as he needs to be in routing out bad apples in the Police Department," Finch said.

"That certainly makes it easier," added Gaudett. "Discipline should be swift and fair and I've tried to make every effort to try and stay on top of it."

Gaudett, who was chosen from among 39 candidates, said the problem with overtime is being addressed and he expects this year's numbers to be well below the overtime costs of previous years.

The city is also in the process of coming out from under a decades-old federal anti-discrimination mandate that had a federal judge place a special master over the police department. Gaudett said the department has made huge strides in correcting the problems of the past.

"It's important for people to feel they are being treated fairly, and that's been an important hallmark for me and I will continue to do that," he said.

Gaudett, who gained a reputation in the department as its "tech cop," said improvement to the department's technology will be a major part of his long-term strategy for the department. He has already overseen the overhaul of the department's communication center, although who will actually be running it -- civilians or police officers -- is still being negotiated. He said his next mission will be to set up surveillance cameras in public areas around the city. He said he favors putting cameras on buildings where they can capture crimes in process, rather than in police cars. The cameras will be partially funded by a federal grant.

"Other cities, such as Chicago, have done it with great success," he said.

Gaudett said he also wants to get away from having police officers chase calls to instead having them solve problems.

"If we take officers away from having to go from one call to another, we will have them available to put more problems to bed," he said.

"We're confident that acting chief Gaudett will be able to make a successful transition from his acting role to that of permanent chief," said the Rev. Simon Castillo, the police chief search committee's chairman. "We were pleased with all the candidates we presented to the mayor and believe we made the best choice."

Gaudett was born in Bridgeport and attended St. Augustine's School through eighth grade. He graduated from Fairfield College Preparatory School, then attended Fairfield University and the University of Bridgeport.

He joined the Bridgeport police force as a patrolman in 1983.

Gaudett, who has been married 25 years and has two daughters aged 21 and 12, comes from a family of police officers. His father, Joseph L. Gaudett Sr., was a Bridgeport police officer who retired in 1980, and his grandfather served for nearly 40 years as a railroad police officer. His older sister is retired from the Bridgeport force and another sister is married to a retired sergeant.

The city charter demands that would-be chiefs have at least 10 years of experience in urban law-enforcement and five years in a command position. The candidates must come from communities with at least 80,000 people and a minority population of at least 25 percent.

Police sergeant honored for his work in helping solve city's worst crimes

Published: 04:18 p.m., Sunday, December 12, 2010

BRIDGEPORT -- Frankie Estrada, Jr., Adrian and Russell Peeler, Aaron Harris, Quinne Powell, Edwin Sanchez, Luke Jones -- the names read like a who's who of the city's biggest and baddest drug dealers.

But they all have one thing in common. All are behind bars partly because of the efforts of Police Sgt. Juan J. Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, a 23-year member of the department and a 14-year veteran of FBI Task Forces, was honored recently by U.S. Attorney David Fein with a lifetime achievement award for exceptional contributions to law enforcement during a ceremony in New Haven.

"It's only given once a year and it's the highest award the U.S. Attorney's office bestows on law enforcement," said James Glasser, a former federal prosecutor who supervised the U.S. Attorney's Bridgeport office during many of the cases Gonzalez worked. "I can think of no more deserving officer than J.J."

While Gonzalez, 49, admitted its " a great honor" to receive the award, he quickly added that "it's a testament to the work of a whole lot of other people -- detectives, federal agents, prosecutors. There should be 1,000 other names on this award -- all people I was fortunate enough to work with on these cases."

Several federal agents who have since been reassigned out of Connecticut drove back to attend the ceremony.

"I think its great -- great for J.J., but also great for the department," added Police Capt. James Viadero. "He's an outstanding sergeant and he's been at the forefront of many of our biggest cases. But just as important is the way he's helped develop an outstanding working relationship between our department and federal agencies. Everyone saw how effectively that paid off in the investigation and arrest of Faisal Shahzad. J.J. was one of our guys out there."

Shahzad, who lived on Sheridan Street, was arrested just two days after he loaded a sports utility vehicle with a three-stage bomb in the hopes of killing and maiming dozens in a Saturday dinner time crowd on New York's Time Square last year. The bomb failed to explode. However, evidence left behind enabled law enforcement to trace the car to Bridgeport and then to Shahzad, who had been trained by the Pakistani Taliban. Shahzad pleaded guilty to numerous federal charges and is serving a life sentence without parole.

Gonzalez, a tall, burly man, who looks like he'd fit in easily as a member of the New York Giants' linebacking crew, grew up in the former Father Panik Village, the city's roughest, deadliest housing project. He graduated from Waltersville School and Harding High School before joining the Bridgeport Police Department in January 1985.

His early days were spent patrolling the city's highest crime rate areas. After five years, he found himself being rotated into the Tactical Narcotics Team.

"About 90 percent of my job was surveillances," Gonzalez said.

Within three years he was promoted to detective. In 1996, he found himself assigned to the FBI's Fugitive Task Force.

"One thing that strikes you about J.J. is he's big and he's quiet," said Alex Hernandez, another former federal prosecutor who supervised the U.S. Attorney's Bridgeport office. "He's very low-key but maybe that's the key to his success. He converses just as easily with street criminals as he does with agents, prosecutors and judges. I often thought of him as a duck -- calm on the surface but underneath the feet are always moving."

Those feet moved very quickly on Jan. 7, 1999.

That's day police were called to a heart-breaking scene in an Earl Street duplex. There, they found a mother and her 8-year-old son murdered, execution-style. Fingers quickly pointed to Russell Peeler, the son of a deceased Bridgeport police officer. Peeler was awaiting trial for murdering the mother's boyfriend in a barbershop drug dispute. The boy was the state's key witness. The key was uncovering evidence that linked Peeler to the crime.

A joint Bridgeport police and FBI task force was assembled with Gonzalez as a member. "Whatever we needed done, J.J. was there, ready to do it," said Glasser, who headed the federal drug investigation of Peeler while now-retired Fairfield State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict supervised the murder investigation.

Glasser recalls how they received a tip the day before Thanksgiving 1999 that the gun used to kill the pair was tossed into Long Island Sound just beyond the Seaside Park archway.

"On a day when most people would be preparing for the holiday," Glasser recalled, "J.J. was out there rounding up a search team, getting search lights and looking for metal detectors. He had the team working until 2 a.m. Thanksgiving morning. That's the kind of dedication he has. Neither time nor his own life was an issue to him. He wanted to find the gun that killed the little boy."

Unfortunately, it wasn't found that day. But the task force's work in flipping gang members laid the killings at the feet of Adrian Peeler, the trigger man, who was prodded by his brother to commit the murders. Both were convicted. Russell was given the death penalty, while Adrian is serving 20 years.

It also led to Gonzalez's permanent assignment to the FBI's Safe Streets Task Force in Bridgeport, which specializes in investigating violent crimes.

"He's the glue that holds the task force together," Hernandez said. "The task force model does not produce big results immediately and requires a lot of overtime as investigators work towards the big payoff. He's been responsible in many cases for keeping other agencies involved."

On the local level, Viadero said Gonzalez supervises Bridgeport officers assigned to the FBI's Safe Streets, U.S. Drug Enforcement and State Police Statewide Narcotics Task Forces.

One of those is Det. Rick Donaldson.

"J.J. is not the type of guy who sits behind a desk," said Donaldson. "He's out there knocking on doors, making arrests, participating in car chases. He's a working sergeant."

But just as important, according to Fein, Glasser and Hernandez, is Gonzalez's historical knowledge of the criminals who work the city's streets and projects.

"Sgt. Gonzalez's unparalleled historical knowledge of every Bridgeport murderer, gang member and drug dealer -- including the cars they drove, who they dated, where they lived and where they worked has proven -- and continues to prove-- indispensable to each and every task force case," the U.S. Attorney said.

Fein related a story told him by FBI Special Agent Jon Hosney, who worked Bridgeport gang cases before being chosen to head the FBI's Terrorism Task Force in Connecticut. Apparently Hosney expressed frustration to Gonzalez about the dead ends he was hitting while investigating Estrada, who headed the Terminators, a deadly organization of heroin traffickers. "Sgt. Gonzalez calmly looked Hosney in the eyes and said we will make a case against Frank Estrada," Fein said.

Within a year, Estrada and 20 of his highest-ranking associates were indicted on racketeering, drug trafficking and murder charges. Estrada later became one of the federal government key cooperators in developing dozens of other cases against violent drug gangs and distributors.

"He's able to build relationships with the people he investigates," said Donaldson. "Many of them continue to stay in contact with him when they are in prison or move out of state."

That's because, Glasser said, "J.J. is a man of his word. He'll never cross anyone."


40 city cop candidates progress

Published: 11:37 p.m., Sunday, November 28, 2010 (Connecticut Post)

DGEPORT -- Three hundred and sixty-four men and woman have passed the first step to become police officers here -- unfortunately the city can only hire about two dozen of them.

So the top 40 candidates have been chosen to move on to the final steps in the process, fingerprint and background checks.

"One of my concerns when we began this process was that we include as many Bridgeport residents as possible, and in the end, field a recruit class that is reflective of the community they will serve. We have achieved our goal, and I am proud of the extensive and exhaustive process we have undertaken," said Mayor Bill Finch. "I look forward to greeting the recruits on their first day at the academy and observing their progress." The 40 semi-finalists include 21 city residents and 19 non-residents; 30 percent are Hispanic, 20 percent are African-American, 50 percent are caucasian and nine are women.

The recruitment process began nearly a year ago. Last March, applicants were encouraged to apply in person or online, and 2,200 potential recruits responded. Physical agility tests were held in May and after that 1,200 were invited to the written examination held in July at Central High School. Of that number 670 took the written exam, and of those 454 passed.

Those who passed the written examination were invited to an oral examination held in late October, which was designed by I/O Solutions. The oral exam panels included ranking Bridgeport police officers as well as human resource professionals from the state and city. This was the first time the city hosted an entry-level oral exam as part of the testing process. Nearly 400 oral examinations were given, and 364 candidates passed the oral examination.

Eventually, a class of 20-25 recruits will be selected to attend the Bridgeport Police Training Academy by early February. The training academy program will last for approximately six months.

"We want to thank President Obama and Congressman Jim Himes for bringing $4.8 million to the city to fund the salaries for 20 of these officers for three years," said Finch. "This class will help bolster our force and assist the chief in putting more officers on the streets."

City narrows search for police chief to three candidates

Published: 12:16 a.m., Friday, October 22, 2010

BRIDGEPORT -- After six months of searching, the city has narrowed its list of potential new police chiefs to three, one of whom is acting Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr. The two other finalists are working in Texas and Delaware.

A 27-year veteran here, Gaudett was named acting police chief in October 2008, when the former chief, Byron Norwood, resigned and took a similar job in Norfolk, Va. Gaudett said he was "thrilled and honored" to be named a finalist on Thursday, and to have the chance to steer the department for the next five years.

His competition for the spot will come from Joel Fitzgerald, 39, police chief of Missouri City, Texas; and Rick Gregory, 48, former police chief and of New Castle County, Del.

Mayor Bill Finch will interview the finalists in coming weeks and select the chief.

Reached by phone on Thursday, both Gregory and Fitzgerald said one of their top priorities would be to strengthen this city's community policing efforts.

They also stressed their experience at taking over a department they're unfamiliar with.

Fitzgerald took the Texas job in spring 2009, after 17 years with the Philadelphia Police Department. He spent many of his Philadelphia years in the narcotics division, he said, working in cooperation with federal and state law-enforcement agencies.

If named Bridgeport's chief, he said, he would try to expand the city's ties to the federal and state agencies.

Asked why he applied for the Bridgeport job after just less than two years in Texas, he said Bridgeport is more similar to Philadelphia in terms of crime trends, and that its size and East Coast location was appealing.

"I would be coming from a department of 125 employees to a place where you're upwards of 500," he said. "It's definitely a positive career move. If I did not believe in myself, did not believe I've developed the talents to run an organization, I would never have left Philadelphia."

Meanwhile, Gregory was police chief of New Castle County from 2006 to 2009. He was promoted last September to chief administrative officer for the county executive, Chris Coons. Gregory also serves as the county's acting public safety director. His boss, Coons, is the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Delaware. Coons registered an 11-point lead in a recent Rasmussen poll. Gregory said he plans to return to police work.

"I've spent my entire career in law enforcement, save for the last year," he said. "It's a passion and a love and I've got fond memories of being police chief here."

Gregory started his career as an officer in Florida. He served 22 years with the state's Highway Patrol before assuming the post as police chief in New Castle County. He said this department's most pressing issue is the budget.

"I'm absolutely familiar with how to manage a tight budget," he said, "and how to build a tight budget, and also try to deliver the same level or enhance your level of service delivery with a limited budget."

Asked if he would try to "shake up" the Bridgeport department, he said no: "It's more about tweaking the department's vision a little bit and getting people on board, which sounds easier than it is."

In April, the city hired two consulting firms to conduct a nationwide search. The consultants received 39 applications, which they narrowed down to six semifinalists. Then, a 10-member panel of city officials, local business owners and community group members selected the three finalists.

The city charter demands that would-be chiefs have at least 10 years of experience in urban law-enforcement and five years in a command position. The candidates must come from communities with at least 80,000 people and a minority population of at least 25 percent.

City told to reassign police to dispatch center

Published: 11:00 p.m., Tuesday, August 24, 2010

BRIDGEPORT -- The city must train and return police officials to supervise its Emergency Communications Operations Center now staffed by civilians, according to a ruling by the state Board of Labor Relations.

The board found that the city violated its 2008-12 collective bargaining agreement with Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159 by transferring five sergeants and a captain in April from dispatch duties when it combined the police, fire and medical services dispatch operations into one communication center at 581 North Washington Ave.

The center, which opened April 29, is staffed by civilian employees under the direction of Doree Price, another civilian.

The board's ruling, if it stands, would return the five sergeants and place the center under the supervision of a police lieutenant or captain.

It also awards back pay, overtime to the affected officers as well as requires the city to pay the union's legal fees and court costs. That amount is expected to exceed $20,000.

Lawrence Osborne, the city's director of labor relations, said the city plans to "vigorously appeal" the board's ruling in Superior Court.

"While we have managed to make substantial savings in overtime by efficient use of personnel," Osborne said, "the city still believes that we have appropriately staffed the emergency communications center. We will, of course, comply with the ultimate decision and, as always, we will continue our efforts to provide the best services at the lowest cost to the taxpayers of Bridgeport."

The city claimed during hearings before the board that one of the reasons for combining the centers into one facility and staffing it with civilians is because of its $654 million debt.

"We're immensely proud of our Emergency Operations Center," said Mayor Bill Finch. "We think it's run efficiently and protects our public safety."

The mayor said he is disappointed by the ruling "because we believe that it will dramatically increase the cost to the taxpayers."

Under the terms of the 18-page ruling, the city must immediately begin training the sergeants formerly assigned to dispatch duties and then once training is completed reassign them to the center. It must also assign a lieutenant or captain to be the officer in charge of the center.

The city argued that the collective bargaining agreement allows it to replace or relieve the sergeants and the officer in charge with civilian supervisors in the case of extreme emergency -- the emergency being its $654 million debt.

"Section 9 unequivocally only permits the city to replace police officers in the case of extreme emergency, not sergeants nor the office in charge," the board ruled. "Further, we are not persuaded that the city's fiscal problems constitute an extreme emergency as contemplated by the collective bargaining agreement. Logic dictates that the extreme emergency contemplated by the parties in the collective bargaining agreement is one that requires immediate and swift action. The city has been considering replacing the separate fire and police dispatch centers as early as 2003."

"We've been trying to negotiate with the city from the beginning," said Sgt. Charles "Chuck" Paris, president of the police union. "Now the Board of Labor Relations found the city was wrong and issued a cease-and-desist order for failing to abide by the 2008-12 collective bargain agreement."

The ruling also requires the city to bargain with the union regarding its hiring of civilian employees, rather than police officers, to run the center.

The city has 30 days to advise the board of steps it has taken to comply with this order.


Sick leave policy revisions for Bridgeport police on hold

Published: 10:50 p.m., Tuesday, July 20, 2010

BRIDGEPORT -- A new sick and injury leave policy for the city's police department will wait another month, after more questions came up during a discussion Tuesday night at a meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners.

Lt. William Ron Bailey wants to put in writing the department's ability to request, at any time, an independent medical evaluation to confirm the doctor's note that officers must provide if they're out sick more than two consecutive days.

He says there are several officers taking advantage of the system -- sometimes taking paid sick time for five or six months at a time or calling out extensively month after month.

Bailey said in June the department had an unwritten practice of waiting six months to verify an officer's claim. But since Bailey received legal advice in June that he could go ahead and request IMEs, he has done so in two cases so far and plans to do it more often.

"It's nothing that I'm not doing already," he told the board on Tuesday. "I'd just like it in writing."

"That's our preference as well," said board Chairwoman Theresa Brown, who has expressed support for the concept.

Bailey presented the board with a revised version of the policy he showed them last month, when he first made the case for unrestricted ability to request independent evaluations.

He removed a 20-day period he'd originally included as the point at which an IME could be sought, saying that he doesn't want to wait that long in certain cases, and "simplified" the proposal.

But others felt it wasn't simple enough, leaving too much room for subjective interpretation.

"How far does it go?" Commissioner Edwin Farrow asked. "One day, I have the sniffles and you want to send me for an IME?"

Sgt. Charles Paris, union president, agreed.

"It's going to be too subjective," he said. "We are contesting who and when and why people are being sent."

Paris added that there is an appeals process in place for officers deemed by administration to be among the "excessive" or "chronic" sick or injured that isn't included in the proposal.

Bailey told the board he would consider history and patterns of apparent abuse before ordering an IME, but didn't specify a time period, saying instead he planned to handle each matter on a "case-by-case basis."

City Attorney Mark Anastasi said he'd like to see wording added that will also designate the evaluations as appropriate for determining whether officers are permanently disabled from their duties.

"It would appear to me that (the policy) is leading to the chief's efforts to retire individuals," he said.

Anastasi added that an IME is not a sanction against officers, but simply a way to get information, and shouldn't be an unreasonable imposition.

Anastasi said Brown suggested that Bailey and Paris work on the proposal together and try to reach consensus.

"I know you want to get this resolved," she said, "but I think we're making a lot of headway."

"Yes, let's take the time to do it right," said Bailey, adding that he will revisit and rewrite the proposal a second time and return with it to the board's next meeting.

K-9 team adds newest member, but unit is in flux

Published: 03:06 p.m., Saturday, July 3, 2010

BRIDGEPORT -- When city police Officer William Simpson first brought home his new partner, Balu, all hell broke lose.

The 18-month-old, 102-pound German shepherd made a beeline for the cat; the family's pet Rottweiler attacked Balu and Simpson's wife screamed.

"The hardest thing was introducing him to the household. That was a nightmare." Simpson said. "That really tested my commitment."

Balu was Simpson's second K-9 partner in his bid to become a full-fledged K-9 handler. His first, carefully introduced to the family in a neutral spot, didn't cut it in training because he was scared of shiny floors. That necessitated a sudden shift to a new dog, without the benefit of a neutral meeting.

"When I got him, he was just insane," Simpson said. "It was hard, but he's really squared away."

After 14 weeks of training, Simpson and Balu hit the streets last month as the newest members of the Bridgeport Police K-9 Unit, which boasts five officers, a sergeant supervisor and their canine partners.

They help patrol officers with building searches, criminal and missing person tracks, narcotics searches and more. Dogs' extra-sensitive smell, hearing and instincts come in handy, and their teeth help to nab fleeing suspects or encourage those considering flight not to bother.

Typically, there's one K-9 officer per shift with some overlap. And, rather than working a specific section of town, they respond city-wide.

But the members of that unit aren't the only policemen with dogs in the city. A lieutenant and sergeant have them, too -- but in a Twilight Zone kind of way.

Simpson joined the K-9 unit as it is mired in confusion over who is eligible for membership and why, with no clear-cut structure in place regarding what should happen to K-9 officers who get promoted.

Sgt. Kevin Gilleran, who became head of the unit in January 2008, lost his position as supervisor of the unit when he was named lieutenant last November. Pasquale Feola lost his place in the unit when he was promoted to sergeant in January. But both still have their dogs.

Sgt. Joseph Morales, the new unit supervisor, was promoted that same night as Feola and also booted to patrol, temporarily. Then, however, the more senior sergeant slated to take over as supervisor dropped out of training after the first week and Morales, who has seniority over Feola, got his spot.

Now, Gilleran and Feola are both patrol supervisors first and foremost, and use their dogs when they can and when a full-time K-9 officer isn't available.

The police union has filed a grievance over that issue.

Sgt. Charles Paris, union president, said in June that all eight "great handlers" should be in the unit.

"(The separation) makes training and ... the handling of the dogs more difficult for the officers who are not in the unit," he said. "Their skills are not being utilized properly. It's harming not only the handlers, it's harming the dogs because there are times the dogs are sitting idle. We do not want the handlers losing the dogs, but we do need to sit down and negotiate a fair agreement."

Promotional exams come around periodically, based on retirements and openings. Typically, officers who wish to rise in the ranks jump at any chance to take an exam, because it's anybody's guess when the next one will happen, and often the actual promotions don't happen for many months.

Gilleran, Paris said, wasn't told he was being promoted until four hours before his promotion ceremony, and therefore had little chance to mull what may happen with his dog.

"The city is not very organized as far as this is concerned," Paris said. "There's no policy and there's no agreement. In my 17 years, (Gilleran's case) is the first time I've seen this where an existing K-9 was able to get promoted and keep the dog. The way the promotions were done at the time, the city never gave the officers an ultimatum: `You get promoted and you could lose your dog.'"

Lt. John Cueto, a former K-9 handler who now supervises the elite Emergency Services Unit that includes three of current handlers, including Simpson, said it doesn't make sense to retire young police dogs or take them away from their handlers after the time and exp ense invested.

Police K-9 training, operated by the State Police at no charge to municipal departments, is no joke. It's an intense, physically and mentally grueling boot camp -- and some don't finish.

Because of the deep bond built between dog and handler, switching a dog to a new handler could, theoretically, happen early in the dog's career but is not often done, he said.

Now, people bid for the unit and are chosen based on seniority, which Cueto said "really isn't the right way to put a round peg in a round hole" because K-9 handling "isn't for everyone." The union is not willing to negotiate on seniority, Paris said, which means that, if K-9 officers were allowed to be promoted and keep their dogs -- the average working life of a police dog is about eight years -- while others with seniority could bid for the position, the unit could grow too large. "We agree that that could be a concern," Paris said. "That's the gamble the city would have to consider."

Officers care for their dogs outside of work and have to train eight hours a month and get recertified every six months, so they work seven-hour shifts on the street instead of eight.

"It's gotten complicated," Cueto said. "We're not sending these dogs home and making them pets; it just doesn't make sense. Ultimately, it's going to become a matter of negotiation with the union."

Police dogs are typically European-bred, Alpha males chosen for their intelligence, fearlessness, athleticism and "ball drive" -- K-9 lingo for work ethic. They're raised to be aggressive working dogs, not pets, and many have never bonded with a human before their police handlers. Balu bit Simpson a few times during training and that's not unusual.

Each dog costs about $6,000. Plus, there's the cost of equipment and four months of pay for the officer while he's training and not working on the street, said Cueto.

"Everyone realizes how important the dogs are," Simpson said. "We have some of the best K-9 handlers in the state, by far. You see these guys and coming and they save the day -- I always wanted to do it. The best thing about (Balu) is that no one can pick him up and use him against me."

A major in the U.S. Army Reserves who's seen his share of tough challenges deployed overseas and during 10 years on the police force, Simpson said handling and training a police dog "is probably the hardest thing I ever did."

But he stuck it out, losing 20 pounds in the process, and Balu came out the other end of 14 weeks of training in May fairly mellow unless his handler goes on the alert. During his first seven days of work, moreover, he performed six or seven building searches, checked the scene of a burglar alarm, performed two tracks, and apprehended a robbery suspect and a man who sic'ed his Pit Bull on officers responding to a report of domestic violence at his home.

Balu is not finished with his training -- his first year of work will be most crucial, his handler said.

"I was very happy with how he performed yesterday, though," Simpson said last month, referring to the domestic violence suspect apprehension.

And it's a bonus that, despite that chaotic first day, Balu is now buddies with the Rottweiler and doesn't bat an eye when one of Simpson's small daughters pulls his ears.


Bridgeport poised to ax workers after concessions fall short

Published: 11:24 p.m., Friday, July 2, 2010

BRIDGEPORT -- Two days into the new fiscal year, the city is finalizing a list of workers to be laid off and will begin distributing the notices next week.

"We absolutely have a game plan," acting Chief of Staff Ruben Felipe said Friday. "It got pushed back a little bit due to the storm" on June 24.

City officials in April gave each labor union a specific target number they expected to receive in concessions or givebacks to help close a projected $8 million gap in the $469 million budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year, which began Thursday.

Felipe said only "some" of the city's 13 labor unions have agreed to concessions, but declined to identify those unions. He also would not give details on what concessions have been agreed on so far, or whether the givebacks are enough to prevent layoffs in any particular union.

He also said because the concessions and layoffs were not in effect before the beginning of the budget year, the city's projected $8 million budget gap will need to be "adjusted" higher because the layoffs for members of two unions will not be effective until 30 days after those employees are notified.

"It's not a huge impact," Felipe insisted.

Fire union President Robert Whitbread said Friday he couldn't believe the city would move forward with layoffs after refusing to negotiate with the city's firefighters.

"I'm not happy with that," Whitbread said. "We made every effort to meet with them. The last meeting we had with the city they canceled and they have not contacted us. We never really got to sit down with them and go over the figures. We've come up with ideas that they don't seem to want to look at."

Whitbread said the city is asking firefighters for $1.5 million in concessions, or the equivalent of eliminating 21 positions.

Valerie Sorrentino, business manager for the Laborers International Union of North America, Local 200, said the union is being asked for $381,000 in concessions, which would amount to 19.8 furlough days for each of the union's 103 members.

LIUNA members expect the last employees hired by the city to receive layoff notices because members of the union employed before June 2009 were promised no layoffs before Dec. 31, 2010, in contract negotiations last year. According to Sorrentino, about eight people have been hired in LIUNA positions since then.

Last year, Bridgeport unions agreed to $4.5 million in concessions through furloughs and wage freezes to help close a $20 million deficit in the 2009-10 budget year. Only the National Association of Government Employees refused givebacks and, as a consequence, 53 of the employees that union represented were issued layoff notices.

Union votes “no confidence” in police chief

The Bridgeport police union has voted 166 to 20 tonight in favor of a “no confidence” motion against Acting Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr., according to a police source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The symbolic action was prompted by the city’s threat of 48 layoffs in the 410-strong department, said the union president, Sgt. Charles Paris, earlier this month.

Paris could not be reached for comment tonight.

Earlier this month, he said union leadership was “upset” by the chief failing to address line-up on the layoffs matter within a week of being asked, and cited difficulty in resolving other issues with him as well.

Asked to respond earlier this month, Gaudett said he stood by his record as chief and added that he didn’t want to see layoffs, either.


Police, fire layoffs threatened in Bridgeport

Published: 09:07 p.m., Tuesday, June 15, 2010

BRIDGEPORT -- The police union is balking at demands for concessions from the cash-strapped city, saying threatened layoffs of 48 officers would risk safety and wouldn't allow the much-anticipated hiring of 20 new ones with a federal grant.

"We're not budging," said union president Sgt. Charles Paris, as negotiations continue between the city and its unions. "(The threat of layoffs) is a smokescreen. We wouldn't be able to protect the city if they let go 48 officers."

Still, the membership of the police union is so concerned over the possibility of mass layoffs that 80 to 90 officers showed up to a union meeting on Monday evening -- about 50 more than usual -- and agreed to vote on a related "no confidence" motion regarding acting Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr. sometime within a week, Paris said.

Layoffs could throw a wrench in the city's plans to hire 20 new police officers by fall with a $4.8 million federal grant. The grant must be used for new officers, and the union contract stipulates that the newest members of the department, with 410 sworn officers, must be the first to go.

Recruitment for the new officers ramped up in March, and now the city's website states Bridgeport has scheduled a written exam for job hopefuls July 17.

"How would they recruit ... when there's a possibility of layoffs?" Paris wondered. "The other officers would have to be rehired first."

Other city unions are in similar situations. The fire department, for example, may face 21 layoffs.

Labor Relations Director Lawrence Osborne wouldn't confirm the numbers of proposed layoffs, saying the release of such details at this point "would constitute a `bad faith' bargaining effort on behalf of the city, which would be a violation of federal labor laws."

But Osborne said negotiations with city unions have been ongoing since Mayor Bill Finch met with union leadership on April 5, before he publicly released his budget, to explain the amount of concessions the city would need to close the budget gap.

"Negotiations ... will continue as long as necessary in order to either garner concessions, or make decisions about when and if to lay off personnel if the concessions are not realized," Osborne said. "The city has been very clear in its meetings with each union about the need for concessions in order to avert layoffs."

Fire union president Robert Whitbread said he hopes to maintain talks with the city and is promoting ideas for savings that don't include layoffs.

Unlike the police department, however, the fire department doesn't have a contract. Whitbread said negotiations are still ongoing for a new contract to replace the one that expired about a year ago.

The police union asked Gaudett during a June 8 meeting to discuss his position on the layoff threat, and the city's position, with rank-and-file officers, but he had not done so by a week later, Paris said.

Paris also said the union has had difficulty since November, when he took over as president, meeting with Gaudett to resolve smaller issues and this latest was the last straw.

"We're very upset about it," he said. "Basically, what we got back from him was that it was between the city and the union. We just can't resolve issues with this guy so we're definitely not going to be backing him for chief down the road. He's not willing to back his officers up."

In response, Gaudett said he understands the union's frustration "in these difficult times," but stands by his record as chief managing the department and its roughly $77 million budget.

"We have continued to move the department forward by filling promotional ranks, pursuing the `sunset' of the federal Remedy Order and maintaining public safety in a fiscally responsible manner," he said.

"No one wants layoffs, including me. The city and the union have worked together during past fiscal challenges and I am confident that they can do so again."

If the union votes "no confidence" in the chief's leadership, it won't be the first time. The union made that symbolic statement in 2008 against both former Chief Bryan Norwood and Finch.

Due to budgetary belt-tightening in 2008, the union agreed to two years without raises before a 3 percent raise due in July. "We're tired of giving," Paris said.


Search continues for Bridgeport police chief, probably for a while

Published: 11:31 p.m., Monday, May 31, 2010

BRIDGEPORT -- It's been nearly two years since the city has had a contracted police chief, and members of the police department are wondering how much longer it will take.

The answer to that question is, "realistically ... probably through the summer," said city Personnel Director David Dunn. "I would be happy with September."

Joseph Gaudett Jr. has been acting chief since October 15, 2008, six days after Bryan T. Norwood, a Bridgeport native who was chief a little more than two years, resigned to take a similar job in Richmond, Va.

Gaudett is earning $119,000, according to Dunn. Norwood's annual salary was $102,793.

Prior to Norwood's appointment, Deputy Chief Anthony Armeno served 16 months as acting chief. And at least a year elapsed before the hiring of the two chiefs before that, Dunn estimated.

"It's never been a quick, quick process," he said. "It's a really important job -- maybe the second-most important job in the city, some people would argue. So the city hasn't rushed into those decisions."

The City Charter requires a national search for a new chief and does not specify a time limit that an interim chief can serve, officials said.

The charter specifies that successful candidates must have at least five years of command-level experience in a city 80,000 or larger, with a population that is at least 25 percent minorities, Dunn said. It also requires city residency within one year of appointment.

Gaudett, a 28-year veteran of the city's police force, plans to compete for the job. His late father served 23 years as a police officer before retiring as a sergeant in 1980. If not chosen for the permanent post, he could return to his position as a deputy chief.

Dunn said notices inviting applications have been sent to several professional police associations, particularly the International Association of Chiefs of Police and certain minority chiefs groups, where the job description was posted May 14.

The deadline for applications is June 11. About 20 people have applied so far, Dunn said. The city is offering a salary ranging from $109,000 to $119,000, with at least a bachelor's degree preferred, according to the IACP notice.

The chief is appointed by the mayor for five years, and his or her contract can be renewed.

Police union officials and others have protested the length of the process. In October, Officer Frank Cuccaro, the former union president, said a search for a new chief was long overdue.

"The acting chief has been very slow in making a decision in the department because obviously, he would like to get the job when it is permanent," Cuccaro said then.

Messages left Thursday for the current union president, Sgt. Charles Paris, were not returned.

City Councilman Andre F. Baker Jr., a member of the Public Safety Committee, agreed with Cuccaro.

He said that Gaudett has done an "excellent" job and has been remarkably accessible to the public, attending community meetings and listening to locals' input, but might hesitate to make any major changes in an interim position.

"We really need to get somebody in there," he said. "It's kind of awkward when you have some guy `acting.' You want the police department to move forward."

In the neighboring suburban towns of Fairfield, Trumbull and Stratford, the police chief selection process is traditionally much faster. Those communities don't require an outside search, however.

In Fairfield, the Police Commission has already finished its interviews of in-house candidates and may pick a new chief to replace David Peck, who retired May 21, as soon as its June 9 meeting.

Trumbull Police Chief Thomas Kiely was chosen from within, too, after being groomed by former Chief James Berry, who left that department in March 2004 after about two years.

Dunn said the Civil Service Department hired a consulting firm experienced in municipal police chief recruitment, Georgia-based Slavin Management Consultants, to handle Bridgeport's process.

The firm will vet the applicants and present the top three to Mayor Bill Finch for a decision, as laid out in the charter.

Finch, asked last October about the status of the search for a new chief, said he was in no hurry because Gaudett was doing a good job, reining in overtime spending and building morale in the department.

Other concerns took precedence, including the ongoing recruitment of 20 new entry-level police officers to be paid for three years with $4.8 million in federal stimulus money.

Court Ruling Ends Police Supervisors' Union Drive

(Hartford Courant 06/01/10)

Connecticut's Supreme Court has thrown out a lower court's decision that would have allowed state police lieutenants and captains to form a union.

The high court's 4-2 decision, released Tuesday, says those officers meet the criteria to be considered management. That bars them from collective bargaining under state law.

The high court's 4-2 decision, released Tuesday, says those officers meet the criteria to be considered management. That bars them from collective bargaining under state law.

The ruling comes after a four-year dispute between the state Department of Public Safety — which oversees the state police — and approximately 50 lieutenants and captains. The officers had voted to unionize after raising concerns about morale, pay and work conditions.

A state labor board certified the union in 2007 but state officials fought the effort, saying the supervisors should be exempt from collective bargaining.

Dispatch center gets more static, and some praise

Published: 05:44 p.m., Monday, May 10, 2010

BRIDGEPORT -- Discontent is festering in the city's police and fire departments as each tries to adapt to a new dispatch system that some say is working well and others call a mess.

Some rank-and-file members and union presidents in both departments are complaining of mistakes, confusion and dangerously long delays, while administrators counter that the new system has shown only the minor "glitches" to be expected with new software and staff.

"Some people are resistant to change," said Deputy Police Chief Brian McCarthy, head of administrative support services. "Calls are being dispatched the way they should be and there's no service interruption to the public. It's just a matter of teaching old dogs new tricks."

When the staff of both dispatch operations were converted to civilian employees and combined into one center with new equipment and software on April 29, both unions raised an outcry at the reassignment of the police sergeants and fire lieutenants who'd previously supervised their respective centers. Union leaders said the new civilian overseers wouldn't have the same expertise and the efficiency of the operations would decline.

City officials said the partially grant-funded Emergency Communications Operations Center would save money and increase efficiency in responding to the 100,000 emergency calls received by fire and police dispatchers a year.

Deputy Fire Chief Robert Petrucelli said he and other top administrators have been in regular contact with Doree Price, director of the center at 581 North Washington Ave., since fire communications were transferred there April 27.

Fire administrators have created a special form for dispatch-related complaints, and Petrucelli said Monday afternoon that he'd seen six or eight of them.

"There's a couple of minor issues that we've been addressing as they occur," he said. "But nothing catastrophic. We're just trying to work the bugs out. As soon as any kind of a glitch comes to our attention ... right away we schedule a meeting with Doree. Everybody's working together really well."

A snafu last weekend that sent firefighters to a stove fire on the wrong street -- Glenwood Avenue instead of Linwood -- was an "isolated incident" that could have happened before the changeover, he said, adding that the mistake delayed firefighter response by a "couple minutes" with little harm done.

Price said things are "going well," and she's worked with both departments and center staff to resolve issues.

"I think it's the normal growing pains of change," she said. "This was a big change for everyone involved."

The center boasts new computer and radio systems, replacing "antiquated" systems that hadn't been updated in 15 years at least, Price said.

Robert Whitbread, fire union president, said dozens of forms listing complaints about dispatch were sent in from various firehouses to administrators on Monday alone and more are being written.

"They thought enough of it to create a new document just to talk about the incidents," Whitbread said. "I think there's more complaints than they're letting on."

Police officers have also complained, saying dispatchers have lost track of officers' locations and delayed dispatching calls for many hours.

"There are some major concerns," said Sgt. Charles Paris, police union president. "We're keeping track of everything."

Paris, who has filed a grievance over the removal of five former dispatch sergeants, said the assertion that everything is working fine is "not true," but declined to discuss details at this point.

McCarthy said he wasn't aware of any major delays and added that, although the new system doesn't assign an incident number to every call like the old system did, it does number and track all calls.

New Bridgeport 911 center up and running, with some static

Published: 12:49 p.m., Saturday, May 1, 2010

BRIDGEPORT -- A week ago, when Bridgeporters called 911 from a landline, they reached State Police and, unless they were reporting an incident on state roadways, got transferred to the city's Fire Department dispatch on Congress Street.

If need be, they were transferred again to police dispatch in the basement of City Hall.

But no more.

The city has combined its emergency dispatch centers under one roof at 581 North Washington Ave. and switched to a full civilian staff with help from a federal grant, hoping to increase efficiency, save money and update an antiquated system.

The fire and police unions, however, are hopping mad that civilians have taken charge of their radio dispatches.

Fire dispatch operations were moved to the new center on Tuesday, and police on Thursday -- not without glitches, but successfully overall.

It is the culmination of an effort that began more than five years ago and was enabled by a $6 million federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant to the city in 2005, according to Doree Price, director of the new Emergency Communications Operations Center.

The consolidation -- including new equipment, technology and radios -- cost $8 million, plus $7.4 million in capital and state grant funds for the new building and another across the street for public facilities, in a city that fields about 100,000 emergency calls a year, Price said.

The police union president, Sgt. Charles Paris, said removing the sergeants who oversaw police dispatch 24/7 risks officers' safety and may result in more misunderstandings between officers and dispatchers.

Paris was preparing to file a grievance against the city Thursday morning when the changeover took place. It came after many weeks of negotiations and a two-hour meeting Wednesday between union and city representatives.

"We're pretty upset," he said. "We feel the city purposefully violated our contract. We're not going to budge when it comes to protecting our officers and our civilians and our community."

Lawrence Osborne, the city's director of labor relations, responded by saying, "We're involved in off-the-record negotiations with the police union regarding this matter. To comment would be an example of bad-faith bargaining."

The center is staffed by 31 people, nine of them supervisors with "extensive backgrounds in public safety," Price said, adding that staffing levels remained about the same as they were before, simply combined.

At any one time, there are two supervisors overseeing two dispatchers for fire, two for police, and five to seven call takers in the center. Eventually, all will be cross-trained to handle both police and fire calls, which will result in more scheduling flexibility and therefore, reduced overtime costs, Price said.

The fire union tried a similar approach to the police, fighting years ago to keep five fire lieutenants working in communications, but lost in arbitration, said fire union president, Robert Whitbread.

"We went through the same thing; we just did it sooner," he said. "We were not happy with it, we thought our people could do the job. They've got years of experience, they know the fire service, they know the town and they know our apparatus."

Judging by the hiring of retired police and fire personnel, Whitbread said, "They obviously thought that kind of experience was important, but not important enough to bring our people over."

Whitbread said supervisors will, at their top step, earn the same as a fire lieutenant's base salary: $62,000.

Price said the supervisors start at $55,000.

Most Bridgeport sergeants earn between $60,000 and $80,000 per year and, depending on the overtime they put in, some earn more. There was plenty of overtime to be had in the old police communications center. Longtime dispatch Sgt. Robert Bigelow, for example, routinely ranked for years among the city's top 10 wage earners with annual income well above $100,000

Paris said the five police sergeants -- until recently, there were six -- were reassigned to positions in patrol and one to permits, but didn't know their new jobs until Wednesday evening.

Overseeing communications and dispatch was, to put it mildly, not one of the police department's most desired jobs. Although some sergeants, like Bigelow, preferred working there, most would rather to be out on the streets.

The dispatch center is responsible for prioritizing calls for service, assigning officers to incidents and informing them of the nature and place they're headed. Dispatchers assess the severity of each situation, monitor the radio to keep track of officers' locations and actions, and call for backup if needed.

A planned switch to a clearer, encrypted digital signal heard only by emergency personnel has been postponed because some of the department's cars are too old to support it, Paris said.

Although not typical, tensions have been known to arise between police and dispatchers, and some have questioned whether patrol officers will more frequently question or challenge the directions of dispatcher when a sergeant isn't there to give a final word.

The new civilian supervisors won't have the authority to order sworn officers, Paris said.

"Obviously, the officers will do what is necessary ... but there will be times, I would think, where they'll be a concern that the civilian dispatcher will be giving officers information that is not proper," he said. "Things happen so quickly. When a sergeant's there, I think even the dispatchers are more comfortable"

Price countered that all of the new supervisors are well-trained and at least five of them are retired police officers -- three of them from Bridgeport.

She, Police Chief Joseph Gaudett and some members of the police department don't share the union's concerns.

"On the contrary, we believe that we are enhancing officer safety, as well as public safety, by combining our separate dispatch centers into one," Gaudett said in a Friday e-mail. "This results in more police sergeants in the field, where they belong, supervising police officers."

Price said across the country and state, many other municipalities -- including Fairfield, Norwalk and Hartford and West Haven, among others -- have opted for similar systems to help stretch tight budgets in the long term and allow "better" training

White cops get say in decades-old discrimination case

Published: 06:50 p.m., Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A federal appeals court Tuesday allowed a group of white Bridgeport police officers to be heard on a proposed order to settle a 32-year-old racial discrimination case brought by black officers against the department.

It also gives the officers the ability to challenge any court action in the order that impacts their future by allowing Bridgeport to adjust promotion exams that are believed to be discriminate against blacks.

But the Second Circuit Court of Appeals panel in New York City -- consisting of Circuit Judges Jose A. Cabranes, a former chief District judge in Connecticut and Barrington D. Parker, who sits on several Yale University boards and U.S. District Judge Carol Amon of Brooklyn, N.Y.-- didn't stop there.

The panel questioned why the 32-year-old Guardians case, which resulted in the federal court overseeing operations of the Bridgeport Police Department's dealings with black officers, is still active.

Parker, in a strongly worded final paragraph, writes: "this case was filed in 1978...the world has turned over many times since then. Except in highly unusual circumstances, it is the business of cities, not federal courts or special masters, to run police departments. At some point in time, this litigation has to be ended."

The panel then expressed confidence that U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton, who is presiding over the case, "will look hard for that point."

"This is a poster case for so-called reform litigation run amok," said Karen Lee Torre, a New Haven lawyer who obtained intervention for Bridgeport Police Officers Todd Hoben, Jorge Cintron, David Garcia, Mark Belinkie, Mark Graham, Martin Henue, William Reilly and James Borrico, and for Kurt Hoben, who is applying for a police officer position.

"This ruling is another positive step toward ending a racket that has gone on for decades and siphoned off millions of taxpayer dollars, all squandered on lawyers and 20 years of payments to the judge's appointed special master, an arrangement the legality of which I look forward to challenging."

This ruling comes on the heels of last summer's U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning a federal judge's decision allowing New Haven to re-test fire department lieutenant and captain candidates because no blacks scored high enough to be promoted.

There are some similarities. Arterton is the presiding judge in the Guardians' case and the New Haven firefighters case while Torre represented the successful white candidates in both.

The Supreme Court decision also led to Bridgeport settling a reverse discrimination suit brought by 12 white firefighters, who challenged the rescoring of a 2007 fire lieutenant's exam, which knocked several out of possible promotions.

The Bridgeport Guardians, a group of black police officers, sued the city and its police department in 1978 claiming racial discrimination of black officers. Following a trial, Chief U.S. District Judge T. F. Gilroy Daly, now deceased, found widespread discrimination in terms of the assignment, promotion and discipline of black officers. He appointed William Clendenen, a New Haven lawyer, as a special master to oversee the treatment of black officers within the department.

Over the decades, Clendenen conducted numerous hearings and wrote several rulings critical of the department and its management. Damages, as well as Clendenen's fees, were paid by Bridgeport. A $900,000 fine was imposed against city for violating court orders, but never paid.

"Throughout this period, the only constant has been that the police department...has been run under the supervision of a federal court and its special master," Parker wrote.

But times have changed. The ruling points out that 15 percent of the supervisors today are black and 32 percent are minorities as compared to 1983 when all supervisors were white. Additionally, two blacks served as police chief in the past decade.

"The substance of the Second Circuit's ruling is an encouraging sign of an end to this protracted litigation," said Betsy Edwards, an associate city attorney. "The presence of the intervening officers in the remaining stages of this case will assist the Department in moving forward with a shared sense of unity. The City shares the Second Circuit's belief that `the business of running Police Departments is not properly left to federal courts and special masters,' and is confident that the progress that the Department has made over the past year will continue and will justify the long overdue conclusion of this federal oversight."

Antonio Ponvert, the Guardians' lawyer could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Following a four-hour hearing on Aug. 6, 2008, Arterton accepted a proposed order to end the case, which includes returning authority to the chief in assigning officers to geographical areas, filling 50 percent of the vacancies in specialized units and hearing complaints of racial discrimination.

However, Arterton retained oversight of the order's implementation.

Bridgeport cops host open houses for applicants

Published: 10:51 p.m., Thursday, April 22, 2010

BRIDGEPORT -- People interested in applying for 20 available entry-level police officer positions can get a closer view of what the job entails at one of three open houses planned at the Police Training Academy, 405 Newfield Ave.

Sgt. Brian Dickerson said the open houses will take place Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon, 1 to 3 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. Several police supervisors, including Assistant Chief Lynn Kerwin, Capt. Robert Shapiro and Lt. Lonnie Blackwell, will address attendees.

"We are anticipating that because of the difficult economy, people, who otherwise might not be consider a career in law enforcement, are now interested," Dickerson said. "We scheduled the open houses to give them an idea of what to expect. In many cases, this may be a perfect choice for them."

Bridgeport now has 407 active police officers, and has budgeted for 427 next year.

Applications for the job of patrol officer, which pays $42,315, will be available at the open house. There is no age restriction on applicants.

Candidates will be required to take a physical agility test, currently scheduled May 15-16 and May 22-23 at Central High School.

A male candidate between 20 and 29 years old will be required to run 1.5 miles in 12 minutes and 25 seconds, bench press 99 percent of his body weight and complete 38 situps in a minute. A female candidate between 20 and 29 years old must run the 1.5 miles in 14 minutes and 49 seconds; bench press 59 percent of her body weight and complete 32 situps in a minute.

Those who successfully complete that physical test must then take the written examination planned for June 12.Bridgeport has been recruiting police candidates at job fairs, colleges and through announcements placed in municipal buildings throughout southwestern Connecticut.

Haitian police officer braves risk to help his homeland

Published: 11:06 p.m., Sunday, February 7, 2010BRIDGEPORT -- He's a cop because he wants to protect and serve, not because he wants to be a tough guy.

But after eight years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserve, and 12 in the Bridgeport Police Department, Officer Jean Gaie is tough enough to face one of the most difficult experiences of his life in the service of others.On Saturday, Gaie was scheduled to return to his homeland of Haiti to continue his personal mission of giving humanitarian relief in that earthquake-ravaged nation, work he started last month on a paid leave of absence from the Police Department.

A Haitian native who moved to the U.S. in 1983 when he was 22, Gaie returned on Jan. 31 after spending 13 days in Haiti, where he found his father and other relatives alive, as well as handing out medicine and water to people suffering from extreme pain, dehydration and lung problems exacerbated by heat and dust.

He addressed the City Council last Monday night.

"There is no word to describe what I've seen down there," he told the council, members of which have donated a total of $3,575 from their tax-funded stipends to Save the Children's work in Haiti. The council is also considering a resolution to "adopt" a Haitian city.

"What you guys have seen on TV is nothing," he said. "Without a quick response from the U.S., we probably would have had two million people dead."

As it is, some 212,000 Haitians have been reported dead following a 7.0-magnitude earthquake that rocked the island Jan. 12, and that number may grow as more bodies are recovered from the debris.

Later, Gaie said those 13 days he spent in Haiti were the worst of his life. He, like everyone else there, slept outside with the mosquitoes because few surviving structures are safe -- he said people avoid even sidewalks for fear of toppling walls. And yet, he's going back for what he expects will likely be another two-week visit with support from city and police leaders.

"My work is not done," he told the Connecticut Post. "I feel like I belong there now -- my heart is there. I cannot watch these people dying like dogs down there and not help. I put my heart in it and God will cover me."

Gaie will act as a detective of sorts: the eyes and ears of the Haiti Relief Resources Office that has been set up in City Hall Annex. He'll seek out areas devastated by the quake where help hasn't yet reached.

"It's important, very important to give us an eye -- a view of what's going on," said Pierre d'Haiti, director of the office, which connects relief agencies and resources with needs in both Haiti and the local Haitian population. "We really thank Officer Jean Gaie for being able to step up. There are still places that are under rubble. The more we wait to help, the worse it's getting."

Gaie will help to direct relief efforts and connect them with people on the ground there, and if the agencies can't do what he says is necessary, the office -- which has worked to unify Haitian organizations and churches in the area -- will raise money to do it, d'Haiti said.

"It's risky down there, it's not a joke," he said. "The jail is empty -- all of the criminals are on the street ... raping women and children. You don't know who is who, so therefore you have to be on your best guard. Whenever I face a dangerous situation, I keep repeating what I learned from training: `I will survive.' Am I scared? No, because I'm a cop. The job can turn ugly. You might go to a call and not come back. All you can do is hope for the best, expect the worst."

Gaie spent most of his time in his family's hometown, Leogane, handing out over-the-counter medicines like Tylenol and Motrin to help people manage pain, headaches and related, widespread depression, as well as 200 masks donated by nurse friends in the U.S.

While there, he awoke as his outdoor cot skidded across the ground and people screamed to Jesus for help. It was a 6.1-magnitude aftershock. "I felt like I was going inside the ground," he said. "It was scary."

The father of five said he watched a woman give birth by C-section with no anesthesia and saw too many bleeding children with leg amputations.

"Doctors and nurses down there, God bless them, I don't know how they manage," Gaie said. "You cannot spend more than two weeks down there; you'll be burned out. You see too much in one day. Nothing is beautiful. The only picture down there is ugliness. Children suffering -- I hate it. Sometimes you feel like crying. You feel angry, you feel upset ... I will do as much as I can."

After all, he said, he carries with him the pledge to "protect and serve" his community, placing himself at risk in both Bridgeport and Haiti.

"Being a cop is not about arresting people," he said. "They look up to you as a leader. They hold you to a higher standard. They expect solutions from you."

Elite Bridgeport police unit trains to be top-notch

Published: 06:13 p.m., Friday, February 5, 2010BRIDGEPORT -- The prospect of relaxing at home can be attractive, but the members of an elite unit of city police officers know they have to hit the gym -- a lot.

Or, in the case of one K-9 officer in his 40s, newly-promotedSgt. Joseph Morales, run seven miles every other day.

Physical fitness is one of the ramped-up requirements for membership in the Emergency Services Unit, Bridgeport's relatively new version of a SWAT team. Any officer with a few years' experience under his or her belt can aspire to join the unit, based on physical agility, marksmanship and an interview without regard for rank or age"You become a cop and that's like the best thing in the world, and then you realize you can take another step," Norton said. "For me, it's actually more humbling because you realize how much people look up to you. You're the last line ¦ when a police officer needs help.

Gale, with about 10 years on the department, and Figueroa said the unit offers them a chance to do something different and be recognized for their abilities. Both patrol officers said that when they made the unit, they mix with others of that rank, as well as lieutenants and sergeants who come from various shifts in the department and are all on the same level in the unit.

"We saw a chance to be on a top unit without it being seniority-based," Gale said. "(We) have the qualities they're looking for -- not just time on the job. We don't worry about who has which stripes or bars. We're in it together; we're covering each other's backs."

Konoval said he likes the unit's camaraderie: "You're here as a team. Not separate from the department, you're part of the department."Until about a year ago, the city had to rely on State Police to help out in crisis times -- when there have been hostage situations, people barricaded in homes with weapons, high-risk warrants to be served, entries to be forced, and so on.

But that just wasn't right for the state's largest city, said members of the unit.

"We want to be able to rely on ourselves," said newly promoted Sgt. John Gale, one of the newest team members.

Capt. James Viadero, unit commander, said all of the state's larger cities have their own teams, including Hartford, New Haven, Stamford, Norwalk, Danbury and others, all of which have smaller populations than Bridgeport. About 2½ years ago, Bridgeport decided it was time it had one, too.

"It's been a strong commitment by the city," Viadero said. "A city this size needs a unit like this. You hope you never have to use it ... but it's there. It's good to know. It is a good insurance policy."

It took more than a year for the first members to complete their training. Eventually, department leaders saw that 15 members wasn't enough, he said. Now, even in the midst of a budget crunch, eight new officers are being trained to expand the unit to 23.

Viadero said the ESU is funded through the Police Department's budget, but much of its top-notch, cutting-edge equipment -- like an armored vehicle and military-style assault rifles -- was purchased with grants and asset forfeiture money.

The new members include Detectives James Borrico and Dennis Martinez, and Officers Richard Cretella, Al Figueroa, Abe Konoval, Edward Martocchio, Manuel Santo and Gale.

"It was a lot more intense than I thought it was going to be," said Figueroa, who's been on the department for 17 years and was attracted to the unit's high-risk missions. "You know what? I really like this -- the sense of excitement, the pride."

Members of the ESU devote extra effort, undergoing more than 2,000 hours of training in tactics, weapons, use of force, deployment of gas, hostage rescue techniques and similar activities, Viadero said.

"It's very specialized training," he said. "You have to be at the top of your game physically, mentally -- and proficient in the use of the weapons."

Without an extra stipend, members are also on call 24/7 on top of their regular police duties, and must participate in monthly training.

Unit members said a home-grown team means quicker response times, and the added advantage of its members' familiarity with the city.

Contradicting the common television image of heavily armed SWAT officers bursting into buildings while spewing gunfire, Gale stressed the importance of slow and methodical actions whenever possible in high-risk situations.

"You have to think about what you're doing rather than just rushing it," he said. "When you rush then you skip things and that's how cops get killed. It's a higher level of training."

In 2008, an unarmed Norwalk man was killed when the Southwest Regional Emergency Response Team, a force of 21 officers from six towns in south-central Fairfield County -- Bridgeport is not a member of that team -- tossed a flash grenade and burst into an Easton home. The man was fatally shot by an officer who believed that man was rushing him in an attempt to take away his gun.

The officers involved were later cleared of wrongdoing by then-State's Attorney Jonathan Benedict.

Viadero declined to comment on the Easton incident, which is the subject of ongoing litigation, except to say that the concept of regional emergency response teams is not new to the area. Another group of towns between Bridgeport and New Haven, including Milford, Derby and Orange, have organized a similar team, too, he said.

Under Viadero, Lt. John Cueto runs the ESU. Cueto also works with the department's equestrian unit.

Once Bridgeport officers make the unit, which boasts two K-9 officers and four specialized snipers, they have to maintain a higher level of fitness and are tested every six months to ensure they do.

And making it is hard enough.

To join, the latest group of officers tried out over last summer, undergoing rigorous physical agility and marksmanship tests in which the standards were ramped up a notch from what's required departmentwide.

Forty-five signed up, 22 showed and 15 passed the physical agility test, said members of the unit. Also, in order to make the team, they needed to miss no more than two out of 60 shots with a firearm.

Over the past 18 months since it has been operational, the unit has been called out at least six times, and each mission has been resolved successfully, Viadero said. It has also worked with several federal agencies, including the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives. Unit members helped with the federal "Operation Young Gunz" which led to nine Bridgeport arrests on firearms and drug charges in April. Last December, they helped apprehend three armed robbery suspects.

One of the more dramatic incidents involving the unit took place in July 2008 when an armed man held his wife and children hostage, barricading himself in his Hudson Street home for a nearly eight-hour standoff that kept neighbors from their homes while police -- the newly operational ESU was working with State Police at that point -- surrounded the house.

The situation was resolved peacefully. The man released his hostages; then police sneaked into the home and nabbed him after a brief struggle.

Sgt. Erick Norton, a former Marine and team executive officer, said being part of the unit is about being the best, but it isn't about being a big shot.


Bridgeport sergeant promotions a family affair

Published: 11:15 p.m., Thursday, February 4, 2010BRIDGEPORT -- When they were kids, Louis and Susan Cortello spent a lot of time together, playing baseball and sharing other interests. In short, the siblings had a bit of a rivalry, but also enjoyed a lot of loving support.

That hasn't changed much in adulthood.Nearly 17 years ago, the Cortello brother-and-sister team joined the Bridgeport Police Department on the same day. They each became the parent to a son 10 months apart. Then, they took the sergeant's promotional test together. Susan Cortello ranked sixth on the exam; her brother was seventh. When the test was re-scored after an appeal, he was sixth and she ranked seventh.

And last month, the siblings were promoted to sergeant on the same day, too.

They celebrated with their families Wednesday night after a ceremony honoring them and 18 other newly promoted sergeants in the City Council Chambers at City Hall.

"It's very exciting to do things together, to make our achievements together," said Susan Cortello. "We're a very supportive family, so it's nice."

The other new police sergeants include: Jason Amato, Michael Burdo, Angelo Collazo, Mathew Cosgrove, Pasquale Feola, John Gale, James Geremia, Jeffrey Grice, Edward Golding, John Klesyk, Joseph Morales, Ronald Mercado, James Myers, Nancy O'Donnell, Edward Rivera, Bradford Seeley, Philip Sharp and Luigi Tucciarone.

Each has a personal story.

Mercado was No. 1 in the department on the promotional exam. Myers is known for his work as a paranormal investigator. Feola and Morales are K-9 officers still awaiting word on whether they'll be allowed to keep their police dogs in their new assignment.

"We expect great things from you," said acting Police Chief Joseph L. Gaudett Jr. "Understand that with that gold shield comes the responsibility and accountability of having people under your command. You guys are where the rubber meets the road ... where policy becomes practice. You're the caretakers of the past, the implementers of change and the trailblazers of the future. So I wish you all the best."

The new sergeants have all been assigned to three shifts in patrol, as well as the midnight and evening shifts in the communications and dispatch center.

After 13 years as a detective, Louis Cortello was assigned to the Strategic Enforcement Team.

Policing runs in his family. The family patriarch, Sam Cortello, is a retired Bridgeport detective with 31 years under his belt in the department.

He beamed with pride on Wednesday.

"I'm very excited," he said. "After spending 31 years on the job, they outrank me. Now, I have to salute them.

"They went on together and now they made sergeant together: It's truly amazing. To have one is an honor; I have two for my money."

The moment was sweeter for Sam Cortello by the fact that he, diagnosed with cancer two years ago, survived to stand beside his children that proud evening, in a room packed with the friends and relatives of the 20 promotees.

"I never thought I would see this day," he said.

"He's a fighter -- that's what we are," said his son, adding that he and his sisters were raised in the city's North End and grew up with ideals of community involvement and public service from their parents. "We're very competitive. We always strive for excellence."

The pair's mother, Dee Cortello, said her children followed in their father's footsteps.

Newly promoted Sgt. Collazo, with nearly 10 years on the job, credited the sergeants who had supervised him as a patrol officer with inspiring him to reach for his stripes and teaching him much of what he knows now.

"My sergeants were my mentors, and I wanted to follow in their footsteps and be like them," he said. "It's a great accomplishment. It took hard work to get here and I look forward to going out and serving the city."

Many of those promoted, like Collazo, pored over books, laws, policies and procedures for many hours to study for the exam. While just the top 20 on the list earned their stripes, others may be promoted later.

O'D onnell, a lifelong city resident, was promoted after only about two years on the job, although she spent many years before that as a civilian in the dispatch center, and assigned to her old stomping grounds in the center that manages calls for service.

"It's quite an honor to be given this appointment for being on as a sworn officer for such a short time," she said. "I'm going to serve to the best of my ability."


New SET sergeant is a survivor -- and a servant

Published: 10:17 p.m., Friday, January 29, 2010BRIDGEPORT -- "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

In Sgt. Charles Johnson's case, the old adage is true.Johnson survived a head-on collision with a desperate, fleeing criminal slightly more than a year ago, and the lessons he learned in the aftermath are informing how he approaches his new job as one of the supervisors of the Police Department's Strategic Enforcement Team.

A Bridgeport native and 17-year veteran of the department, Johnson was named to the team Jan. 18 as part of department-wide re-assignments, along with newly promoted Sgt. Louis Cortello and the new commander, Lt. Thomas Lula.

The 16 SET officers focus on quality-of-life issues in the city's neighborhoods and have cell phones they make directly available to the public.

Johnson suffered his serious injuries on the midnight shift Nov. 11, 2008, as he was driving -- lights and siren activated -- to the aid of a fellow officer who was pursuing a runaway driver.

Then, the suspect turned south in the northbound lane of Main Street near the Route 8/25 overpass.

"All of a sudden, here he comes right at me," Johnson recalled. "Airbags went off. My jaw was broken in two places. My ankle was broken. It could've been a lot worse."

They collided with such force that the Crown Victoria cruiser's heavy-duty frame bent at its midpoint. The car was totaled.

Capt. A.J. Perez, who oversees both the Tactical Narcotics Team and SET, recalled that "shocking" night, when he got the news of Johnson's accident. He sped to the hospital to check on the officer.

He couldn't believe that Johnson's injuries weren't worse, judging by the severity of the crash.

"We're very lucky that, that day, he didn't die," Perez said. "I think if it had been a bigger person, they would have died."

Because of the crash, Johnson brings to his new position a deepened appreciation for his job and community, as well as a heightened sense of safety.

"I've got one of the best jobs in the world, so I always want to do it to the best of my ability," he said. "Every day is different; you have the chance to help people so much. I love it. The city gets a bad rap, but there are a lot of good people out there and they're just trying to work hard and make it."

Johnson, who decided he wanted to be a cop in second grade and never wavered from that plan, hopes to increase the team's community involvement and root out neighborhood problems.

As a passionate new recruit, he routinely found himself chasing criminals on foot across the back yards and fences of Bridgeport. He loved the thrill of the chase and, when he came back to work about three months after the crash, "I still had the desire to be out, driving the car, chasing down criminals."

Although Feb. 5 will mark the year anniversary of Johnson's return to work, his ankle injury makes some of those early exploits impossible.

He's still out and about, to be sure, but can't run like he used to. Yet as a supervisor, he realizes foot pursuits aren't his role anymore: He's there to teach others the best and safest ways to do things.

Physically chasing down criminals "is not all there is," he said. "I've come up with the adage, `Work smarter, not harder:' If you can find a smarter, safer way to do it, go with that."

Perez and acting Police Chief Joseph L. Gaudett Jr. said Johnson is a dedicated worker who always strives to do a good job.

"He never forgot where he came from," Perez said. "He wants to give back to the community. He's a very good person -- a dedicated father. He's not afraid to speak his mind and tell you what needs to be said, respectfully. He's nothing but a gentleman."

Perez also praised Cortello and Lula, who along with Johnson replaced Lt. Stephen Shuck and Sgt. John Evans, who moved to TNT.

"We're fortunate to have these guys," he said, adding that Lula brings "a wealth of experience and knowledge" from 26 years with the department and Cortello from years in the Detective Bureau.

After taking "a hard look" at the unit's work, administrators decided to refocus it with more emphasis on listening to the concerns and input of the community and business people, he said.

"They're our eyes and ears," Perez said. "It's old-fashioned police work -- and it works."

SET will support patrol and traffic divisions, and "saturate" areas with problem-trends, he said.

Johnson regrets that, before the accident, he'd driven off in a hurry and wasn't wearing his seat belt.

For five weeks at the crash, he underwent physical therapy three times a week and for more than six weeks, his jaw was wired shut and he sipped his dinners through a straw, including liquefied turkey and cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving.

"Needless to say, that was the worst Thanksgiving I ever had," he said.

Still, Johnson has found a lot to be thankful for in life, including his family, church, city and fellow police officers, who offered support during his recovery.

He's excited to be back to work and optimistic about the "overall ... very positive direction" the department is headed under Gaudett.

In the end, the man who hit him, Anthony Pooser, was convicted of first-degree assault with a motor vehicle and sentenced last July to 10 years in prison, suspended after seven, according to state judicial records.

Among the lessons Johnson learned from the crash was, "Take nothing for granted.

"And, of course, wear your seat belt."


AFSCME Sends Sympathy to Families of Murdered Police Officers

Four police officers were tragically killed in Lakewood, Washington Sunday morning in a horrific act of violence.  Sgt. Mark Renninger, and Officers Ronald Owens, Tina Griswold, and Greg Richards were ambushed in a coffee shop by a suspected lone gunman as they were preparing to begin patrol.  
“The loss of these brave law enforcement officers is felt deeply by those who knew them, and by their brothers and sisters in blue across the nation,” said James Howell, Assistant Director of AFSCME Law Enforcement and a retired police officer from the City of New Haven, Connecticut.  “Their dedication to protecting the Lakewood community is honored by all Americans and will be greatly missed by those they served so bravely and well.”
The officers who died were members of the Lakewood Police Independent Guild.  Their brothers and sisters in AFSCME Law Enforcement, and all AFSCME members, send their sympathy to the families and fellow officers of those who died tragically Sunday. 
 “On behalf of the 100,000 law enforcement personnel and all the members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, I want to extend our deepest sympathy to their families and fellow officers,” Jim Lyman, Chair of the AFSCME Law Enforcement Advisory Board and a retired Albany (NY) police officer . “The loss of these brave officers touches us all.” 
The suspect in the killings, Maurice Clemmons, was shot and killed by a police officer early Tuesday while in possession of a handgun belonging to one of the slain officers.  Four people have been arrested for allegedly assisting the suspect to elude authorities during the two day manhunt.
As uniformed officers and civilian law enforcement workers in states, counties and cities, at educational institutions and other areas, AFSCME members proudly serve and protect every day.  AFSCME Law Enforcement members around the country work hard to keep our families and communities safe – patrolling our streets, securing our airports and enforcing our laws.  
Donations to the families of the fallen officers of the Lakewood Police Department can be made by visiting or sending a check to the Lakewood Police Independent Guild, P.O. Box 99579, Lakewood, Washington 98499.

Change at the top in Bridgeport police union

By Noelle Frampton

BRIDGEPORT -- New leadership has been elected to most of the top jobs in the city's police union, a year after the prior leadership negotiated a controversial contract with the Finch administration that bypassed raises for two years in exchange for no layoffs.

Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159 ousted Officer Frank Cuccaro as president and also replaced the union's vice president and treasurer in balloting earlier this month.

Of 10 leadership posts, seven are filled by new people, although some are longtime officials who've moved to different leadership spots. "I think a lot of it had to do with the contentious contract," said Cuccaro, who lost the presidency to Sgt. Charles Paris, a longtime executive board member.

The final election results were announced Nov. 9 at a general membership meeting of the union.

The new vice president is Officer Bernard Webb. As treasurer, Officer Brad Seely beat longtime incumbent Mike Rynich in a close race and Officer Rich Mercado remains secretary.

Elected to the Executive Board were Sgt. John Whalen, Detectives Chris Borona and Edwin Perez, and Officers Ricardo Lopez, Danny Gomez and Brian Pisanelli.

Borona, Gomez, Lopez and Pisanelli are new, according to Paris. The former vice president did not seek re-election.

Cuccaro said there was a high turnout for the election, with more than 300 of 415 union members voting.

Paris, who spent 12 years on the board, said he is familiar with union business. He won by roughly 50 votes.

"I think the membership was looking for some change all around," he said.

Paris said that, although the membership passed the four-year contract in 2008 with a majority by 15 votes, "as time went on I think they thought we should've or would've gotten a better deal."

The pact gave no raises through June 2010 in exchange for no layoffs, but provides an 11 percent raise by the end of the four years. In the third year of the contract, which starts next July, officers get a 6 percent raise, followed by a 5 percent boost in the fourth and final year.

Cuccaro said it's tough to keep more than 400 people happy, no matter what.

"They were going to lay off 20 officers," he said. "The problem is, the people who weren't getting laid off didn't really care. It's a thankless job and I look forward to getting back on the street and doing some police work."

Last December, when the contract was before the City Council, Cuccaro called it "a hard sell" but "the best we can do given the national financial crisis."

Mayor Bill Finch had asked for concessions from all city unions in the face of a projected $20 million city budget deficit, and Cuccaro said then that the police union "played our part" in helping resolve the deficit.

The police union resisted the mayor's requests with public protests and a no-confidence vote, but the friction subsided with the resignation of Bryan T. Norwood as chief and the appointment of Deputy Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr. as acting chief in October 2008.

Gaudett, who as chief is not a union member, endorsed the pact, which saved the city money in the short run.

Cuccaro hopes to continue to have a hand in union matters.

"I'll help out the new board as best I can, because whatever they do will affect all 415 of us," he said.

Paris said the new team is still assessing matters, and is involved in discussions with the city on issues that include the city's reopening of the cost of members' insurance package.

"There's a lot of things still to be determined," he said. "We're working on some things and so far, so good."


Bridgeport's #2 cop worked her way up from the beat

By Daniel Tepfer
Staff writer

BRIDGEPORT -- Lynn Kerwin may be too modest for her own good.

When Kerwin joined the Police Department in 1985 there was a big recruitment drive to bring more women onto the city's police force, and if Kerwin had allowed herself to be fast-tracked, she might have been chief already.

Instead, the 51-year-old Kerwin decided to work her way up the ladder starting with street cop, then detective and now finally assistant chief.

"Frankly, I wouldn't trade my experiences in the department for anything," she said as she bade farewell recently to her office in the Detective Bureau. "I've been involved in a lot of big cases and worked with many good people."

You learn quickly that Kerwin doesn't like to dwell on the negatives. The petite blond with TV cop good looks can be quite disarming but just under the surface is a toughness that has served her well over the years.

Not only did she have to overcome obstacles set in her path because she is a woman in a still traditional man's world but she often found herself having to convince people on the street she is a cop.

"I remember riding with my partner Glen Prentiss on the East Side when we went to answer a burglary call," she related. "We jump out of our car and the victim asks Glen, 'why'd you bring this little girl with you?'"

This week Kerwin, who has commanded the Police Department's Detective Bureau for the past eight years, was promoted to assistant police chief making her not

only the highest ranking woman officer in the department's history but only the second official assistant chief. When former chief Bryan Norwood resigned last year Kerwin had been a leading candidate to replace him but the job instead went to Joseph Gaudett. But a recent federal court mandate to eliminate discrimination in the Police Department required the establishment of an assistant chief position. Kerwin now finds herself not only as the department's number two cop but also its top anti-discrimination cop.

"I'm to assist the chief in any matters that pertain to fair and equal treatment of police officers," she said, reading from a prepared statement.

In real speak that means she is in charge of recruitment, hiring and investigating complaints of discrimination in the department that would have previously gone to a special federal master.

"I'm doing a lot of research on how we do hiring and if the testing procedure has a disparaging affect on minorities and women," she explained. "I'm taking it very seriously. There are a lot of people putting their faith into me and I know I'm going to lose a lot of sleep over this." But this was not a token appointment. Kerwin may in fact be the most qualified person in the department to do the job.

For five years Kerwin served as supervisor of the Police Department's Office of Internal Affairs which investigates complaints against police officers. While in that capacity she was also appointed head of the department's Equal Opportunities Program which included investigating complaints of harassment and sexual discrimination in the police department.

"So I really have a good base to work from," she said.

"At every stage of her career, Lynn has earned the respect of her colleagues as well as those of us working in the criminal courts," said State's Attorney John Smriga. "Her integrity and broad range of experience make her an outstanding choice for the position."

Recently retired police lieutenant John Brenner worked with Kerwin both in OIA and later in the Detective Bureau. "I've been to numerous homicide scenes and Lynn would be right there with me," he said. "She didn't have it easy, she worked her way up the ranks and that really earns respect in the law enforcement community. Lynn is top notch."

Chief Gaudett said he is thrilled Kerwin accepted the position. "She is the right person at the right time and I'm looking forward to working with her," he said.

Kerwin was born in the city and graduated from Harding High School in 1976. Her father, a city police officer for more than two decades, tried to dissuade her from following in his footsteps.

"He wanted me to be the first member of the family to go to college and get a good job but I couldn't see myself working nine to five in some windowless office," she said.

Ironically, claims of discrimination in the Police Department caused Kerwin to rethink her objectives.

A federal discrimination lawsuit against the department had halted hiring and Kerwin instead enrolled in the nursing program at Sacred Heart University. "I had this real desire to help people and if I couldn't become a cop I would be a nurse," she said.

However, a few years later, the suit settled, Kerwin was notified she had been accepted into the Bridgeport Police Academy.

"At first I kept it a secret from my father but once he found out he couldn't have been prouder of me," she said.

In July 1990 Kerwin was promoted to detective and a year later she was assigned to the Detective Bureau's major crime unit.

"It was in the Detective Bureau that I really found my calling," she said. "I loved working to put cases together and resolving crimes so that families could get some sense of closure." Then with a laugh she added: "I also found I really liked the hunt."

In August 1993 Kerwin was promoted to sergeant and because of contract requirements she was returned to the patrol division. But later that year she was assigned to the Police Department's Office of Internal Affairs which investigates complaints against police officers.

Two years later she was promoted to lieutenant and was made supervisor of internal affairs. In May 2001 Kerwin was promoted to captain and assigned as supervisor of the Detective Bureau.

Criminals and crimes were changing and Kerwin said she realized that old investigative techniques were no longer working. So reached out to federal agencies, the FBI federal Drug Enforcement Agency and others to work with Bridgeport detectives on major crimes.

U.S. Marshals now routinely work with local police detectives to hunt down and capture wanted felons.

But the biggest effect of this partnership was solving the triple homicide on Charles Street on Aug. 24, 2005.

Three people were found bound, gagged and beaten to death in an apartment. Kerwin said they knew the crime was drug-related but were having trouble pressuring prospective witnesses to give up the killers.

"Federal officers were able to put pressure on the witnesses we couldn't and as a result two brothers were arrested for the crime," she said. "These two men could have wrecked havoc in the city if they had remained free."

Kerwin said she is sad to leave the Detective Bureau but is happy to be leaving it in very capable hands. "Captain James Viadero can more than fill my shoes," she added.

Lynn Kerwin file 1976 graduate of Warren Harding High School Sept. 20, 1985 -- graduated from Bridgeport Police Academy Sept. 21, 1985 -- assigned to Patrol Division as a Police Officer July 1990 -- Promoted to Rank of Detective August 1993 -- Promoted to Sergeant November 1993 -- Assigned to Office of Internal Affairs 1995 -- Promoted to lieutenant October 2000 -- Assigned commander of the Equal Employment and Opportunities program. May 2001 promoted to Detective Bureau Captain Married to Mike Kerwin, Inspector, state Division of Criminal Justice One son - John DeSarli, 27, Audi technician - Greenwich Audi

As stats show drop in crime, some ask is Bridgeport safer?

By Noelle Frampton

BRIDGEPORT -- Crime is a mixed bag here these days, federal and local statistics show.

Depending on whom you talk to and which numbers you emphasize, Bridgeport could be one of the most dangerous cities in the state or one of the safest large cities.

While violent crime fell nationwide for the second straight year in 2008, it rose slightly in Bridgeport for the fifth straight year as the city's population fell, federal and local statistics show.

But this year, statistical projections from the Bridgeport Police Department show a striking drop in violent and property crimes, according to William Linsley, who compiles the department's statistics.

In his nine years on the job, Linsley said his main conclusion has been that "nothing ever changes. And this is somewhat my despair."

But on Friday, after multiplying the current crime numbers by roughly 1.33 to develop year-end projections, an excited Linsley reported, "This year's been remarkable. I was surprised; the projections were really pretty darn good. I've really never seen anything like this."

If the projections hold up through the year's end, this will be the city's lowest violent crime year in at least a decade, despite an alarming recent rash of robberies and gang-related shootings.

Linsley predicted there will be 13 murders, 48 rapes, 564 robberies and 679 aggravated assaults by Dec. 31, a total of 1,304. In 1999, Bridgeport had 1,820 such crimes, according to the FBI's annual Crime in the United States report.

As of Oct. 29, serious violent crime was down 8.44 percent compared with last year, Acting Police Chief Joseph Gaudett reported.

"Part One Crime," including violence, burglaries, felony larcenies and auto thefts, was down nearly 14 percent from what is was at the same point last year.

'Significant progress' seen

"We seem to be making some pretty significant progress," Mayor Bill Finch said. "The chief has done a masterful job keeping the funds we're spending focused on eliminating crime." Even so, "we're not satisfied," the mayor said, adding that the city is working with other authorities to stem the tide of illegal guns, which are "the largest single contributor to our problems."

In his Sept. 21 State of the City speech, Finch noted that city police had been working in a shoestring budget year to "rein in overtime while paying attention to the basics."

"Crime overall is down," the mayor said, "and we remain one of the safest cities in the state."

Finch said later that he was referring in the speech to overall crime in big cities. Hartford and New Haven both reported significantly more property crimes last year and therefore, more overall crime than Bridgeport, although smaller cities don't come close, according to the FBI numbers.

Bridgeport was No. 1 in serious violent crimes in 2008, and is on track for either second or third place this year, according to FBI and local statistics.

The city finished 2008 with 1,638 crimes including murders, rapes, serious assaults and robberies, according to the FBI. That was 35 more violent crimes than the city reported in 2007 and 129 more than in 2006.

Hartford reported 1,503 violent crimes in 2008 and New Haven 1,637.

Things could be worse.

Despite small yearly increases since 2003, violent crimes here still haven't reached their 2002 level of 1,695. At the end of last month, there had been 13 murders in Bridgeport, more than New Haven's nine but fewer than Hartford's 30, and four fewer than there were at the same point last year.

Last year, Hartford and New Haven surpassed Bridgeport in homicides.

And New Haven has experienced significantly more crime than Bridgeport this year, reporting 1,029 violent crimes in the first six months, to Bridgeport's 692 and Hartford's 580.

Stamford and Waterbury, the fourth- and fifth-largest cities in the state, both reported five homicides last year, and 390 and 384 violent crimes, respectively.

No surprise, smaller towns and cities in the area experienced less violent crime in 2008.

Fairfield, with an estimated population of 57,568, reported 39 serious violent crimes, two of which were murders. In similarly-sized Milford, there were 68 serious violent crimes and no murders, while Stratford saw 144 and two murders. In Trumbull, a bit smaller at 34,807 residents, there were 21 and no murders.

In the second half of this year, Bridgeport, which has been shrinking in recent years to an estimated 136,327 residents, experienced a relatively tame July but a spike in robberies and shootings in the following three months.

There were five homicides, 28 armed assaults and 67 robberies in August alone, preliminary city records indicate. And in September, there were two homicides, 21 armed assaults and 63 robberies -- well above the year's monthly average of 49.5.

While assaults and killings tend to rise in warm weather, robberies typically pick up later in the year, when colder weather warrants heavy coats and hooded sweatshirts in which weapons, real or imaginary, can be hidden, police said.

The spike, which some officers attributed to a tough economy, has been causing some concern among police and overwhelmed detectives.

Some not happy

It is a sore subject among many city patrol officers, who bemoan what they see as "reactive" rather than "proactive" crime-fighting that leaves them barely keeping their heads above water as the calls roll in, arguing that extra patrols would help deter such crimes.

Of course, these officers may benefit from added patrols because they're opportunities for overtime, which Gaudett has been trying to minimize.

He's said the 415-member department is on track to stay within its $5.8 million overtime budget this year, after years of overrunning it.

"It is a balance," Gaudett said. "We've been given a budget, and we need to live within that budget. It's been a tough year with the economy the way it is, with the budget the way it is, but I think the officers have been doing a great job. We're just trying to use the people we have in the most cost-effective way possible." Bridgeport's overall staffing ratio of law enforcement to population is close to the national average of three per 1,000 population, according to the FBI. New England's average is slightly higher.

Finch said "unwarranted" inside overtime spending between $5 million and $7 million per year exceeded what the city could afford when he took office two years ago.

Although the recent spike in robberies is worrisome, robberies were down nearly 10 percent from last year as of late October, he reported.

In the meantime, shootings involving youths 16 to 24 remain cause for concern: "Probably the biggest issue we're facing at the moment," Gaudett said last week, attributing much of the violence to small, neighborhood gangs of youths with guns.

Gaudett said department leaders review its statistics each day and, when trends appear, allocate resources to deal with them, doing whatever possible within budgetary limits.

Crime-solving strength

Crime-fighting in any city involves a balance between the number of detectives, who address crimes after the fact, and the number of uniformed officers on the streets.

The department's Detective Bureau is operating at its authorized strength of 49, with nine provisional detectives in place while the detective promotional list remains tied up in a state Supreme Court battle, according to Gaudett and Detective Keith Bryant, department spokesman.

Two are specifically assigned to robberies. Others are general investigators or assigned to burglaries, financial fraud and other types of crime, Bryant said. They work during the day and evening, but not the midnight shift.

"We're spread thin," Bryant said in September. detectives "are overwhelmed but they still continue to manage. They prioritize everything."

Bridgeport's "clearance" rate of violent crimes -- meaning arrests, suspect deaths or other means of closure -- is significantly lower than a national average of cities its size.

While the FBI's national average clearance rate of violent crimes for cities between 100,000 and 249,999 inhabitants was 42.5 percent in 2008, Bridgeport's clearance rate has hovered between 31 and 35 percent each year for the past three years, with the past year's rate the lowest.

Bridgeport's 2008 clearance rate for homicides is 47.62 percent. Nationally among similarly-sized cities, that rate is 64.6 percent. Of robberies, the city clears 15.5 percent while the nationwide average is more than 26 percent. Property crime clearance was 7.56 percent here and 16.8 percent nationally.

into the future

The mayor and chief plan to emphasize traffic enforcement, with the goal of increasing basic civility in town and beefing up the department's domestic violence unit in the future, Finch said, adding that they also hope to improve morale and public relations in the department.

Both praised the work of the Strategic Enforcement Team, which focuses on basic quality-of-life issues, recently cracking down on underage drinking, and offers members' cell phone numbers to residents to call 24/7.

Finch said he wants a safer city, but the police can't clean it up alone.

"If people want their streets safer, it's very easy for them to help," he said. "We need to have the eyes and ears of the community to participate."

What does the next year hold for Bridgeport?

"Who knows?" Linsley said. "I'm knocking on wood. One thing these stats won't do is tell you why. But there are reasons."

Mayor sets 2010 for police chief search

By Michael P. Mayko

BRIDGEPORT -- It's been more than a year since the city has had a contracted police chief.

Mayor Bill Finch, asked last week about the status of the search for a new chief, said a national search for a permanent replacement will be conducted next year.

But until then, the mayor said he is satisfied with the job that acting Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr. has done.

"It's not like we're wanting for good management," Finch said. "Chief Gaudett has reined in excessive overtime, is re-establishing positive morale and is helping us get out from under the Bridgeport Guardians' consent decree (the 30-year-old federal court oversight of the treatment of minority officers). Overall, he has done a fine job. The people of Bridgeport have been well-served by acting Chief Gaudett. I don't see where there is an urgent need to find a permanent chief."

Finch said there are more pressing concerns in the Police Department, including promotions, composing a police officer exam and recruiting candidates to take a test that is designed to fill 20 new positions. The salaries for the new spots will be funded for the next three years by $4.8 million in federal stiumulus money.

But before the city can deal with those issues, it must handle others in the Civil Service Department, he said. There, Ralph Jacobs, the personnel director, was terminated under a cloud of controversy in August and replaced on an interim basis by David Dunn, the city's senior labor relations



Given those factors, Finch said no date for a nationwide police chief search has been set. When one is planned, Finch said he hopes Gaudett will apply.

Gaudett, a 27-year veteran of the city's police force, said he "absolutely" would apply for the permanent position. His late father served 23 years as a police officer before retiring as a sergeant in 1980. In 1969, he pinned the sergeant's badge on his father.

"The Bridgeport Police Department was always part of my life," the acting chief said.

City Councilman Andre F. Baker Jr., a member of the Public Safety Committee, and Officer Frank Cuccaro,the union president, said a search is long overdue.

"It is a problem and we need to fill that spot," Baker said. "We can't have someone acting forever."

"The acting chief has been very slow in making a decision in the department because obviously, he would like to get the job when it is permanent," Cuccaro said. "The overall morale in the department is deplorable right now.

"A lot of things are on hold right now and it is in the city's best interest to start the search process. It is holding up promotions in the whole department," the union leader added.

Asked if he is disappointed the search to fill the position permanently has taken so long to get under way, Gaudett replied: "I'm not at all upset. This is my career."

So what happens if he is not chosen?

Gaudett said he could return to his post as a deputy chief, but, "I haven't thought about that yet."

The acting chief said he had no control over city policies involving the appointment of an acting deputy chief to fill the spot he vacated when he became acting chief.

There has been some griping within the union and among senior department officers interested in the position.

Unlike previous chiefs, Gaudett has been accessible and attends neighborhood meetings. On Thursday night, he calmed a sometimes angry session of the North End Association, whose members are upset with partying and vandalism by Sacred Heart University students living in rented houses on their streets.

Gaudett advised the neighbors to report incidents to his Strategic Enforcement Team and handed out Sgt. John Evans' cell phone number: 203-449-0488.

Gaudett has been acting chief since Oct. 15, 2008. Six days earlier, Bryan T. Norwood, a Bridgeport native who served as New Haven's deputy police chief before being appointed to the top spot here, resigned to take a similar position in Richmond, Va. Norwood served a little more than two years as Bridgepoprt's chief. His annual salary was $102,793.

Prior to Norwood's appointment, Deputy Chief Anthony Armeno served 16 months as acting chief.

Finch said he has been advised that there is no time limit in the City Charter on how long an acting police chief can serve.

"The chief would be held accountable for his actions whether he has a contract or not," he said.

Staff writer Daniel Tepfer contributed to this report.

Bridgeport police chief timeline Jan. 22, 2005: Wilbur Chapman resigns as chief; Deputy Chief Anthony Armeno appointed chief on interim basis. March 21, 2006: Bryan T. Norwood, a native of Bridgeport and deputy police chief in New Haven, is named chief following a nationwide search. April 24, 2006: Norwood sworn in as chief. Oct. 9, 2008: Norwood resigns as chief to take the chief's position in Richmond, Va. Oct. 15, 2008: Deputy Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr. named acting chief.

Article taken from POLICEPAY.NET, Originally published in the New Haven Independent

New Haven, Police Union Strike Tentative Pact

by Melissa Bailey
New Haven Independent

It took lunch at Lorenzo’s — and a personal intervention from Mayor John DeStefano — to finally settle a police union contract.

The police union reached a tentative agreement with the city on a three-year contract that includes pension and wage givebacks, city and union officials announced Thursday. The last contract expired on July 1, 2008.

The tentative agreement needs majority approval by the police union’s 465 members at a vote on Wednesday, said AFSCME Local 530 President Sgt. Louis Cavaliere. He said the union made concessions under the threat of binding arbitration, which in a recession may have had a negative outcome.

“This may not be the greatest contract in the world,” he said, “but it’s enough to vote ‘yes’ and not go through the dangers of arbitration.”

If approved, the pact will bring some peace and some changes the city was seeking. It has also created a division between younger and older members of the police force.

Older members would benefit under the deal because it boosts the retirement age from 65 to 67. Younger members would lose a program that would let them retire after 15 years.

Overall, the city is pleased with a shift toward defined-contribution pensions and a cheaper health care plan that would drive down long-term costs, said DeStefano.

The pact comes after many months of talks that at some points appeared to be deadlocked.

A turning point came a couple months ago at Lorenzo’s Ristorante Italiano in West Haven, the town where Cavaliere lives. At the time, negotiations had stretched out for a year past the contract’s expiration. DeStefano decided to take action: He arranged the lunch at the Italian eatery and, for the first time, he personally sat down at the negotiating table.

DeStefano said he doesn’t make a practice of taking part in negotiations. “But when it’s necessary,” he said, “I do.”

He joined Cavaliere, city labor relations director Craig Manemeit, Assistant Police Chief Stephanie Redding and members of the police union executive board. At the meeting, the group settled on “some of the primary issues” of the contract, DeStefano said. He declined to give specifics.

DeStefano downplayed the event. Manemeit did 95 percent of the contract negotiating overall, he said.

The two sides have agreed on nearly all the issues they sought to discuss. One, the use of extra-duty “hold-downs,” where
a single cop can claim a steady extra-duty shift at a bar or business, remains unresolved. That issue alone will be settled by binding arbitration, DeStefano said.

The mayor said he’s pleased about two big moves that will drive down costs in the long run. According to the new pact, cops hired after Oct. 1, 2009, must join a hybrid pension plan. They would get a defined-benefit pension based on their salary, excluding any overtime or extra-duty work. Pension contributions for overtime and extra-duty work would go into a defined contribution plan, a 401(k).

This reflects the city’s desire to gradually shift workers to defined contribution plans, which are used the private sector. Under a defined benefit plan, when the pension fund plummets due to the stock market, the city is left on the hook for pension payouts, even though the money is no longer there.

New hires will also have to join a new health care plan that’s cheaper for the city.

The changes in health care and pension plans set the standard for other contract negotiations, the mayor said. He expects to seek similar reforms in a new round of AFSCME contract negotiations that begin this fall.

Other highlights of the police pact:

• Wages: no wage increase in the first year (FY09), a 3 percent pay hike in the current year retroactive to July; and another 3 percent hike in FY11. Extra-duty pay boosted from time and a quarter to time and a half.

• “Bad boy” clause. Cops convicted on corruption charges may have their pension benefits stripped. The city couldn’t do that before.

• The police and fire communications center, where 911 calls are received, will be staffed by civilian instead of sworn personnel.

• A 50 percent cut to cops’ longevity payments — bonuses for length of service.

• Cuts to cops’ clothing allowance. New uniforms every other year, not every year.

• Traffic unit. Motorcycle squad can work the 3-11 p.m. shift, enabling the city to double its traffic enforcement squad.

Old vs. Young

Some proposed changes are pitting younger cops against the veteran officers on the union executive board.

Older cops would gain from a bump in the retirement age from 65 to 67; that benefits one executive union member, Frank Lombardi, who’s 64 and doesn’t want to retire, Cavaliere said.

Some younger members are miffed about giving up a program that lets them retire with a pension after only 15 years. As of now, cops who have 15 years on the job can cash in 150 unused sick days for five extra years in pension calculations. That lets them retire with a 20-year pension and health care benefits after only 15 years on the force. Under the proposed contract, cops would have to work for 20 years before cashing in sick days for pension benefits.

Paul Bass downplayed the issue.

“There’s probably 100 people who say they’re mad because they want to leave in 15 years,” he said. But history shows only three cops take that buyout program every year. “They’re giving up nothing,” he said.

Cavaliere, who has over 40 years on the force, said he wasn’t willing to risk the contract so that people can ship off to a second career after only 15 years.

“I’m not going to go to arb[itration] because a few people a year want to leave at 15,” he said.
“The young people, I try to explain to them, you may get something from an arbitrator that may be to your detriment,” Cavaliere explained. New Haven is ranked third-to-last in the state in terms of ability to pay, which is a major factor in binding arbitration, he said. That means odds are not in the union’s favor if the contract goes that route.

Cavaliere was asked to respond to a complaint that the decisions favor the more veteran officers, and that younger cops didn’t have a say.

He said contract negotiations are decided by the union’s seven-person executive board, veteran members who are elected by the rank and file. “If they want to be on the board, they can run,” he said.

Cavaliere said in his four decades on the force, this is the first time he’s had to go to the negotiating table in a recession. He said the biggest coup was maintaining the pension plan for the current officers on the force.

“It’s not one of the contracts we bring back and start high-fiving, so to speak,” he said. But “I protected people who are here now the best I could.”

Bridgeport cops join ranks of police tested for drug use

Union contract allows for practice to begin
By Noelle Frampton

For the first time, the Bridgeport Police Department has started random drug testing of officers.

The testing began last month, and it's a policy that acting Chief Joseph Gaudett said he has advocated for a long time. Now that he is in charge, the drug tests have finally become department policy.

"That was one of the things that we thought was really important," Gaudett said. "We're trying to show that we're drug free and we're all complying. We're walking the walk." Every month, 10 percent of the city police force -- 42 officers -- will be randomly picked from a department-wide pool for urine testing by Gregory & Howe, a Shelton-based drug screening company, he said.

Gaudett hopes the monthly testing, which will continue indefinitely, will erase any possible perception of drug abuse by city police officers.

At $65 per test, paid out of the department's budget, the screening could actually save money in the long run in health-care costs for officers with drug-related health complications by acting as a deterrent, he said.

"Our population isn't really so much different than the general population," he said of the police force. "Infrequently, we've had people in programs; we've had people resign [due to drug abuse]. I have no idea what the numbers are going to look like, but I don't suspect they're going to be zeros. I don't think anybody should be surprised. On the other hand, I don't think it should be tolerated, either."

Gaudett said the testing was implemented after a 30-day advance notice to the police union, Local 1159. Any officer with a first-time positive test result will be subject to internal discipline, referred to the Employee Assistance Program and required to undergo treatment and more testing. The officer will not be fired, according to an agreement with the union. But those who test positive a second time will be fired automatically.


When the testing went department-wide on July 6, "Guess who was the first one tested?" the interim chief asked with a chuckle. "Strictly random. I was laughing."

Union President Frank Cuccaro said the local's contract with Bridgeport has allowed drug testing for roughly a decade.

Cuccaro declined to give his opinion on the drug testing.

"All I'm going to say is that it's the city's right to do that," he said. "It's something that the city could've done for many years and for some reason they never did. They just never exercised that right until now."

Sgt. William Ron Bailey, commander of the department's narcotics and vice unit, called the screening "a good thing as far as I'm concerned." The testing will help "to make sure that the community knows that we're an open book," he said. "There's a lot of people who think that we use drugs. I say that I've never done that in my life, never. They're welcome to test me anytime they want."

Bailey said his only concern with the testing program is the possibility of mistakes leading to false results.

Jeffrey Matchett, a retired Milford police sergeant and executive director of the Connecticut Council of Police AFSCME Council 15, said there are no state regulations on drug testing of police officers so each department sets its own policy.

"It's fairly typical that a department would have a type of drug policy implemented," said Matchett, who's union represents more than 60 departments in the state. "I've never seen a local union put up any resistance to such a policy. I mean, officers don't want to be working next to someone who's abusing substances. It's only beneficial to the officers and the department."

Among area police departments, some of the drug-testing policies are like Fairfield's, which require that an officer be suspected of substance abuse before tests are administered.

In Shelton, random drug testing -- "like the lottery" -- has been in place for years, said Detective Ben Trabka, the police spokesman.

Trabka said he knows of no one who objects to the policy. "When you're on the police job you realize you're under the microscope sometimes," he said.

In Fairfield, the goal behind the contractual testing policy is to help officers with drug problems overcome them and get back to work while protecting others, according to Chief David Peck.

According to the Fairfield union contract, the drug policy, which dates to 1990, both town and union recognized "that the illegal use and abuse of drugs has become a serious problem in our society and in all professional fields, and "¦ can adversely affect the performance of police officers and threaten their image and public confidence and safety."

Bridgeport gets stimulus money to hire 20 cops


BRIDGEPORT -- The city has received more than $4.8 million in federal stimulus money to hire or retain 20 more police officers.

Bridgeport now has about 475 officers, including detectives, on its police force.

Hartford and New Haven also will have more officers under the so-called COPS, or Community-Oriented Policing Services, program. Hartford will get 23 new officers and New Haven will get 22. In all, $13.72 million was allocated to the state, with Bridgeport getting $4.8 million; Hartford, $4.26 million, and New Haven, $4.66 million.

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4, and Mayor Bill Finch, in a joint statement, said the money is beign provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Officials said the grants will provide 100 percent of the salary and benefits for entry-level officer positions over three years. The three Police Departments receiving the grants will then be required to retain the grant-funded positions for a fourth year.

"The program gives local governments a much-needed boost in their efforts to keep our communities safe and encourage development to turn our economy around and create jobs," Himes said in a statement.

"This funding will help us recruit, train and hire 20 new officers, which will enable us to expand our city's community policing efforts," said Finch.


Cop back on duty after 'miracle' recovery

By Noelle Frampton

BRIDGEPORT -- Last year was like a nightmare for city Police Officer Jorge Larregui Jr.

Now, his life has become more like a miracle.

On Jan. 19, 2008, two weeks after Larregui had surgery for a broken right leg and nearly three weeks after his 15-year-old nephew was killed in a car accident, Larregui was cleaning his backup weapon, a Glock 9mm, at home. Mistakenly thinking the chamber was empty, he accidentally shot himself in the left thigh while trying to empty the gun. The bullet severed his femoral artery.

Fortunately, his wife and oldest son were home and called for help.

"I bled out," he said, explaining that his blood was thinned by prescription painkillers because of the recent leg surgery. "I was gushing out of both sides. I thought I was dreaming. I'm literally yelling to myself, 'George, wake up!' Then all of a sudden, I see the paramedics on top of me."

Larregui, now 39, was flown to Hartford Hospital, stopped breathing and was resuscitated three times, underwent numerous blood transfusions and more than 25 surgeries to save his leg and his life. He was in such bad shape that a priest gave him his last rites.

Fellow Bridgeport police officers visited his bedside and prepared to say goodbye. Later, when it was clear he wouldn't die, it still seemed unlikely he'd ever return to active duty.

But Larregui, a nine-year member of the department whose father is a retired police officer in Puerto Rico and whose mother

was a corrections officer, had always dreamed of being a cop and wasn't about to give up so easily: "I am not retiring," he said to himself. "I am going to be a police officer again. I am going to walk the beat again."


His brown eyes opened wide for emphasis, Larregui said he held onto that goal even in the most critical moments of his struggle to live. And, although he had to learn to walk all over again and used a colostomy bag for months, he achieved his goal to return to work last month.

"He's a walking miracle," said fellow Officer Angela Grasti. "God has a purpose for him."

A lieutenant visited Larregui with retirement paperwork while he was in recovery, but soon realized it was moot.

"When you're on this job, you learn to fight and not give up," the healed officer said. "You learn survival skills, basically. I fought hard to be where I'm at right now."

Larregui can now walk and run again, but retains nasty scars that underscore his ordeal. Returning to light duty in the department's property room exactly 11 months after his accident, he went on full duty in January but remained at that post until June, when he hit the streets again. He proudly works the evening shift, assigned to areas in and near the Hollow neighborhood.

"It's like, 'Why me?' " he said of the ordeal.

"Everybody tells me I'm here for a reason ... God's gift. I always believed in God. I think I wouldn't be here if I didn't. This is where I'm supposed to be -- definitely."

Larregui expressed gratitude to his fellow officers for their solid support during his treatment, including two benefits they organized to raise money for his family.

Last December, Larregui received the 2008 Officer of the Year award for his "courageous battle" from the department's Hispanic Society.

He wears a gold necklace bearing the words, "St. Michael Protect Us," and believes St. Michael, the patron saint of police officers, has been watching out for him. He also wears a tiny angel pin on his shoulder.

"A lot of officers didn't think that he was going to come back," said Sgt. Eddie Correa.

"I'm just surprised at his dramatic turnaround. It's a beautiful thing."


Bridgeport promotes six cops

By Noelle Frampton

BRIDGEPORT -- Acting Police Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr. told the six police officers sworn in to higher ranks on Wednesday that they should consider themselves "mini-chiefs" in their areas of influence.

"We should move away from the idea that only the people at the top should do the thinking," he said, during the ceremony in City Council chambers in City Hall. "It is time to accept personal responsibility for the condition of our officers, the crime in our neighborhoods and our relationships with the community. These are extraordinary times and they require extraordinary leadership. There is still much more to do."

Gaudett challenged city policemen and women to employ creative problem solving and to be motivated by what is best for the police department, rather than what is best for themselves.

The six promotees included two promoted to captain from lieutenant and four promoted to lieutenant from sergeant to fill positions left vacant by retirements.

They are among the department's eight captains and 21 lieutenants, leaving five unfilled positions still at captain, 14 vacancies at sergeant and 12 at detective, said Sgt. John Cueto. All of those promoted took the promotional test in 2007, he said, adding that the captains promotional list expires in November, while the lieutenant's list expires in March. There are 420 total department members.

Newly sworn Capt. James Viadero, a 24-year veteran of the force, was the most senior officer to be moted. Generally beloved in the department, he was greeted with cheers and enthusiastic applause when he received his pin.

"I'm just very proud to have gone this far and I'm just very proud to work with the people I work with on a day-to-day basis," he said after the ceremony. "I consider them some of the best police officers in the state."

Viadero served in the patrol division until 1990, when he was assigned as a supervisor to the Selective Enforcement Team. As sergeant and lieutenant, he has served in patrol, Training Division and the Detective Bureau. The department's former spokesman, he is a member of its Underwater Search and Rescue Unit.

Also promoted to captain was Robert Sapiro, an 18-year veteran, who has spent most of his career in patrol, most recently as a lieutenant on the day shift, but also worked as a lieutenant in the Office of Internal Affairs and spent three years as a detective.

Christine Burns, Albert Karpus, Steve Lougal and William Mayer were promoted to lieutenant.

Burns has spent 12 years on the force, the bulk of that in patrol -- most recently as a supervisor on the midnight shift -- with some time working in communications. Karpus, with 18 years under his belt, has worked in patrol and as a detective, plus more than three years in internal affairs.

Lougal has spent his 12 years in the department in patrol. A member of the Underwater Search and Rescue Unit, he was recently certified to use the department's newly acquired ATVs. Mayer, with 22 years on the force, also worked in patrol, plus the Detective Bureau's Identification Unit and internal affairs.

Mayor Bill Finch, who administered each promotee's oath, congratulated them for rising to the top "with the cards you were dealt," and thanked them for enduring sometimes disturbing and painful experiences to maintain law and order.

No settling for Betsy Edwards

By Aaron Leo
Staff writer

Click photo to enlarge
Associate City Attorney Betsy Edwards poses in front of the United States Federal Court House in...

BRIDGEPORT -- Betsy Edwards loves a good trial.

After graduating from law school in 2004 when she was 25, she worked for firms that dealt with medical and insurance lawsuits for four years, but decided she wanted a change. Now, she defends city police under her responsibilities for the Office of the City Attorney.

Her first day was last Sept. 2, and she can still remember it. "I walked in and they told me, 'You've got jury selection on a police civil rights case tomorrow,'" she said. "I walked into a caseload of fifteen active cases."

Since then, the 29-year-old lawyer has won two trials, one for the Board of Education and one for the Police Department. She's also dealing with lawsuits from the families of people who died in fires in the city and one suit filed for a drowning in Seaside Park.

Later this year, she will have the "special opportunity" make an oral argument in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appellate court in New York City, for a First Amendment-rights case involving an animal rights activist arrested in 2006 outside of the Arena at Harbor Yard. The circuit court is one step below the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Most lawyers never get a chance to be that close. I feel lucky," she said.

Edwards is used to working more than 40 hours a week, which trials require. She beat out nearly 20 applicants for the job because of her trial experience for the $99,901 a year job.

Bridgeport has "such a


wide variety of cases and challenges which you just don't see much in private practice," Edwards said. "It was definitely something I put a lot of thought into. This is an opportunity for me to do something where I can make a difference. I thought I could do something good," she added.


According to acting Police Chief Joseph L. Gaudett Jr., she has done well. "I find her bright, outgoing, competent, professional. I seek her guidance on a regular basis," he said.

Lawsuits against police are especially compelling, Edwards said, "because there's a heightened sensitivity to the fact that these are allegations against a person's character."

So Edwards put her all into learning about her new clients. In keeping with her background in acting, she did first-hand research and rode with police on a few shifts. Trials allow her to use another acting talent: improvisation. "I like that they force you to react quickly and think on your feet," she said.

In particular, trials against police present a challenge. "Your job is to communicate with people who don't know the facts, to make the average person understand what the police face every day," she said.

"I was hired because there was a lot of police work to be done," she added. "The city attorneys wanted someone to try cases."

Deputy City Attorney Arthur Laske III, praised Edwards' trial experience. He conducted the interviews.

"She has the drive and commitment and interest to be a trial lawyer," he said. "In our view, if you can try cases you can do anything."

"We try cases especially when it comes to police work," he added.

One upcoming case Edwards is relishing is the appeal by the circus protestor. It was a constitutional law class that sparked her interest in the first place, late in her college career.

She said her professor in the class discouraged the class from becoming lawyers and told them they wouldn't get constitutional law cases. Now, because of the upcoming appellate court argument, she wants to tell him, "I am actually doing what you said we weren't going to do."

Outside of work, Edwards loves cooking, reading and the Boston Red Sox. She has tickets for 12 games this season, 10 as a gift from her husband, Paul Edwards, an attorney in New Haven. They married last July.

So far, she is happy with her life and her job.

"It's a great opportunity. I didn't think I would ever get the chance to do this kind of work. I feel really lucky that I landed here," she said.

City mourns longtime official David Hall

By Aaron Leo
Staff writer

BRIDGEPORT -- David Hall Sr., one of the state's most decorated military veterans and a member of the Board of Police Commissioners for a decade, has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 69.

Hall, who grew up in the Marina Village public housing complex in the city's South End, was diagnosed in 2006 with stomach cancer, which later spread to his lungs, said Teresa Hall, his daughter. About 200 people attended a celebration last November honoring Hall for his years of military and community service.

Hall underwent treatment and his illness went into remission, during which he attended police board meetings. He was appointed board president last year, but his condition declined after that. He died Saturday at Bridgeport Hospital.

"He fought all the way to the end," his daughter said.

Hall's life of service started with enlisting in the U.S. Army as early as he could, where he spent 22 years, 17 of them as a Green Beret. He served two tours in Vietnam and was awarded more than a dozen honors, such as the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Vietnamese Honor Medal and five air medals, according to friends and city and state officials.

Hall also worked for Dow Corning Corp. as global corporate director of occupational health and safety, while volunteering on community councils and community center boards, and on the Democratic Town Committee.

"We're glad for the legacy he left through community service," Teresa Hall


said. "He was a giver and he always gave back," especially to his home city.


"His spirit is still here, as far as I'm concerned," she added.

Hall advised many city officials, including Joseph Gaudett Jr., who was named acting police chief last year, and Theresa Brown, the police board's vice president.

"Professionally, I knew him to be a tremendous advocate for the police commission and the community at large," Brown said. "And personally, he was an invaluable mentor and friend to me. I will miss him, his charisma, his enthusiasm, his dedication and his wise counsel very much."

Mayor Bill Finch, who called Hall "a commanding figure" of "tremendous discipline," visited Hall last week.

"He had the strength to lift his head and say, 'No sweat, mayor,' " Finch said. "He was a very brave and gallant soldier to the end."

Hall also helped Finch deal with the Police Department when he had to cut overtime in half in the face of a multimillion-dollar city budget deficit.

Officer Frank Cuccaro, president of the Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159, said Hall was a "very honorable man."

Hall is also survived by his wife of 46 years, BeBe Hall, and his three other children, David Hall Jr., Roland Hall and Renee Hall.

Viewing hours will be from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the United Congregational Church, 877 Park Ave., with a service to follow. He will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, the family said

Union chief: Allegations against cop 'outrageous"

By Michael P. Mayko

BRIDGEPORT--The president of the police union said allegations in a federal lawsuit accusing a K-9 officer of allowing his dog to bite a surrendered prisoner as being "outrageous...frivolous and untrue."

Frank Cuccaro, the union president, described Mark Martocchio as being "put in a difficult and dangerous position by Bryan Cascio, a persistent and convicted felon," and handling it with "the utmost professionalism."

Cascio and his lawyer, Charles Kurmay Jr. of Stratford filed the lawsuit alleging excessive force Thursday in the federal courthouse here.

They said that Cascio led police on a Feb. 24, 2008 motor vehicle chase that ended in the McDonald's parking lot off exit 22 on the southbound side of I-95.

However, in the suit, they said that Cascio decided against running from the vehicle when he heard Martocchio warn him that the dog, named Lugo, would be released.

Cascio, in the suit, said he surrendered and was sitting on the ground when the dog attacked him tearing flesh, a vein and nerves under his left arm.

"When the facts of this matter are explored in any depth," Cuccaro said, "the blatant falsity of the plaintiff's claims will be evident."

Associate City Attorney Arthur Laske III also expressed confidence that the case would either be dismissed by the judge or won during a jury trial.

Kurmay agreed that whether excessive force was used and whether the officer has an unblemished record are issues a jury will




"The union leaders who vehemently protest the bringing of all such claims should realize that this is the third such lawsuit that has been brought against this particular officer for the claimed use of excessive force," Kurmay said.

Kurmay said he has a pending suit in federal court against Martocchio on behalf of Abdus Shahid Muhammed following a 2004 motor vehicle stop.

The lawyer said officers blinded Muhammed's left eye and broke facial bones. Police maintain Muhammed jumped from a moving car and struck his face against a curb.

Both of Kurmay's cases are pending before Senior U.S. District Judge Warren W. Eginton.

Judge lifts Bridgeport Police oversight

By Michael P. Mayko

NEW HAVEN -- A federal judge penned the beginning of the end of more than 25 years of court oversight of the Bridgeport Police Department when she granted it autonomy for the next 18 months.

In a five-page order released publicly Friday, U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton ended a required rotation of police officers through the city's geographic areas every 12 months, returned authority to hear and rule on complaints of racial discrimination and harassment to the chief, returned the appeal process to the Board of Police Commissioners and allowed the city to hire an assistant chief.

The judge also gave the police chief the power to appoint half the staff of all specialized units -- such as K-9, Mounted Patrol, Tactical Narcotics Team, Emergency Services and Scuba -- on qualifications beyond seniority

But out of caution, Arterton ordered Bridgeport and the Bridgeport Guardians, a group of black police officers, to jointly file a report on June 12 summarizing the progress of her order.

Additionally, the judge told both sides that on Sept. 1, 2010, she will review the steps taken to determine if the 1983 order designed to eliminate widespread discrimination in the department should be vacated.

"The Guardians believe this is a good first step toward determining if the Bridgeport police department can govern itself and treat its black police officers fairly," said Antonio Ponvert III, a lawyer with Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, a


Bridgeport law firm that brought the discrimination case back in 1978.


But Ponvert warned "this does not end judicial oversight but, in fact, puts the department under even more scrutiny."

He said any missteps between now and Sept. 1, 2010 would put the order back into "full force," resulting in "many, many more years of litigation."

But Mayor Bill Finch vowed the city "will continue our efforts to make sure all Bridgeport police officers are treated fairly and evenly."

For now, Arterton removed several of the requirement the late U.S. District Judge T.F. Gilroy Daly put in place following a 1981 trial. Daly determined black officers in Bridgeport were disciplined more harshly, assigned to crime-ridden areas and rarely promoted or placed in specialized units.

Ted Meekins, a retired police officer and now president of the East End Community Council, was a plaintiff in that case. He experienced harsh suspensions, many of which he felt were in retaliation for helping bring the suit.

"It's unfortunate, but we did what we had to do," he said Friday. "I hope the city and its police department have learned from this experience. Today, we've got more black, Hispanic and female officers, and I think we've all grown and learned from this."

In the last decade, Finch points out the city hired two black police chiefs and promoted a Hispanic officer to acting chief.

"Judge Arterton has given us the opportunity to show we can handle our own business," said Sgt. William Ronald Bailey, the Guardians' president who also brought discrimination complaints. "Acting Chief (Joseph L.) Gaudette has met with us and knows what needs to be done."

The required annual rotation of police officers impacted the ability of officers to forge relationships in neighborhoods they worked, according to Gaudette and Associate City Attorney Arthur Laske III.

"The required rotation goes against every rule of community policing," said Laske. "The department can now deploy its officers as needed."

For the past 25 years, the court vested William Clendenen, a New Haven lawyer, with the authority to investigate, hear and rule on complaints involving racial discrimination and harassment lodged by black officers. While Clendenen will retain control of the roughly dozen pending cases, Arterton returned authority of any future cases to Gaudette and the Police Commission for at least the next 18 months.

This, according to Finch, will enable the city to save the money its been paying Clendenen for his work.

Under Arterton's ruling the city must pay $300,000 within 90 days to Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder. Previously, the firm said it will use the money to recruit, train, mentor and tutor black officers.

Arterton also ordered Bridgeport to allocate $300,000 in six annual installments of $50,000 to recruit minority and females police officers.

"This represents a new day for the city and its police department," Laske said. "It will create a better environment for police officers to work and should improve the quality of the police department."

In a separate 25-page ruling, Arterton declined to allow eight Bridgeport Police officers seeking promotion to detective and a white civilian seeking an entry level position to intervene in the matter. All opposed the interim order

Under scrutiny, police records room reopens

By Keila Torres

BRIDGEPORT -- Police officers are working overtime to make up for deep staff reductions in the Police Department's records room.

In January, during the last round of citywide layoffs, four typist positions were eliminated in the records division and five other workers were "bumped" from their jobs by employees with more seniority, eliminating the entire nine-person records staff.

The only staff members left were Sgt. James Kirkland, who is in charge of the records room, and Officer Jonna Mack, who were left to train the five new people who took jobs in the records division as a result of the bumping process.

Because of the shake-up, the records room's hours of operation were cut to Monday, Wednesday and Friday from noon to 4 p.m. It was closed all day Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Kirkland and Mack also began logging a combined 48 hours of overtime a week, or about $2,443, according to Police Chief Joseph Gaudett.

At the end of February, however, Andrew Nunn, the city's chief administrative officer, sent an e-mail to department heads informing them that all departments must remain open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, unless authorized to do otherwise by the mayor.

"Recent budget cuts have led to departments requesting a reduction of public hours due to workload and staff reductions. Please be advised that the mayor has not authorized this," Nunn wrote.

As of Monday, however, the police records room was


still open to the public only three days a week.


Asked on Wednesday why his department did not revert back to the standard hours until Tuesday, the day after a Connecticut Post reporter inquired about the reduction in hours, Gaudett said, "I was not included in that group. I basically didn't receive the memo."

The records room is now open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. According to Elaine Ficarra, the spokeswoman for Mayor Bill Finch, "Light-duty officers will be assigned regular hours in the records room to help manage the window and fulfill the public's requests."

Gaudett confirmed that the two officers assigned to the records room will not be logging overtime. He also said he may assign another officer to the division in the "near future" to restore the half-day schedule on Saturdays, when the office had been open from 9 a.m. to noon.

"The new folks are getting up to speed slowly. Thank God for Kirkland and Mack, and their willingness to making sure the work gets done," Gaudett said.

2 new Bridgeport K-9s walk the beat

By Aaron Leo
Staff writer

Click photo to enlarge
Officer Pasquale Feola, left, with Caro, and Officer Daniel... (Brian A. Pounds/Staff photographer)

BRIDGEPORT -- Though the city's fiscal crisis has triggered dozens of layoffs, one specialized police unit has slipped the budgetary collar and is expanding.

Police dogs Caro and Cooper hit the streets in December, boosting the ranks of the K-9 Corps to seven German shepherds. Just last year, however, the unit was on the list of other police divisions that faced disbanding because of the city's budget woes.

The new additions mean extra officers with senses beyond human range. Since January, the K-9 unit has assisted in 11 incidents from drug arrests to burglary and robbery suspects.

"A police canine's enhanced senses along with their speed and agility make them an invaluable tool for fighting crime in our community," said police Sgt. Kevin Gilleran, head of the division since January 2008.

Even Mayor Bill Finch, who has had to impose the other layoffs, supports the dogs. The two were free with a grant from Milk Bone and the A&P Super Foodmart, which Finch accepted on behalf of the department last year. The city does pay for all the dogs' food and care, but State Police train the animals and their handlers at no charge, Gilleran added.

The dogs are worth it, said acting Police Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr. They can search buildings, track people and assist in subduing suspects. They can find people or objects with their keen noses, picking up trails more than 24 hours old from something as small as a shell casing.

"Dogs aren't


cheap, but they're very affectionate. I believe we are the largest single canine unit of all municipal departments. We're very proud of that," he said. "Think of the lives we save."


In one case in January, Luger, another police dog, bit and subdued a driver who police said struck a pedestrian near Bridgeport Hospital, throwing her in the air and breaking both of her legs. The driver, Darren McDermott, 37, of Claudia Drive, Milford, abandoned the car nearby and ran a short distance before the dog caught up with him, police said. His charges, including driving under the influence and second-degree assault with a motor vehicle, are pending in Bridgeport Superior Court.

The dogs' skills and dedication are two reasons Officer Pasquale Feola, Caro's handler, and Officer Daniel Gomez Jr., handler of Cooper, appreciate their canine charges.

"He's been very obedient. He listens to you all the time. That's the best partner you can have," Gomez said.

Both officers also care for their dogs outside work. That helps because they live with their partners, who serve double-duty as protectors and playmates.

Both officers said their families play with the dogs, who don't mind at all.

But when the dogs are on the job, they're serious. They respond to commands immediately, and can sense when it's time to work.

Feola demonstrated with Caro one recent day. The dog lounged at his master's feet most of the time.

But bring out the collar and Caro is ready to go.

When Feola held up the collar, the 2-year-old, 95-pound shepherd bolted up and placed his front paws on the officer's chest, slipping his head through. Then, at Feola's command, the dog lay back down. "If I get into work mode, he gets into work mode," Feola said.

A young dog like Cooper has a service life of five to seven years if he doesn't get injured, and all the dogs in the unit are young, Gilleran said.

But keeping the canines can be difficult. After passing a boot-camp style four months of training with the state police, they have to train eight hours a month and get recertified every six months, Gilleran said.

The recertification is free through the state police and they are paid for their required eight hours of training per month, he added.

The boot camp puts the human-canine team through mental and physical challenges. Dogs have to overcome some instincts like fear of walking on different types of surfaces or into dark places.

The humans also have to learn everything about their dogs.They also had to carry the animals while running and learn to give them cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

"They actually teach you to teach your dog," Feola said. Of 17 human and canine partners, 15 passed the course that Feola and Gomez took.

The other handlers and their dogs include Gilleran and Titus; Mark Martocchio and Luger; Joseph Morales and Riko; Heriberto Rodriguez and Sampson; and Andres Talavera and Recon. One dog and handler is on every eight-hour shift, Gilleran said.

The dogs can also be cross-trained to sniff out drugs. Riko has that skill and Gilleran said he hopes to have two more trained. Riko has worked on four drug cases that resulted in arrests.

"The Bridgeport Police K-9 Corps provides a valuable resource to the community," Gilleran said.


 Bridgeport's marine cops hone skills despite weather

Written by Chipp Reid   

Friday, January 23, 2009

It’s one of the dream jobs in the summer, but in the winter, patrolling the waters of Long Island Sound can be cold, wet and nasty.

For the members of the Bridgeport Police Marine Unit, however, the onset of winter doesn’t signal a time of hibernation.

“Now is when we do a lot of our training,” said Bob Christie, the unit commander. “We use winter to learn new procedures and to become proficient with new equipment. We also still go out and patrol. Patrolling infrastructure and the port area remains one of our primary responsibilities.”

The unit has worked closely with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in honing both its patrol and interdiction skills, and one of the skills the officers know they must have is the ability to work in all conditions, including biting cold and driving snow.

Four members of the unit went out Jan. 16 in snowy, freezing conditions to conduct a live-fire drill.

The officers must conduct live-fire drills at least four times a year.

“This is really some of the most difficult training we can do,” said Officer Mike Killian. “It’s one thing to take aim at a target in a range or when the water is perfectly still. It’s another to try to hit a target when the boat is bouncing and the target is bouncing, and we’re firing at close range. Just imagine if we had to engage a target at long-range.”

It’s not just conjecture.

The Bridgeport marine unit regularly practices intercepting and boarding vessels with the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Patrol agents from the Department of Homeland Security. Christie said training for any contingency, especially in the traditionally slower winter months, keeps the unit ready for the height of the boating season.

“It’s a perishable skill and like anything requires constant refreshing,” Christie said. “We have the luxury of being a year-round marine unit, so we’re able to train and stay prepared.”

The marine police use weapons ranging from personal sidearms — .40 caliber Sig Sauer semi-automatic pistols — to much heavier ordnance including Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine guns and M14 assault rifles. Conditions Jan. 16 were far from perfect as the officers left the dock in Bridgeport Harbor. Visibility was at a bare minimum while the blowing snow and sea spray froze instantly on deck.

“It’s all a matter of balance and timing,” and Officer Ed Martocchio. “It’s a skill level like anything else.”

Martocchio and Officer Vin Lariccia emptied several clips of ammunition engaging a target roughly 50 yards from the boat. The officers waited for the patrol boat to hit the top of a swell before firing, usually striking the target. Still, it was far from easy to score hits.

“We have to train in all environments,” Lariccia said. “The bad guys don’t stop operating just because it’s cold or it’s snowing out.”

Bridgeport has the only year-round marine unit from New Haven to Norwalk. Although the officers primarily patrol Bridgeport Harbor and infrastructure such as bridges and power stations around Bridgeport, the unit is on call 24 hours a day to help other communities.

In December, the officers responded to a call from the Coast Guard in New Haven when it appeared a Russian sailor jumped from his ship in an attempt to illegally enter the United States. Although the Coast Guard dealt with the situation by the time Christie arrived, the lieutenant said it was proof of the unit’s value.

“Whatever the scenario, we try to prepare, and we are the only ones out there other than the Coast Guard,” Christie said. “It’s an easy job to do in August when it’s 85 and sunny. Everyone wants this detail, but even when it’s snowing and single digits out, we’re still out here.”


Bridgeport union agrees to furloughs, wage freeze

By Linda Conner Lambeck

BRIDGEPORT -- A city union representing school and municipal employees has ratified a new four-year contract that freezes wages for two years and requires workers to take a five-day, unpaid furlough.

The agreement reached with Local 1522, Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, was announced Tuesday by city officials. The union represents 761 workers.

The deal freezes salary increases for the first two years. In the final two years, salaries increase by 2.5 percent every six months from July 1, 2010, through Jan. 1, 2012. In addition, union members will take five days off without pay between now and the end of the school year in June 2009.

Altogether, the concessions amount to $1.15 million in savings, said city Budget Director Thomas Sherwood. On the school side, Sherwood said there should be $613,000 in savings when salaries paid by grants are factored out.

Robert Henry, chief of staff for the school system, challenged that figure, saying the savings is closer to $500,000.

A tentative agreement was reached Jan. 16 between the city and union leaders, and the contract was ratified late last week. It next goes to the City Council for review.

Anna Montalvo, president of Local 1522, did not return repeated phone calls for comment.

Although 642 of the union's employees work for the school system as classroom and library aides, special education van drivers and clerical workers, the contract


is negotiated by the city. On the city side, the union represents about 119 sanitation, parks, road and recycling workers. On average, Local 1522 workers make about $33,000 a year.


Roughly one-third of Local 1522 employees are paid from state and federal grants. The city cannot recoup savings realized by the zero-salary increase and furloughs for those employees. Sherwood suggested the Board of Education still might be able to keep those dollars and spend them on other school expenses.

As part of the deal, there would be no layoffs of collective-bargaining unit employees through June 30, 2010.

Adam Wood, chief of staff for Mayor Bill Finch, called the negotiations long but fair to the workers. He said that when raises do kick in, so does a health benefit reopener that could affect employee premium costs.

Henry said the no-layoff clause potentially hampers the flexibility of the school board in making budget decisions best for the students. The board is facing the strong possibility of zero-budget increases from the city and state in the next fiscal year.

Sherwood said that if the AFSCME workers aren't getting raises and aren't adding to the cost, "why should you have to cut them?"

Already, 61 school employees, including Supt. of Schools John Ramos and his top administrators, have agreed to take furloughs of up to five days once the board approves a giveback package. Other school employees who have agreed to take furloughs include 21 tradespeople, seven department coordinators and 26 unaffiliated workers.

Henry told the board Monday that the Bridgeport Education Association, which represents city teachers, has decided not to negotiate any concessions. A five-day furlough among teachers could have reaped $4.4 million in savings, according to school officials.

Sherwood said teachers still have an option to come back to the table and bargain.

Also, no concessions have come from the Bridgeport Council of Administrators and Supervisors, which represents school principals and other middle managers.

So far, the school system has identified $2 million in potential savings toward a city request that it not spend $7 million of the $215 million budget it was given for the 2008-09 fiscal year.

Mayor Bill Finch is seeking the $7 million to help plug a projected $20 million deficit in the city budget this fiscal year.

New police squad hits the streets

By Aaron Leo
Staff writer

BRIDGEPORT -- A revamped Neighborhood Enforcement Team is back on the streets.

The goal of the Strategic Enforcement Team, or SET, is similar to NET, which targeted quality-of-life issues one neighborhood at a time. This time, four officers from the 12-officer team will be assigned to three sectors encompassing the city, said Detective Keith Bryant, the police spokesman.

"They'll be covering the entire city while they're on," Bryant said.

NET lasted nearly two years, focusing on things like breaks-ins and illegal drug sales in a particular neighborhood, as well as speeding or liquor sales to minors. The squad also organized informational sessions with liquor store and bar owners and area colleges in an effort to head off problems with underage drinking. The squad also was generally accompanied by a probation officer to crack down on offenders who had violated their probation.

NET officers, in an effort to foster trust with people in their neighborhood beats, handed out their cell phone so residents could contact them any time.

The new team has two officers who had served with NET: Jessi Pizarro and Arthur Calvao. The officer in charge of SET is Lt. Stephen Shuck, and Sgt. John Evans is supervisor. Officers Gilberto Del Valle, Ramon Garcia, Edward Golding, Luis Gutierrez, Joseph Liskiewicz, Benjamin Mauro, Gabriel Meszaros and Gerardo Ortiz make up the rest of the team.

Establishment of NET during the administration of Chief Bryan


Norwood had touched off controversy within the Police Department. The police union objected to Norwood's selection of officers for the squad without regard to seniority prerogatives as defined in the union's contract.


Meanwhile, the Detective Bureau has increased its ranks, bringing it to its full complement of 35. Nine officers were recently named provisional detectives: David Garcia, Todd Hoben, Martin Heanue, John Burke, William Reilly, Mark Graham, Mark Belinkie, James Borrico and James Kennedy Jr.

Provisional is a temporary title, given to the nine because of ongoing litigation over the hiring list based on the Sept. 9, 2006, exam. The grading system was changed and the list reformed twice, but a Superior Court judge threw out the two later lists. He ruled the third list had an adverse impact on African-American candidates and violated federal law.

Bridgeport police contract wins final OK

By Bill Cummings
Staff writer

BRIDGEPORT -- A new police contract that defers raises for two years and contributes $824,000 toward reducing this year's $20 million deficit has won final approval from the City Council.

While the wage pact for the Police Department's 434 officers passed unanimously Monday night, several council members worried the city will face millions in expenses in year three and four of the contract.

The police union narrowly approved the contract last month.

The contract, which avoids threatened police layoffs, calls for no raises in the first two years and 6 and 5 percent raises in the last two years. Those raises add up to $2.5 million over the two-year period.

"I can't vote for a contract that's going to increase taxes without knowing where the money is coming from," said council member James Holloway, D-139, who later voted for the pact. "This is going to kick in and the city is going to have to find the money."

Mayor Bill Finch conceded the pact represents "a bit of a risk, considering the current climate. But I believe we have to preserve public safety. No one knows what's around the corner. But it's a reasoned man's approach to do this."

"Taxpayers fear what year three will bring," added council member Bob Walsh, D-132. "They don't see a plan for how we get to year three and four. I, too, fear what the future will hold."

Finch said his plan is simple. "If it means cutting other parts of the budget to maintain police and fire,


I will present a budget that does that," the mayor said.


"We are skating on thin ice and fighting hard not to lose financial control to the state," Finch added, referring to possible imposition of a state financial review board if the city does not end the fiscal year in the black.

The Finch administration has sought to convince municipal unions to give back $4.5 million in scheduled raises or other benefits this year to help close the deficit, and the mayor is about halfway toward meeting his goal. Negotiations are under way with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the city's biggest union, which is being asked for $1.2 million in givebacks.

The city has found about $5.2 million in other savings this fiscal year, and asked the Board of Education to return $7 million. If school officials do not meet that request, the city may be forced to make another round of layoffs.

'No-raise' police pact nears approval

By Aaron Leo
Staff writer

BRIDGEPORT -- A police union contract, giving officers no raises through June 2010, is almost official after passing the City Council's Contract Committee Tuesday night.

The proposed four-year pact, which Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159 members approved by 15 votes, may save the city $800,000 in the current fiscal year. In the third year of the contract, officers would get a 6 percent raise, followed by a 5 percent boost in the fourth and final year.

The contract now goes to the full council for review.

"I think this is the best we can do given the national financial crisis," said Officer Frank Cuccaro, union president, who attended the meeting in City Hall.

The pact would also prevent the layoffs of nine rookies. Widespread layoffs are one cost-saving measure Mayor Bill Finch implemented since learning of a looming $20 million city budget deficit.

The mayor also has asked for concessions from all city unions, and Cuccaro said the police union "played our part" in helping resolve the deficit.

The result of not negotiating could have been worse, as 51 members of the National Association of Government Employees were issued layoff notices earlier this week after making no concessions.

The police union did battle the mayor's requests with public protests and a no-confidence vote, but the friction subsided with the resignation of Chief Bryan T. Norwood and the appointment of Deputy Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr. as acting chief in




Gaudett, who as chief is not part of the union, endorsed the pact.

"I think this gives an opportunity to move forward. We were stuck for a long time," he said.

The pact saves the city money in the short run, but the future is uncertain, said Tom Sherwood, who runs the Office of Policy and Management.

"Today, it's the best we can do. All we can do is hope that the region, the country changes," he said.

Department morale, in the face of no raises, concerned committee member Carlos Silva, D-136.

But Cuccaro replied it is the best deal on the table for now. "It's obvious that the men and women want the money now. It was a hard sell. It was very contentious. Hopefully by next month we'll boost everybody's morale," he said.

Asked if the lack of raises might force out some of the 80 officers eligible for retirement in January, Cuccaro said retirement pay for a city patrol officer, $27,500 a year, is too low to live on in Connecticut.

"Trust me, nobody's leaving. I would say don't count on a mass exodus," he said.

Meanwhile, one city union, the Bridgeport Fire Fighters Association Local 834, has a contract until June 30, 2009. Union President Robert Whitbread has been following negotiations with others.

EXPANDED STORY: Police union narrowly approves new labor contract

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Mayor Bill Finch is hoping the police union’s approval of a new four-year contract will encourage other municipal employee unions to also settle their contracts.

“We appreciate the leadership the police union gave us,” Finch said.

Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159 members voted to approve the contract by the narrow margin of 156-141 on Monday night.

The proposed contract still must be approved by the City Council, which appears likely. It would be retroactive to July 1 of this year, when the city’s 2008-09 fiscal year began.

The police contract calls for zero-percent raises for the next two years, followed by 5.7% in year three and 4.8% in year four. The raises in years three and four would be implemented in half-year intervals: At 3% each in July and January of 2010-11, and 2.5% each in July and January of 2011-12.

Also, officers’ take-home vehicles would be eliminated at the discretion of the police chief, and holiday and vacation time payments would not be paid in the current fiscal year but paid in the future.

In addition, the planned layoffs of nine police officers would be rescinded. No changes would be made in police officers’ health-care benefits, but this issue would be up for discussion in two years in a so-called “re-opener,” according to the proposed contract.

Finch’s stated goals in contract negotiations with the police unions and other unions has been to get zero-percent pay raises, higher employee health-care premium and service co-payments, and a reduction in take-home vehicles.

He appears to have met two of those goals, with no givebacks on health-care benefits from the police at this time. However, the pay raises work out to an average of more than 2.5% annually over four years, which has generated some limited criticism from other public officials.

Still, Finch said the contract will save the city considerable money in the short term to help close the potential $20 million budget gap in the current budget.

He said the police contract could save the city about $1 million in 2008-09, on top of the zero-percent pay raises, mostly by putting off holiday and vacation time payments and eliminating many take-home cars.

He also predicted savings would be found by allowing police administrators to implement better management practices that would lower overtime costs and lead to other efficiencies.

“We have to get through this year,” Finch said Monday night. “That’s the focus. Nothing about the city’s finances is easy. Plus, public safety is a priority. You don’t have anything if you’re not safe.”

Finch is seeking concessions from all city unions. Seven other union contracts have lapsed and are in negotiations. The mayor also is asking unions with existing contracts to make givebacks, such as the firefighters union.

The Board of Education also is working with its employee unions to try to find labor contract savings.

Bridgeport cop contract passes by 15 votes

Bridgeport cops agree to forgo raises for 2 years
Staff writer

BRIDGEPORT -- Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159 narrowly ratified a four-year contract Monday that gives no raises for the first two years, but rescinds laying off nine officers.

The vote was 156-141 out of 423 union members eligible to cast ballots.

The voting took place at the Miamogue Yacht Club on Seaview Avenue during the day and evening.

"We made out OK considering the national economic crisis," said Officer Frank Cuccaro, union president.

The pact, which must now go before the City Council for approval, is expected to save the city $800,000 in the current fiscal year, Elaine Ficarra, spokeswoman for Mayor Bill Finch, said in an e-mailed statement Monday night.

She said the deal includes no raises for the next two years, followed by 5.7 percent raises in year three and 4.8 percent in year four. The raises in years three and four will be implemented in half-year intervals. Also, take-home vehicles are to be eliminated at the discretion of the police chief, and holiday and vacation time payments will not be paid in the current fiscal year, she said.

Cuccaro disagreed with the figures on the raises for years three and four. He said they were 6 percent and 5 percent respectively.

"This contract is a good thing for the city and for the police union, and will provide the city with significant savings during the next two fiscal years. Their action is a terrific example of how the unions can work together with the city to effect


budget savings, especially in the turbulent economic times we are facing," Finch said in the statement.


The previous contract expired last July 1, the beginning of the current fiscal year. Most contracts expire at the end of the fiscal year.

Bridgeport is facing a $20 million budget deficit, and Finch has asked for union givebacks totaling $8.9 million to help plug the hole. He had called for laying off 10 high-ranking officers, one of whom later retired.

But the remaining nine could have "bumped" lower-ranking officers, trickling down to the newest officers, a class of recruits sworn in two months ago.

The savings from the elimination of take-home cars, Finch has said, are expected to total anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000, depending on how many miles the officers drove the city vehicles for personal use. Savings may also come from acting Police Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr.'s new personnel deployment plan aimed at reducing overtime, Ficarra said.

Bridgeport cop also on the paranormal beat

Staff writer

Click photo to enlarge
James Myers, left, stands with pyschic researchers Lorraine Warren and Tony Spera.

After patrolling Bridgeport for 11 years, Police Officer James Myers has found another calling: the spiritual realm.

Break-ins at the downtown complex of the shuttered Savoy Hotel and the Poli Palace/Majestic theaters got him inside the rundown buildings, where he took photos, an old hobby for the 38-year-old father of three.

But these photos were different from other abandoned buildings he's shot.

"Things started to show up on my camera," he said.

Not just anything: orbs, which indicate the presence of spiritual energy. And lots them.

Then a chance meeting in Bridgeport Hospital with famed psychic and Monroe resident Lorraine Warren set him on the path to becoming a paranormal researcher. While working there, he heard Warren, 81, was a patient and approached her. She knew his name before he introduced himself.

As Myers recalled: "She said, 'Jimmy, how are you?'"

Since then, in his spare time, Myers has been assisting Warren and her son-in-law, Tony Spera, with investigations for the A&E network's show "Paranormal State." He helps interview people and collect data with recording equipment.

"They are pretty much calling me their psychic photographer," Myers said. "[Warren] says I draw the energy."

He's not sure of that, but supernatural things seem to like his camera. While taking Warren and Tony and Judy Spera on a tour of the theater complex on Sept. 7, he took photos covered with orbs. They also appeared


in photos he took of the Colonial Theater on Boston Avenue, where the Warrens had dates.


Sept. 7 is the birthday of Warren's late husband, Ed Warren, the famed demonologist. He died on Aug. 29, 2006, and worked at the Poli as a teenager where they sometimes saw movies, Warren said.

Myers assembled his photos into a slide show dedicated to the Warrens, and Lorraine Warren is showing it during her lectures all over the United States. He goes by the handle 826 Paranormal and says he is "looking at the unknown through a cop's eyes."

He said considers himself "open-minded but skeptical."

"I go in with the same attitude as at work. It's just doing another form of investigation," Myers said.

It's also a hobby and stress reliever that has proven a little creepy sometimes. While he's never seen anything with his naked eyes, he's definitely felt things.

"The only time I ever felt something [in the Poli] was in the Savoy at the main desk," he said. "It felt very, very cold, like an ice chill down my back."

Warren said she thinks there may have been two homicides there in the 1940s. The team checked for drafts but found nothing.

Before he met Warren, he took photos at the former Norwich Psychiatric Hospital, where he experienced the most disturbing thing to date."It felt like ice water being poured down the back of my shirt," he said.

He also got blurred photographs at a house in Monroe he believed to be haunted. That house has since burned down.

But, he added, "I've been disappointed on many cases."

Warren, who said she can see auras and can learn about a person from them, felt something special for Myers immediately upon their meeting.

"I was very impressed by him. He seemed very sincere. I could see a man who had a really deep interest," she said. His job as a police officer makes him disciplined, a requirement for any paranormal researcher, according to Warren.

Myers is also wary, but not scared, in paranormal situations.

"He's a guy that isn't afraid," she said, adding, "You've got to be leery. It's stupid not to be leery" in haunted areas.

And the Savoy complex is still occupied. Warren said she had a vision of the past during a tour: a couple watching a movie in the Poli, as if time had stopped for them.

In Myers' photos of her sitting in the theaters, Warren is surrounded by orbs. They float about the ceiling. They represent people attached to the building, some possibly actors who gave up family and personal lives to perform there, she said.

Still, Myers' big test came Mischief Night, Oct. 30, when he and a Stamford police officer, who has been helping the Warrens for years, stayed overnight in the Occult Museum in the ghost hunters' Monroe home. People who try to stay there overnight have fled in fear, Warren said. It contains artifacts from their investigations, some famous for reportedly leading to the death of anyone who touched them.

Myers didn't touch, but looking through a video camera, he saw a moving orb. "It looked like there was a ping-pong ball bouncing around my camera," Myers said.

Working with Lorraine and the Speras, visions like that could become a regular sight for the officer. But he maintains a professional attitude in his work.

"He's taking photos, he's taking recordings, he's gaining knowledge," Warren said. "He's a good listener. He doesn't go foolhardy into anything. He's not in everybody's face."

"All in all, he's really proven himself to us," she said.

Bridgeport has tentative deal with cop union

Bridgeport contract avoids layoffs, restricts use of city vehicles
Staff writer

BRIDGEPORT -- City police would forgo raises for two years and lose city vehicles for personal use, but nine jobs slated to get the axe would be saved under a tentative pact between the mayor and police union.

Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159 and the city announced Saturday that they have reached a conditional agreement on a new four-year contract that may save the city $800,000 in the current fiscal year. In the third year of the contract, cops would get a 6 percent raise, followed by a 5 percent boost in the fourth and final year of the deal.

"It's a little higher" than the department's usual raises, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch acknowledged Sunday. "Our primary focus is avoiding state financial takeover, and with a little bit of luck in year three [of the contract] we're hoping to see some growth in our grand list. There were numerous meetings and lots of phone calls between both sides. Let's just say both sides exhausted each other."

Bridgeport is facing a $20 million deficit and Finch has asked for union givebacks totaling $8.9 million to help plug the hole. Finch has also threatened layoffs and wants to sell some city-owned property.

The police union still has to ratify the contract. Union officials have scheduled a meeting to discuss the proposed deal followed by a vote next Monday, the same day Finch wants the City Council to send the deal to its Contracts Committee for review.

Frank Cuccaro, president of Local 1159, called


the zero percent raises for the first two years, followed by the raises in the third and fourth year, "fair raises."


About the package as a whole, "given the economic conditions in our country," Cuccaro said, "I think it's a fair deal."

Cuccaro said union officials would have ample opportunity to educate officers about the contract provisions during lineups and roll calls, as well as at the union's upcoming meeting.

The proposed contract will restore the jobs of nine officers laid off in October and return the force to 423 officers. In addition to the zero percent raises in the first two years of the deal, the contract would cut vacation time payments for the remainder of this fiscal year, and officers would not be allowed to take home police cars unless authorized by the chief. The savings from that policy change, Finch said, is expected to save the city anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000, depending on how many miles the officers drove the city vehicles for personal use.

"Unfortunately, nobody has been managing or keeping track of how often city vehicles are out for personal use. There are some positions, such as police chief and fire chief and their deputies who need to have around-the-clock access to their cars. But most positions don't require that," Finch said. "So, we are going to take a harder look at who is using [city vehicles] for personal use" and curtail that to save money.

SET supplants NET for Bpt. cops

Staff writer

BRIDGEPORT -- The police Neighborhood Enforcement Team is getting a new name, new faces and more officers, but acting Police Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr. says its mission to target quality-of-life issues will not change.

Gaudett announced this week that he plans to organize a unit called the Strategic Enforcement Team that will "capitalize on the success of NET in making a positive impact on the city's neighborhoods."

"The bar has been set and it's a pretty high bar in terms of performance of the [Neighborhood Enforcement] team," the acting chief said.

The squad, started in February 2007 by then-Chief Bryan T. Norwood, focused on one neighborhood at a time, without having to respond to the range of calls that patrol officers are dispatched to investigate. NET dealt with everything from gangs to loitering to underage drinking, and recovered weapons, seized drugs and arrested probation violators. Both Mayor Bill Finch and the public cited the team for cleaning up problems in the neighborhoods. Norwood resigned in October after a 2 1/2 years to head the police force in Richmond, Va.

There were about a dozen NET officers before they were all reassigned to the Patrol Division last week. But they can bid to get assigned to the new SET, with a deadline of Monday, said Elaine Ficarra, spokeswoman for Finch.

Gaudett said SET will have 12 officers, a sergeant and a lieutenant. It will "assist the Patrol Division in the reduction of crime and improve


the quality-of-life of city residents through the use of short-term crime suppression in targeted areas," he said.


It could be in more places at the same time, according the chief.

The new squad, however, will also comply with the union contract, in which assignments to specialized units are based on seniority. The union argued Norwood had violated that proviso in handpicking NET members without regard to seniority, and a state labor arbitrator agreed.

The arbitrator sided with the union, but Norwood and the city appealed the ruling. Norwood had also been seeking right of assignment, or the ability to handpick, members of other the department's other specialized units.

That appeal now has been dropped, and the SET standards will include seniority, physical fitness and disciplinary records, Ficarra said.

Officer Frank Cuccaro, president of the Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159, approved of the new unit.

"I think the SET team will be very successful. Chief Gaudett is moving the department forward in the right direction. We have come a long way in a very short time," he said.

The SET proposal drew comments at the Board of Police Commissioners meeting this week where Gaudett announced the team's creation.

State Rep. Andres Ayala Jr., D-Bridgeport, and landlord Frank Martinez, 73, were among the supporters of the quality-of-life approach taken by NET.

"I had several constituents who had a pleasant experience with the NET team," Ayala said. "The team was probably one of the most effective strategies I've seen."

Martinez, who owns a block in the East Side, said he works with police to keep tenants safe and NET helped clean his buildings of loitering and related issues.

The city has had other specialized police details that dealt with quality-of-life, such as Mayor Joseph Ganim's MOST, or Mayor's Office Special Targets, in the 1990s.

Bridgeport layoffs on hold

Bridgeport job cuts 'on hold' as workers remain employed
Staff writer

BRIDGEPORT ­-- Andrew Abate, the city's longtime director of the Water Pollution Control Authority, is still in his office.

So are the 10 police officers Mayor Bill Finch planned to lay off because some -- particularly those in the department's top ranks -- were racking up too much overtime.

In fact, it's hard to find any workers who have actually been laid off because of Finch's recent order that 31 employees be axed from the city's payroll. The list was to include 10 high-ranking police officers, five park police officers, Abate and 15 other City Hall workers.

The layoffs were announced at the end of September, and were scheduled to take effect last Friday. But the only people laid off as of Monday were five members of the city's parks police force. And under union rules, the senior park police officer "bumped" a school police cop and took his job.

The reason for the hold on layoffs appears primarily attributable to union and civil service rules, and the mayor's apparent lack of knowledge about both.

Elaine Ficarra, Finch's spokeswoman, confirmed Monday the 10 police officers targeted for layoff -- the deputy chiefs, sergeants and lieutenants -- still have their jobs.

The administration is now negotiating with the police union, and if sufficient savings are found, the positions may be spared. Officially, the layoffs are "on hold," Ficarra said.

Abate, who also was issued a layoff notice, remains on the job as well.


The WPCA is reviewing its operations to see if other savings can be found to allow him to keep his job, Ficarra said.


The administration is also negotiating with all of the city's other unions over the fate of City Hall workers targeted for layoff. If departments can find sufficient savings to offset a layoff, that job may be saved, she said.

"Everyone is in negotiation," said Ficarra, who indicated a potential deal is on the table regarding police department layoffs. "We are hopeful a resolution will soon be reached."

The 31 layoffs Finch announced in September were intended to save $1.9 million, although that figure was later reduced to $1.3 million when the savings were calculated on a fiscal year basis.

The actual number of layoffs dropped to 28 after it was discovered that two part-time election machine mechanics were included, along with one Civil Service Department employee. The Civil Service Commission ruled that its employee, Donna Reisinger, cannot be laid off because the department is exempt from mayoral control.

The commission also ruled the 10 police officers, despite the fact that the police union has no bumping rights in its contract, fall under civil service Rule 13, meaning police union members have bumping rights, after all.

Ralph Jacobs, the city's personnel director, said the Civil Service Commission ruling means each targeted officer can "bump" a less senior officer, in some cases all the way down to a patrol officers working the streets.

"People would still be laid off, but not in the manner that some people originally thought," Jacobs said.

When Finch announced his layoffs, the mayor said police did not have bumping rights and stressed that no patrol officers would be laid off.

Ficarra could not say if Finch now favors laying off patrol officers.

The layoffs were designed to help reduce a looming deficit in the city's $492 million budget for 2008-09, which now hovers around $6 million.

Police Board names officers

By Aaron leo
Staff writer

BRIDGEPORT -- David Hall Sr. has been elected president of the Board of Police Commissioners and Theresa Brown vice president.

Hall, 69, a U.S. Army veteran, has served on the board since 1999 and served as vice president since 2002. He was acting president since Thomas L. Kanasky Jr. resigned in June.

"Your peer group elects you and that's always a plus," Hall said, adding that his goals would be to create policies to deal with fraud, manipulation and abuse of sick leave and encourage new police supervisors to get more leadership training.

"It's about managing multiple priorities," he said. "The mayor [Bill Finch] is looking for a spirit of cooperation."

Hall said he would continue on the board "as long as I feel I can do it."

Brown, a lawyer in New Haven, joined the board in January 2004.

"I'm honored to have been elected and I look forward to working with Commissioner Hall, for whom I have the greatest respect. I hope to help keep the city of Bridgeport safe and on the move," she said.

The elections were unanimous.

Cop union offers alternatives to layoffs

Staff writer

BRIDGEPORT -- With the approach of Oct. 24, the last day on the job for 15 police officers laid off by Mayor Bill Finch, both the police union president and several members of the Board of Police Commissioners are suggesting alternative ways to close the city budget's ballooning deficit.

"Redeployment would fill holes in certain areas of the Police Department and it would in turn lower overtime costs," said Officer Frank Cuccaro, president of the Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159.

He proposed that the mayor stop hiring of administrators paid $80,000 a year or more throughout the city, as well as stop using private lawyers to handle some of the city's litigation.

Plus, Cuccaro said, the class of 19 rookies who graduated from the Bridgeport Police Academy last Friday will save the department money, "if they're deployed properly."

The 15 police personnel are among of 31 city workers who Finch announced last month will be laid off. He also cut every municipal department's budget by 10 percent and specifically ordered then-Police Chief Bryan T. Norwood to cut department overtime by half to close the budget gap. Norwood announced last week that he is leaving his job here to become police chief in Richmond, Va.

The Police Department overran its overtime budget by about $1.3 million in the last fiscal year.

Among those people Finch laid off are Deputy Police Chiefs James Honis and Adam Radzimirski, each paid a salary of $97,258, the second and

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third highest on the list. Also laid off were four parks police officers, a school police officer, two captains, one lieutenant and five sergeants.


Finch said Monday that he appreciated new ideas, but had no further comment.

"All these items are under consideration and they're all part of the collective bargaining process. I'm hopeful and grateful that people are putting ideas forward," he said.

The City Council also recently took another step designed to rein in the police budget by approving the creation of a new assistant police chief position -- the non-union post will have a salary of from $92,502 to $105,069 a year -- to help the chief control overtime and conduct day-to-day operations. Now, the chief is the only non-union job in the department.

Daniel S. Roach, a member of the police board, said he would try to avoid layoffs by rearranging schedules.

"If it's a question of excessive overtime, I would be willing to work out something with the deputy chiefs on the chopping block. Keep them on, but without overtime," he said. "I'm in favor of keeping tabs on overtime as opposed to layoffs."

"I would never be in favor" of laying off patrol officers, he added.

Layoffs didn't have to be one of Finch's first steps to control spending, said David Hall, the police board's vice president.

"I admire his enthusiasm and his efforts to solve this problem, but I may not admire his management style the same way," Hall said of Finch.

Finch should let the department heads form a savings plan for their own areas. "They know what they can do without," Hall said.

Andrew Nunn, the city's chief financial officer, has insisted that department heads were involved in the cutting process, despite those who claimed they were not.

Ana Cruz, another police board member, called for compromise. Raises should be frozen and highly paid administrators should take pay cuts while the city's finances are scrutinized.

"This calls for the city to form a group to strategize and examine expenditures," she said. "We need our police officers to help protect our city."

Lower salaries "are better than not having a job, period," Cruz said.

Joseph Gaudett Jr. heads a second family

Staff Writer

Click photo to enlarge
Newly appointed Acting Bridgeport Police Chief Joseph... (Christian Abraham/Staff photographer)

BRIDGEPORT -- Deputy Police Chief Joseph L. Gaudett Jr., a married father of two, is now in charge of a second family: the Bridgeport Police Department.

Gaudett, 47, will be the acting police chief after he's sworn in this morning, replacing Bryan T. Norwood, who is expected to resign this morning, according to police officials and Mayor Bill Finch.

Gaudett's promotion was announced Tuesday night in City Hall at a special meeting of the city's Board of Police Commissioners. A search for a permanent replacement could take six to eight months, Finch said. Norwood was sworn in last week as police chief in Richmond, Va., after serving 2 1/2 years in Bridgeport.

Finch said Tuesday that serving in the interim as chief is just as challenging as being the permanent chief.

"When you're on duty 365 days, 24 hours, seven days [a week], there is no interim," he said.

Under Norwood, the police department reduced crime "dramatically," and Gaudett will carry that on, Finch said.

"He is a tremendous police officer and he will help keep us safe. His family has nearly a century of policework," Finch. His grandfather, father and sister were officers.

The mayor called Gaudett "a bright star, a professional, a policeman's policeman. We're getting a great leader," Finch added.

Gaudett, who started in 1983, thanked his colleagues, family and friends who gathered in the City Council Chambers.

"I appreciate all your support. I promise

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I won't let you down," he said.


The announcement ended a week of uncertainty started last Tuesday when Norwood became Richmond's chief.

At first his last day was to be at the end of the month, but officials said Norwood agreed to resign today.

The department and all city departments are suffering from cuts caused by a growing city budget deficit. Finch had ordered Norwood to cut overtime in half after the department overspent that budget by $1.3 million.

In August, the Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159 voted no confidence in both Finch and Norwood, and Finch laid off 15 officers.

But those gloomy issues seemed forgotten Tuesday night as Gaudett stood with his wife, Diane, to accept the job. They have been married for 22 years and have two daughters, Joceyln, 19, and Camryn, 10.

Camryn jumped into her father's arms for a big hug after her father finished speaking.

In February 2007, when Gaudett was promoted to deputy chief, she pinned his badge on him. On Sept. 9, 1969, an 8-year-old Gaudett pinned a sergeant's badge on his father.

Gaudett was born in Bridgeport, and attended St. Augustine's School. He now resides with his family in Newtown.

Officer Frank Cuccaro, police union president, called Gaudett "a fine choice."

"I look forward to working with him," Cuccaro said.

Gaudett, who was deputy chief of administrative services, has also been working on the radio system for a combination dispatch center for the police and fire departments that is being built on Housatonic Avenue.

"What's better than having the guy who helped design it be the chief now?" Finch said.

The mayor said that despite the city's problems, everything has had a silver lining. He said Gaudett will improve department morale.

A larger ceremony is planned for this week, officials said.

19 rookie cops step up in Bridgeport

Staff writer

Click photo to enlarge
The 33rd Basic Training Session Graduation Ceremonies was held at Bridgeport City Hall Council...

BRIDGEPORT -- Melody Pribesh started what could become a new family tradition Friday night.

The city police sergeant of 11 years pinned a police officer's badge on her son, Donald A. Bensey III, at a ceremony in City Hall where he and 18 others were sworn in, the city's 33rd class to graduate from the Bridgeport Police Academy. Bensey also had the highest academic score in the class.

"I'm very proud of him. He worked hard and he did really well," she said.

Pribesh, who also has three grown daughters, said she might pin badges on two more of her children someday.

"Two of my daughters are hoping," she said.

Meanwhile, 58-year-old Gilberto Feliciano, husband of 12-year veteran Officer Minerva Feliciano, got his police badge, three years after retiring from the U.S. Postal Service.

He completed 35 years at that job, but his heart was elsewhere. "I want to follow in my wife's steps," he said. "I feel great. I feel excited. I'm happy. I finally reached my goal."

"I'm really proud of him," his wife said.

Feliciano said he tested for the New York City police department during his 15th year with the postal service, but decide to stay with the post office. Also, the couple has two grown children, one a veteran and the other currently in the military.

Six of the city rookies live in Bridgeport. Sworn in to Bridgeport's department on Friday were Bensey, John R. Cholakian, Joseph J. Cruz III, Michael R. Davila, Feliciano,

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Ralph R. Fensore, Thomas F. Flaherty III, Thomas A. Gallbronner, Jeffrey A. Holtz, Omar Jimenez, Jarah Mathews-Dixon, John Pachera, Roberto Quintanilla Jr., Michael L. Salemme III, Christopher Smith, Matthew T. Szymczak, Angel M. Vazquez Jr., Robert J. Voccola and Alexander M. Wilde.


The rookies will earn about $42,000 a year to start, and join 432 other uniformed officers.

Also, Brandon Kaufman became a Bethel officer; Onoria Errichetti, Easton; Justin G. Bisceglie, Domenic Monteleone and Julio J. Rodriguez, Norwalk; John V. Kekac and Brian P. McPadden, Shelton; Anthony M. Giansanti and Robert M. Muschett, Stratford; and Jeremy P. Meurice, West Haven.

In Bridgeport, the new officers must complete at least 400 hours of field training and they finish their probation four months after that, said Lt. Aida Remele, head of training. The academy lasted 25 weeks.

Chief Bryan T. Norwood was slated to speak, according to the ceremony's program, but he did not attend. He leaves at the end of the month to head the Richmond, Va., police, after 2 1/2 years in Bridgeport. A meeting to select an interim chief, also scheduled for Friday, was pushed back to Tuesday.

But Remele and three deputy police chiefs addressed the graduates, as did Bensey.

Bensey said police work changes daily. "Today, an officer must be sharp and continuously trained. Our education will not end today. It seems the more you learn, the more there is to learn.," he said.

He also thanked Norwood, "who literally ran us to the ground" in the academy, he said.

Assistant police chief job to be filled

Staff writer

BRIDGEPORT -- City officials are forging ahead with plans to fill the newly created job of assistant police chief despite Chief Bryan T. Norwood's decision to leave at the end of the month to take another job.

The assistant chief job -- a post that will be neither union- nor civil service-affiliated -- was authorized by the City Council by a 12-1 vote at its Monday night meeting. The job is being established with the specific administrative goals of cutting police overtime and overseeing discipline in the department.

An interim police chief is expected to be announced Friday by Mayor Bill Finch to fill in until the job can be filled on a permanent basis. The process will take months, however, as required by the city charter, including a nationally advertised search, civil service testing, background checks and interviews. Finch will make the final decision on a new chief from among three top candidates.

Before Norwood's unexpected decision to leave and take the job as police chief in Richmond, Va., Finch had called for the new assistant chief's job to be established. The council still must approve some details regarding the job, including a proposed salary range of $92,502 to $105,069.

"This is a critical position," Finch said. "The chief is asking for another person who is not a member of a bargaining unit to be his right hand and do the discipline. This is necessary to get overtime under control."

City police last year racked up nearly $9

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million in overtime, $1.3 million more than budgeted.


Finch's spokeswoman Elaine Ficarra on Thursday said that Norwood's departure would not have an impact on filling the assistant chief job, although she said officials have not decided whether it will wait until the a new chief is hired.

Finch last month announced that 15 police officers will be laid off -- five parks police officers and 10 high-ranking officers -- some of whom are among the highest-paid officers on the force, thanks mostly to overtime. Overall, the mayor is laying off 31 workers in the latest round of cuts designed to control a growing budget deficit.

City Council member Bob Walsh, D-132, said he doesn't understand why the assistant police chief would not be a civil service employee, even though the chief is.

"This will be the only position in the department that's not civil service. It's been said the chief wants to hire his own person, so it's 'OK' to bypass civil service?" Walsh said, who voted against the resolution to create the job.

City Council President Thomas McCarthy, D-133, said the city's Civil Service Commission voted unanimously to exempt the assistant chief from civil service requirements.

"This has to be unanimous," McCarthy told the council. "It's up to the commission to decide if the job is tested or not. All you are voting on is if you want this position. I'm in favor of this. Part of the role is to get the overtime down."

Article from the

Norwood quits as Bridgeport police chief to take Virginia job

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Police Chief Bryan Norwood

Police Chief Bryan T. Norwood announced Oct. 8 he will resign as Bridgeport’s chief to become chief of the Richmond, Va., Police Department. His last day in the Bridgeport position will be Oct. 31.


Police sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Norwood began looking for a new job shortly after the union passed a “no-confidence” vote in the chief and in Mayor Bill Finch, who continues to demand the department cut costs to help the city cope with an economic crisis.

Norwood has been battling the police union on a number of issues, from division appointments to disciplinary actions.

The sources said Norwood was at odds with Finch over budget cuts the mayor wants in overtime. The department was millions of dollars over budget in overtime in the last fiscal year. Finch has announced he would lay off 10 high-ranking officers at the end of the month to help trim costs.

Finch said Norwood had done a lot to improve the Bridgeport Police Department. "He’s done so much with our department to streamline workflow, increase police presence in the neighborhoods and to help diversify the ranks,” Finch said. “In his two-and-a-half years here, he’s instituted many 21st century policing techniques that have resulted in a double-digit drop in violent crimes, and a reduction of drugs and guns on our streets. “ 

Norwood drew the ire of rank-and-file officers in August when he disbanded the department’s 12-officer Traffic Division as a cost-cutting measure. The outgoing chief also reportedly considered cuts to other specialized squads, including the K-9 Unit, Mounted Unit and the Tactical Narcotics Team, to curb costs.

The chief also has been battling with the police union over how officers are appointed to the Neighborhood Enforcement Team, known as NET, a specialized unit that targets crime in specific locations. The union has insisted the appointments must be made based on seniority while Norwood has wanted the flexibility to hand-pick NET members.

According to a story on the Richmond Times Dispatch Web site, Norwood is to take over a department with 759 officers, 167 civilian employees and an annual budget of $79 million. The Bridgeport Police Department has about 440 officers and an annual budget of about $43 million.

Norwood was the city’s youngest-ever police chief when he took over the Park City department at age 39 in 2006. A Bridgeport native, Norwood became chief in Bridgeport after he served as an assistant chief in New Haven and also spent a year on assignment with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. His father, Al Norwood, was a longtime Bridgeport school administrator and now is retired and lives in Virginia.

Finch said a nationwide search for a new chief would begin immediately. “We would hope to have a new chief in place in several months," he said.

In the meantime, an acting chief will be named to oversee the department. A special meeting of the Police Commission will take place Oct. 10 at 5 p.m. in the Mayor’s City Hall Annex Conference Room to introduce the new acting chief to the commission.


Norwood leaves as Bpt Cop chief(Connecticut Post 10/08/08)

Norwood leaves as Bridgeport cop chief

Staff writer

Click photo to enlarge
Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP Bryan T. Norwood, left, new Richmond, Va., chief of...

BRIDGEPORT -- Bryan T. Norwood, the city's embattled police chief, resigned suddenly after only 2 1/2 years on the job to become chief in Richmond, Va.

Norwood, the target of a no-confidence vote by the local police union this summer, accepted the Richmond job Wednesday after promising Mayor Bill Finch that he would not make a final decision until Friday.

He currently is paid $102,793 under a five-year contract he signed with the city in April 2006, while the range for the Richmond job is expected to be $109,000 to $165,000.

Finch said he didn't learn that Norwood, who was in Richmond for the announcement Wednesday, had taken the chief's job there until he saw the posting online.

Norwood could not be reached for comment.

No one has yet been named to temporarily fill Norwood's post, although Capt. Lynn Kerwin, the head of the department's Detective Bureau, is considered a frontrunner. A permanent chief can be appointed only by the process set forth in the City Charter, which includes a nationwide search and Civil Service tests. The mayor makes the final selection.

"Chief Norwood had delivered a letter to me around 10 a.m. yesterday," Finch said. "It was a formal letter of resignation, and I called him back. I said, 'Are you sure you want to do this?' I told him I know there are some problems here, but that Richmond is not the ideal city either. It has its problems. It was his feeling it was a great opportunity -- bigger city, more

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money and it was closer to his mother and father who live in Virginia."


Finch said Norwood agreed to give him until Friday to make a counter offer. "But I guess they wouldn't let him out of Richmond without signing," the mayor added.

But, Finch added, "It's an opportunity to use this vacancy to help the morale in the department that has suffered lately."

He acknowledged that Kerwin would be a top contender to be interim chief, but he wouldn't rule out the four deputy police chiefs, including James Honis and Adam Radzmirski, who are slated to be laid off at the end of the month as a cost-cutting measure.

"Layoffs can be made, layoffs can be rescinded," the mayor said, explaining that changes can be made for the good of the city. "Our first priority is public safety," he added.

Finch said he would also not rule out appointing Deputy Chief Anthony Armeno to temporarily head the department. Armeno was temporary chief in the months before Norwood was named chief here despite protests from women's groups after the Connecticut Post disclosed Armeno had previously been accused of hitting a female officer and dislocating her shoulder.

However, Armeno scored too low on the promotional examination to be considered for permanent appointment as chief.

"It would be improper to say anyone is more or less in the running," Finch said. "We have a good bench of substitute players."

He said a temporary replacement for Norwood, whose last day is officially Oct. 31, would likely be named by the end of the week.

City Council member Andre Baker, D-139, a member of the council's Public Safety Committee, said he was not surprised by Norwood's resignation.

"You don't need to be a rocket scientist to know this was going to happen. I've talked to him many times and you could hear the discouragement in his voice. He just wanted to get the support he needed," Baker said. "I'm just so scared of the direction we are now going to move in."

Officer Frank Cuccaro, president of the Local 1159, the police union, said, "The department as a whole is looking to move forward and I'd like to say I would hope that the city administration would take into consideration hiring from within for the next chief."

"It's not a total shock," said Daniel Roach, a member of the Board of Police Commissioners. He said he had heard Norwood had been testing for other jobs. "I wish him all the best."

However, he added, any sudden resignation by the department's leader "always comes as a surprise."

Norwood leaves a department mired in controversy, with orders from Finch to slash overtime, and beset by criticism from the rank-and-file for assigning officers to the Neighborhood Enforcement Team and for disbanding other special-duty units. About half of the union's membership in August approved a motion of "no confidence" in Norwood.

Because of the city's budget crisis, Finch has also laid off 15 police officers, effective at the end of the month.

"We're in perfect storm,'' Norwood said of disruptions at the Police Department in an August interview. "We're in a fiscal crisis. We're in a transition from federal oversight. We're in contract negotiations. We're half-way through the contract of a chief who has a different management style.''

Norwood, who grew up in Bridgeport, became the city's youngest chief at 39 years old when he was hired for a five-year contract. His father, Alexander, is a former associate superintendent of schools in Bridgeport. He later moved with his family to Monroe and graduated from Masuk High School.

The assistant chief of New Haven police at the time he was hired for the Bridgeport job, Norwood was chosen by then-Mayor John M. Fabrizi for the job from among three finalists.

In Richmond, according to the Web site of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Norwood will administer a department much larger than Bridgeport's. The capital city of Virginia has a force of about 760 sworn officers and 170 civilian employees with an annual budget of $79 million. Bridgeport has 432 officers and a budget of about $43 million.

Staff writer Aaron Leo contributed to this report

Police protest Finch layoffs

By Bill Cummings
Staff writer

Click photo to enlarge
A large group of Bridgeport police officers walk out en... (Brian A. Pounds/Staff photographer )

BRIDGEPORT -- As police officers protested layoffs in the department, Mayor Bill Finch on Monday used his State of the City address to issue a gloomy assessment of the city's finances and warn that everyone must "do more with less."

"Last December, when I took office, the city was like a runaway bus on a bumpy road. Today, we've got control of the bus, but the road remains very bumpy," Finch declared.

"Many of the decisions we must make will, no doubt be difficult, unpleasant, and at times, unpopular," Finch said during his speech before the City Council.

As the mayor spoke, more than 100 off-duty city police officers ringed the council chambers, standing in mostly silent protest against the 15 police officers -- 10 higher ranked officers and five park policemen -- whom Finch recently laid off.

The group of police officers said little during the mayor's speech, although several did shout out, "Why lay us off."

Finch wasted little time reminding council members and the general public that when he took office, the city faced a nearly $20 million deficit. He said his administration was forced to drain the city's fund balance to close the gap.

That fund balance, or reserve account, stands at a mere $9 million out the current $492 million budget, far less than credit agencies want to see. The city is now running a roughly $6 million deficit, and Finch stressed that he is taking many cost-cutting steps to rein that in.

"To get us

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from where we are to where we want our city to be, our guiding philosophy must be to do more with less," Finch said.


Before police marched to the council meeting, officers organized outside City Hall. Frank Cuccaro, the police union president, said it's unfair Finch targeted the department's highest-paid officers, and said the move violates civil service laws.

"This will cost thousands of dollars more in lawsuits in court," Cuccaro said, signaling the union's intention to fight the Finch administration.

In all, 31 city employees were notified two weeks ago that their jobs were being cut. As the 2008-09 budget was put together during the spring, Finch sent out 110 layoff notices, although some of those job losses were restored by the City Council.

Finch said the national economic downturn has caused turmoil in the city's budget as tax revenues dropped and expenses rose. He blamed most of the layoffs on a poor national economy, the rash of home foreclosures and the deficit he inherited from former Mayor John Fabrizi.

"When I took over this office a little less than a year ago, I realized we had been misinformed and misled about the financial situation. We were not in as good shape as we were led to believe, and therefore, I was forced to make hard choices immediately to address a nearly $20 million deficit that I had unexpectedly inherited," Finch said.

About half of that deficit, the mayor said, was caused by reliance on revenue that did not come in as projected, such as $4.5 million from the sale of Steel Point to the city's chosen developers, who hope to one day create a $1.5 billion community of shops, condominiums and other features on the waterfront peninsula.

The mayor didn't mention that his 2008-09 budget contains the same Steel Point revenue, and inclusion of that money is now fueling a new deficit.

And while the mayor didn't specifically address the cops who protested during his speech, he did point out that the city is hiring 35 new firefighters and 50 new police officers.

Still, Finch said the news is "not all gloomy," and cited his efforts to restrain spending and collect back taxes. He touted several economic development projects now under way, such as building more downtown housing.

Police brass among Bpt. layoffs

Staff writer

BRIDGEPORT -- Mayor Bill Finch said Monday that 31 employees, including 10 ranking police supervisors, will be laid off to help stem a growing budget deficit.

The layoffs will begin within 30 days and are expected to save the city about $1.9 million. The list of employees to be laid off includes 10 police administrators, 20 City Hall workers and one Health Department employee. City officials initially announced that 15 police administrators would be laid off, but later in the day corrected the number to 10.

"I'm not happy about this and I do it with a heavy heart," Finch said. "But this is a serious time. We have to do more with less."

Finch said police layoffs -- the Fire Department will not lose any employees -- do not include rank-and-file officers who patrol city streets. "We have done our level best to make sure this does not impact public safety."

City Council member Robert Curwen, D-138, the co-chairman of the council's Budget and Appropriations Committee, said he supports the work force reductions. "He's doing the right thing."

But Curwen said Finch had promised to include council leaders like himself in discussions over who to layoff and apparently didn't. "This is all news to me. I don't know what to say. There is no communication," he said.

Officer Frank Cuccaro, the president of the Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159, said, "We're very upset at the current chain of events."

Bridgeport is not the only large city in

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Connecticut laying off workers. New Haven Mayor John DeStefano last week laid off 35 city workers and Hartford's 2008-09 budget calls for 119 layoffs. Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez has hinted that more layoffs may be needed to reduce a growing budget deficit.


Earlier this year, Finch announced plans to lay off 110 workers, although some of those jobs were restored when the 2008-09 budget was adopted. Still, as a result of that round of layoffs, the city now employs 70 fewer people than when Finch first took office, and there are 18 unfilled positions.

About 2,000 people work on the city side of government, and about 2,700 work for the Board of Education.

This year's $492 million municipal budget already is running a deficit of at least $6 million, mostly caused by the likely loss of $4.5 million in anticipated revenue from the sale of Steel Point to developers, a transaction that is not likely this year, and $1.5 million in union concessions called for by Finch, which have not come through.

The city's 2007-08 budget ended the fiscal year with a $20 million deficit, which was mostly covered using reserve funds. The fund balance in the budget now stands at a mere $9 million.

A financial report recently issued to the City Council indicates there was a $1 million deficit in July, the first month of the 2008-09 fiscal year. Those figures do not include the likely $6 million shortfall, so the current deficit probably more like $7 million.

The names of those targeted for layoff were withheld Monday as officials try to notify each employee. The Finch administration promised to release the names as soon as everyone has been told their fate.

The mayor said the tide of red ink is caused in part by home foreclosures sweeping the nation and the city, where 5,200 subprime loans had been issued. The mayor said revenues from home sales and real estate levies are down, as well as fees for a variety of permits.

At the same time, municipal expenses, particularly for energy and health care, are rising, Finch said.

The mayor said a combination of 20 percent spending reductions in all departments, a hiring freeze, employee furloughs and layoffs is expected to save about $3.5 million this fiscal year.

"We are holding the line on spending across all departments," the mayor said.

Other measures designed to save money include a future audit of the city's health insurance plan with the goal of eliminating employees and their families no longer eligible to be part of the plan. The city's Bootfinder program, which identifies motor vehicles on which taxes are owed, will target tax delinquents more aggressively.

The police layoffs target some of the department's highest-paid administrators, a group that collectively receives the largest amount of overtime each year.

The Police Department last year spent $8.8 million in overtime, $1.3 million more than budgeted. Asked why top police administrators account for a disproportionate share of the department's overtime, Finch said, "I never got a satisfactory response to that question."

At the mayor's behest, the department is creating a non-union, assistant chief position. That official, once hired, will handle overtime assignments and other administrative functions.

The mayor renewed his call for city employees to work a week without pay, saying about 50 non-union employees have already signed up, saving about $100,000. Union members have so far refused to participate in the furlough.

Cops, supervisors disagree on morale

Staff writer

BRIDGEPORT -- Contract negotiations between the city and the police union have resumed, and Mayor Bill Finch has personally visited officers during roll call to the calm their fears as the city struggles to close a budget gap and refill its coffers.

The mayor's efforts and new round of talks are bringing morale up, said two deputy police chiefs, but one member of the union's executive board disagrees.

"Morale is in the dumper," said Officer Kenneth McKenna, the executive board member of the Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159. "Guys leave their homes at 3:30 and count the minutes until midnight."

"[Expletive] poor is the best way to describe it," he said.

McKenna's comments followed a statement by Sgt. John Whalen, also a union official, that the city's return to the negotiating table is a positive.

"Things are at least moving forward," Whalen said. The next negotiation meeting is scheduled for Friday.

The assessments of morale came at Tuesday's meeting of the city's Board of Police Commissioners, where officers updated the board on the status of negotiations. The past contract expired on June 30 and the city initially offered no raises in addition to asking for givebacks from all unions.

Finch also ordered department overtime cut in half.

A combination of disagreements between the union and the mayor, as well as Chief Bryan T. Norwood, led to about half of the union members to approve a motion of no confidence in

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the two officials in August. Later in the month, some union members and officers from neighboring departments also picketed at a golf tournament hosted by the city and the Connecticut Post.


Deputy Chief Adam Radzimirski, who supervises plainclothes officers, mainly narcotics officers and detectives, said he overheard two officers recently discussing an arrest they made.

"Their hearts are still in the right place," he said.

Deputy Chief James Honis, who supervises uniformed officers, said Finch has been talking "one on one" with officers at roll call, where they start their shifts.

Board Vice President David Hall said the panel was drafting a laudatory letter to officers.

But it's not the lack of a contract that has the rank-and-file down, McKenna said, speaking for himself, rather than the union.

The recent removal of long-standing court order, resulting in Norwood getting more disciplinary power, and a related issue of the chief's hand-picked Neighborhood Enforcement Team are depressing morale, according to McKenna.

In June, a state labor arbitrator ruled against the chief's selection process of the team, but the city is appealing that order with the mayor's backing.

The arbitrator ruled the chief violated the expired contract's seniority-based selection clause. The team performs enforcement, stings and investigations, rather than going from call to call as patrol officers do.

"The NET issue really tears most of the guys up," McKenna said.

City to name assistant police chief


BRIDGEPORT — The city is re-establishing the job of assistant police chief, an administrator whose goal will be to help cut the huge overtime piled up by the department.

"This person is going to be critical to the chief in reining in an out-of-control police overtime budget," Mayor Bill Finch said of the non-union post.

The Police Department overspent its overtime budget by $1.3 million in the last fiscal year, and is poised to burn through its reduced $4.5 million overtime budget for 2008-09 in six or seven months, Finch said. He has ordered Chief Bryan T. Norwood to halve overtime spending.

The assistant chief job would be salaried, not subject to overtime and would likely be filled from within the department's ranks, according to the mayor.

The position doesn't violate the city's contract with the Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159, said Officer Frank Cuccaro, union president. The pact expired on June 30.

The job was approved in 2002 by the city's Civil Service Commission, and again last month, said Ralph Jacobs, the city's personnel director.

"The chief needed someone who is not affiliated with the union, a direct assistant," Jacobs said.

The chief is now the only member of the department who doesn't belong to the union.

The new job would add to the number of supervisors in the department. There are four deputy chiefs, the next-highest rank, who are paid annual salaries of $85,803 to $94,425.

Two of those chiefs, Joseph Gaudett Jr. and James

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Honis, were among the top 10 overtime earners last year, which angered Finch.

He said that he isn't opposed to patrol officers being paid overtime, but doesn't think supervisors should. Also on that overtime list were lieutenants and sergeants.

Cutting overtime is actually the deputy chiefs' jobs, and Norwood should be preventing them from earning overtime, Cuccaro said.

"That's the chief's job, to rein in his people," the union president said.

But Cuccaro also suggested dismantling the Neighborhood Enforcement Team — a point in contention between the union and the chief, who says he has the right to assign officers of his choosing to the unit — to bolster patrol and reduce overtime. That would return about a dozen officers and a sergeant to regular duty.

Norwood handpicked the members of the team, which takes on a range of quality-of-life crime issues rather than handling daily calls. That subjective selection process violated the union contract's seniority clause, a state arbitrator has ruled. The city is appealing that in court, and the squad remains in service.

Finch also said he wants to restructure the Police Department by removing more supervisors from the union and changing seniority-based selection for squads to right of assignment by the chief.

The current setup isn't good for running a "fiscally prudent police department," he said.

Norwood has already disbanded the Traffic Division, which had 12 officers, and other units may also be closed, with the officers being re-assigned to patrol duties. The union has identified the Mounted and K-9 units and the Tactical Narcotics Team as possible targets for future cuts.

The assistant chief's position must now be reviewed by the Miscellaneous Matters Committee of the City Council.

"The concept of the job is as far as it's gone," Jacobs said.

The last assistant chief in the department was Karen Krasicky, who retired in 2005 to lead the Plymouth Police Department. The assistant chief before her was the late Robert Mangano.

Bridgeport cop board chair calling it quits


BRIDGEPORT — After more than two decades as an elections moderator for the city and four years as chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners, Thomas L. Kanasky had enough.

The mudslinging and partisan bickering all too common to Bridgeport politics had taken a toll on Kanasky, 61, and he walked away from civic service, convinced it just wasn't worth the aggravation.

"I'm not lending my credibility to the city ever again," Kanasky said one recent afternoon, sitting in his downtown law office on Fairfield Avenue. Still, he added, "I'm very satisfied with my four years on the [police] board."

With his term on the board set to expire and a replacement nominated, Kanasky resigned his chairmanship in June — around the same time he stepped down as head moderator amid lingering allegations of election fraud in the Democratic mayoral primary.

For some of Kanasky's colleagues, his exit from the political scene was a big loss for the city.

He has "an impeccable reputation," said Santa Ayala, the city's Democratic registrar of voters. "I think it's a great loss. You have an honest, capable individual."

David Hall, vice president of the police board, also praised his former colleague and vowed to continue his reform efforts aimed at giving the board more control over disciplinary cases.

In his resignation letter to the board, Kanasky accused the department's leadership and the city of ignoring the history of minority officers' federal discrimination


lawsuits against the department and the resulting remedy orders.

A Democrat since he first registered to vote at 18, Kanasky said he's always been independent in judgment and the city knew that before then-Mayor John M. Fabrizi appointed him to the board. He turned Republican in 2006 because, he says, the Democrats had gone too far left for him.

"I got tired of Democratic politics, not just in the city," he said. "The Democratic Party just doesn't want conservative people. I always felt they needed a conservative lean."

Finch, who defeated state Rep. Chris Caruso, D-Bridgeport, in last year's contested primary, said he's known and respected Kanasky for years, and credited him for his board service. But Finch said he sought a police board that would support Police Chief Bryan T. Norwood and wanted "a fresh set of eyes on the Police Department."

Kanasky took exception to the mayor's use of the word "support." "There's a difference between supporting and obeying," he said. "Somebody's got to point out to me where I didn't support the chief."

His comments appeared to be a veiled reference to the case of Officer Douglas Bepko, who was fired by the board last year after a domestic violence incident. Norwood had wanted Bepko fired immediately, but the board held hearings and fired him several months later. Norwood, displeased, stopped talking to the board for several months, but eventually reconciled. The chief has said he looks forward to working with the board — which has several new members — but hasn't commented directly on the former chairman.

Hall sided with Kanasky on the Bepko issue, saying it also illustrates Kanasky's independent stance. The board acts as a liaison between the public and the department, but is independent of both.

Firing Bepko too quickly would have been a mistake, Hall said. "As an attorney, he knows the consequence of that action," he said.

Kanasky said he was also frustrated by lack of communication with the mayor, which hurt his efforts to get department policy enforced. The silence, he added, has continued to this day.

"The mayor and I have never talked about the police commission or anything," the former chairman said.

For example, he said, he tried to get the city and the department to adhere to the proper procedure for appointing officers to the Office of Internal Affairs. He was also trying to get the board to hear more discipline cases, because some serious ones were handled quietly in-house by Norwood, he said.

"The department is still pick and choose" in terms of discipline, Kanasky said. "I thought there should have been referrals to the board. There are cases we knew about that we thought should have been referred to the board."

The last straw for Kanasky, however, was the Democratic primary. After Caruso lost, he accused Kanasky of not being certified to run elections because of inadequate training on the electronic voting machines.

But now, Kanasky said, he doesn't have to worry about that.

He appears to have plenty to keep him busy, judging by the full boxes stacked in his law office and the filing cabinets against the wall. He's been practicing since 1980.

That career and his efforts to get a monument built for Bridgeport's World War II veterans, living and dead, are the only things on his mind these days. Kanasky, is a Vietnam veteran and a retired colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

"I want to get this monument built and maybe retire from public life," he said.

Cop units cut to save on OT


BRIDGEPORT — Police Chief Bryan T. Norwood has disbanded the department's 12-officer Traffic Division and other specialized squads, including the K-9 Unit, Mounted Unit and the Tactical Narcotics Team, may be next on the chopping blcok.

"It is my understanding that other specialized units are going to be disbanded this week," said Officer Frank Cuccaro, the president of the local police union.

Norwood on Friday said the changes are designed "to maximize the resources in patrol in order to minimize overtime expenditures. I'm trying to look at any way to reduce overtime."

Mayor Bill Finch recently ordered Norwood to cut his department's overtime in half after its overtime exceeded the amount budgeted last year by $1.3 million.

Cuccaro had a different view of why the units are being disbanded.

"I feel this is classic union busting," he said. "I feel the disbanding of these units has largely to do with recent events sponsored by the union." He was referring to the union's Aug. 15 protest targeting Finch and Norwood at the Mayor's Cup charity golf tournament, as well as union members' 187-27 vote in favor of a no-confidence motion in the chief. The union's contract expired June 30, and the city has offered no raises while requesting furloughs and givebacks in the stalled negotiations on a new pact.

Cuccaro said the chief can disband a specialized unit, but must restore its original membership if he puts it back together, under the contract.


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its duties, the Traffic Division investigated hit-and-run crashes and serious accidents, and conducted speed-enforcement operations.

"They put out an abundant amount of parking tags, which generates revenue for the city, Cuccaro said.

Police and city officials were hesitant to comment on the turn of events, but said public safety is a high priority.

City Councilwoman Michelle Lyons, D-134, the co-chairwoman of the council's Public Safety and Transportation Committee, wants to speak to the chief about the changes.

"I want to see what the final outcome is on this," she said. "The chief made this decision. I want to find out why he made this decision."

Cuccaro first brought up the Traffic Division issue at last week's meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners, prompting Vice President David Hall to express concern.

"We don't want to manage the department, but we want to have a clear understanding of what's going on," Hall said Friday.

He added that he doubts the chief would make cuts "just to get back at somebody."

The chief must be working with somebody, such as the mayor, in making such changes, Hall said.

"Every one of them will be missed," he said of the affected units.

Another concern is what would happen to the police dogs and horses, which are trained and cared for by the city, if those units are disbanded.

Teed-off cops picket mayor's golf tourney


Click photo to enlarge
Bridgeport Police office, Lidio Pereira, leads a chant on... (B.K. Angeletti / Staff photographer )
BRIDGEPORT — Police officers picketed the "Mayor's Cup" charity golf tournament Friday to call attention to their contract dispute with Mayor Bill Finch.

About 75 officers, some from as far away as New London, demonstrated in a circle at the Park Avenue entrance to Fairchild Wheeler Golf Course as Finch arrived for the event. They later marched past the clubhouse as the tourney got under way.

Some held signs with slogans including, "Grinch: Leave Our Contract Alone" and "Finch is a Zero." Officers said Finch is unfairly demanding officers accept no raises for two years, work one week for free and cut overtime in half as a way to help close a looming gap in the new fiscal year's budget.

"We are just showing our disdain for the city administration," said Frank Cuccaro, president of Local 1159, which represents the city's patrol officers. Union members recently approved a motion of no confidence in Finch and Chief Bryan Norwood.

"The administration is failing to negotiate in good faith. They want us to work for free for a week and they walked away from the table," Cuccaro said.

"We keep the city safe and expect fair wages."

For his part, Finch took the protest in stride, arriving at the golf tournament via the Stratfield Road entrance in Fairfield, where none of the police pickets were stationed.

"It's part of the job," Finch said as he walked toward the clubhouse to check in for the charity event, which was sponsored by the Connecticut Post and the city.

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The proceeds benefit the Newspaper in Education program, which uses newspapers to encourage children to read.

The police union donated $400 to the cause.

Finch defended his contract demands, which he said includes cutting police overtime in half, from more than $8 million last year to about $4.5 million this year.

"The city is in a financial crisis and we have to make cuts. There are measures we have to take to keep the city financially sound," he said.

Meanwhile, police working the picket line were clearly unhappy with the mayor.

Officer Todd Sherbud marched with a sign proclaiming, "I should have voted for Caruso," referring to Finch's opponent, state Rep. Christopher Caruso, in the Democratic primary for mayor last fall.

Asked if he really voted for Finch, Sherbud said he did, but would not again, "if I knew what I know now."

James Howell, who represents the statewide police union, said Bridgeport is the only community offering no pay raises to its police officers.

"These guys put their lives on the line every day. They are just looking for a fair and decent wage. They are on the lowest-paid department," Howell said.

Cuccaro acknowledged negotiations between the union and the city are at an impasse and said the deadlocked talks will likely have to be resolved in arbitration, where officers are likely to win some type of a raise.

"We are looking for what we deserve. We want at least 3 percent," Cuccaro said.

Norwood arrived at the golf course with Finch. Both planned to play in the tournament, even though neither are avid golfers. Finch, in fact, said he had never played a round before.

The chief said the Police Department could reach Finch's goal of cutting overtime in half and still keep an adequate deployment of officers on the street. "The mayor said there are cuts that must be made. We will keep enough officers on the street to maintain public safety."

The union contends reducing overtime will make it impossible to maintain the current staffing level of 21 officers per shift.

"The mayor wants to lower it by 60 percent. That will kill public safety," Cuccaro said.

Police overtime has drawn attention lately, partly because the department exceeded its budgeted overtime by $1.3 million last year. Bridgeport pays the most overtime of the state's largest cities, and the issue has sparked controversy because high-ranking officers are paid a large share of the overtime.

Finch said the practice of high-ranking officers being paid a disproportionate share of overtime will stop. He said savings from ending that practice will help the department cut overall overtime and maintain a sufficient number of officers on the street.

Norwood: 'Perfect storm' plagues police


BRIDGEPORT — The Police Department has been caught in a "perfect storm" of fiscal, management and legal problems, but the department must, and will, continue to protect and serve, Police Chief Bryan T. Norwood said Wednesday.

The chief's comments came after nearly half of the members of the Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159 voted "no confidence" in him and Mayor Bill Finch on Monday.

Norwood, speaking in his Congress Street office Wednesday afternoon, said he understands the union's frustration, but he's operating on a city order to cut spending across the board.

"We're in perfect storm," he said. "We're in a fiscal crisis. We're in a transition from federal oversight. We're in contract negotiations. We're halfway through the contract of a chief who has a different management style."

That style is the basis of one union grievance over staffing of the Neighborhood Enforcement Team, a group of about a dozen officers chosen and commanded by Norwood to handle quality-of-life issues.

In June, however, the union won a court order for NET members to be chosen by seniority, as are other squads such as the patrol, K-9 and communications divisions and the Tactical Narcotics Team. The city is appealing that order.

But having seniority and being qualified "may not be synonymous," Norwood said. In the New Haven Police Department, where Norwood last worked, the chief has the right of assignment.

"This is a $43 million business," he said of the department's operations.


"At some point you have to let the president or CEO run the business."

He does appreciate the officers, crediting them with a reduction in crime.

"You have some of the best police officers here in the city. They provide a service like no other: NET, the Mounted Unit, K-9, the Emergency Services Unit, Harbor Patrol. We have the [all-terrain vehicles]. All those add up," Norwood said.

"Crime is down. Our shootings are down significantly," he added.

Keeping up the number of officers is the problem. Under his watch, the city is training its third class of officers in two years. But it's not keeping pace with officers leaving.

"We've lost a total of 58 officers in 24 months," with 48 new hires at the same time, he said.

Of the 48, 19 are training in the Police Academy and could start field training in the community in October if they all pass. On top of that, Norwood said, he's cutting spending on programs, details and training that lead to overtime, on orders by the city Office of Policy and Management to trim overtime by 50 percent. The department logged $1.3 million over its overtime budget in the past fiscal year.

Still, the combination of problems doesn't relieve officers of their duty, Norwood said. He and all of the 442 sworn officers took the same oath to protect and serve.

"That's what I expect the union members to continue to do in light of these difficult circumstances," he said.

Times are tough compared to when Norwood, the youngest chief in city's history, was appointed in 2006. The department didn't have much technology but quickly acquired new cruisers, Segways and a mobile command unit, among other things.

But Norwood said he knew the city's shaky financial history when he signed on. "At some level, we're always prepared for fiscal difficulties," he said.

In the end, the answers really lie between the city and the union. Seniority is one issue, among a host of them: increasing health-care premiums, a lack of raises, furloughs and the city requesting union concessions. The city is trying to reap savings to replenish its fund balance, which is used in rating the city's credit.

"I would hope that the city and the union could come to some agreement in an expedited manner. The city deserves the best protection I can provide and we can provide," Norwood said.

Cops vote 'no confidence' in chief, mayor


BRIDGEPORT — Nearly half the Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159 has voted "no confidence" in Chief Bryan T. Norwood and Mayor Bill Finch.

The ballots, tallied Monday night, show 187 police officers voted no confidence in the administration while 27 voted against the no-confidence motion. Ballots were mailed to the union members two weeks ago.

The vote is symbolic and has no practical impact on the chief, who is chosen by the mayor. Norwood was sworn in April 2006, and has a five-year contract.

But the vote indicates deep discontent with the ranks of city police, said Officer Frank Cuccaro, the union president.

"It shows that the Police Department as a whole doesn't support the actions of the chief or the mayor regarding the contract and the way the mayor's trying to change the workings of the department," Cuccaro said.

The chief declined Tuesday to make immediate comments on the no-confidence vote, but indicated he would discuss his views today.

The police union of 442 sworn officers has been working without a contract since June 30, and the cash-strapped city hasn't offered raises, in addition to demanding givebacks from all municipal unions.

The no-confidence vote follows criticism by Finch last week that the Police Department exceeded its inside overtime budget by $1.3 million in the 2007-08 fiscal year, contributing to a $19 million deficit in the overall budget last year.

Finch also criticized the ballooning overtime because some of the top


earners are deputy chiefs and other police supervisors. Police of all ranks can be members of the union, except the chief.

Finch wants overtime reined in, but Cuccaro said less overtime would jeopardize public safety by leaving shifts with fewer officers.

On average, 21 officers per shift provide coverage for the city's three patrol sectors, a deployment that can rise as high as 30 officers per shift, he said.

"It's going to hurt the response time," Cuccaro said. He added that officers earn the city $10 an hour for overtime road jobs, bringing the city $1 million in compensations from contractors.

Finch said he would "do what's in the best interest of the citizens of Bridgeport and public safety."

"I will not play politics with public safety," the mayor said.

He also supports Norwood, who has added 46 officers to the department and expanded its crime-fighting technology.

"I have great confidence in Bryan Norwood. One has to look no further than how Bridgeport compares with other major cities in our state to see how successful Chief Norwood has been," Finch said.

The last vote of no confidence in a city police chief was taken in 2004 against Norwood's predecessor, Wilbur Chapman, which failed.

Meanwhile, Cuccaro has pledged the union will picket Finch and Norwood at the first Mayor's Cup Golf Tournament, co-sponsored by the Connecticut Post, on Friday at the Fairchild Wheeler Golf Club. He has invited members of other municipal unions with complaints against the administration to join the demonstration.

Police to protest at Mayor's Cup


BRIDGEPORT — City police officers plan to hit the Fairchild Wheeler Golf Club for the first-Mayor's Cup tourney on Friday, but they won't be bringing their golf bags.

Instead, they'll be carrying signs protesting the lack of a union contract and other issues, said Officer Frank Cuccaro, president of the Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159. The union's contract with the city expired June 30.

"We would like to invite members from all unions in general that are in the same predicament we are," Cuccaro said. The rally in support of the unions is slated to begin at 10 a.m.

Mayor Bill Finch has asked for union members to give back one week of vacation and has threatened layoffs otherwise, saying the concessions are necessary in a tight budget year with a multi-million dollar deficit looming for the city budget.

Finch said he doubts the officers would follow through with their threat of a protest. "I don't believe that they'll be picketing a charity," he said. The tournament, co-sponsored by the Connecticut Post, benefits the Newspapers in Education program and local charities.

The city recently hired Ryan & Ryan of New Haven, which specializes in labor law, to assist with negotiations on contracts with the eight municipal unions and to squeeze at least $1.5 million in savings from workers.

Cuccaro said two major problems between the police union and the city are how personnel assignments are made to the Neighborhood Enforcement Team issue and "the way contract


negotiations are going."

According to the union's Web site, the city has declared an impasse in negotiations after offering no raises. In addition, the city has asked for concessions on medical benefits for active members and retirees, sick and overtime benefits, further "civilianization" of jobs, and to give the chief the right of assignment to all police units, the site says. A new dispatch center slated to open next year will be staffed entirely bycivilians.

The right of assignment relates to Neighborhood Enforcement Team, a group of about a dozen officers chosen and commanded by Norwood for a variety of tasks, from gang investigations to quality-of-life issues such as drugs, loitering and under-age drinking. The unit does not respond from call to call, as the Patrol Division does.

In June, however, the union won a court order for NET members to be chosen by seniority as are other assignments. The chief is appealing that.

Cuccaro said seniority is important to the contract. All other teams are chosen by seniority.

"He wants the right to assign everyone in the department. He's basically trying to do away with seniority," the union president said.

Regarding salary increase proposals, Finch said, "We're not sure if we can afford zeros."

"I can't even guarantee we'll avoid layoffs," he added.

Another cost-cutting measure is furloughs, which Finch has said could shave $3 million. He's asking the city's other roughly 4,700 employees to agree to take week-long furloughs, including those he does not directly manage, such as teachers and workers at the Bridgeport Port Authority and the Water Pollution Control Authority.

Cuccaro opposes that move.

"It's ridiculous for him to ask for that," he said. "If the police took a week furlough, it would cost the city in overtime."

Money would be better spent dropping the Neighborhood Enforcement Team appeal and reducing the number of city take-home cars, he said.

Finch urged the unions to resume negotiations as they did in 1992 when the city last faced tough economic times.

Court to end oversight of police


NEW HAVEN — The power to administer, assign and discipline his officers will be returning to Bridgeport's police chief for the first time in 25 years this fall.

"I've expressed the view on many occasions that there is a time to conclude court jurisdiction of a governing entity," U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton said during a nearly four-hour-long hearing.

So after tweaking a proposed order and agreeing to oversee a 17-month implementation, Arterton indicated that the 25-year control the federal court and its special master, William Clendenen, have exerted over the way the department has handled its black officers may soon be over.

The judge said the way the city implements and handles the changes will "put the court in a position to make a decision that the remedy order be vacated, needs modification or be left alone."

That will happen during a December 2009 hearing.

On Tuesday, lawyers for the city and the Bridgeport Guardians, an organization representing black officers, formalized a proposed order that could bring an end to the 25-year-old case. Following a weeklong trial a quarter century ago, the late U.S. District Judge T.F. Gilroy Daly found widespread racial discrimination within the Bridgeport police department. The judge's finding was based on the fact that of the 33 black officers in the department in 1982, all but one was assigned to patrol the most crime-ridden areas of the city. The other was assigned to the record room. None had


supervisory positions.

The proposed order, which could end the case "is an opportunity for the city to get its act together," said Ted Meekins, a retired black police officer and a plaintiff in the original proceedings. "The union has the opportunity to make things happen or hold up the process. All the Guardians have wanted for the past 30 years is a more level playing field."

The union, represented by Harry Elliott, voiced some concerns over the proposed order during Wednesday's hearing.

On Wednesday, Arterton learned the city now has 68 black officers, which constitutes 16.27 percent of its 418-member police department in a city where a third of its residents are black. The department also has 113 Hispanic officers and 52 female officers.

Broken down further, the department has a black chief. None of the four deputy chiefs are black. It has two black captains out of nine and two black lieutenants out of 21. It has 10 black sergeants out of 65 and five black detectives out of 41.

Arterton said the nearly doubling of black officers shows "progress," but the department's record in promoting blacks "is at best mixed — not what one might hope would be the result of 25 years of court intervention."

After hearing opposition from Elliott, the union's lawyer, to some aspects of the proposed order, Arterton called a brief recess. During the break, Antonio Ponvert, the Guardians' lawyer; City Attorney Mark Anastasi; Deputy City Attorney Arthur Laske III and William Wenzel, a private lawyer hired by the city, huddled and agreed to some changes. Arterton asked that a final version be submitted to her by Aug. 20. She indicated an intention to put the proposal in place by the second week of September.

"This is tremendous news for the city of Bridgeport," said Mayor Bill Finch. "The impact of this will be that we will be able to control our own police department — a move that will help us fight crime more effectively while simultaneously saving the money the city has been paying the special master since 1983."

It is believed that Clendenen received tens of thousands of dollars for conducting several hundred proceedings over the past quarter century.

Earlier Elliott expressed concern that the city would use some of the leverage it gained in assignments to diminish the union's bargaining tactics.

As it now stands the proposed order will allow:

l Bridgeport to suspend the use of hiring recruits in the order they place on the hiring list.

l The city will allocate $300,000 in increments of $50,000 over six years beginning in 2010 to help recruit minority candidates.

l The lawfirm of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, which represented the Guardians since the suit was filed in 1978, will forego more than $1 million in legal fees and court costs. Instead they will accept payment of $300,000 and then use that money to create and administer a program that will recruit, mentor, tutor and train black officers.

l The chief will have the authority to choose 50 percent of the officers to serve in the nearly dozen specialized units like K-9, Scuba, Emergency Response, Tactical Narcotics Team and Marine. The other 50 percent will be chosen based on seniority and qualifications.

l The chief will have the authority to assign officers to geographical areas within the guidelines of the collective bargaining agreement with the union and concerns raised by the Guardians.

l Handling complaints of racial discrimination will be taken away from Clendenen, a New Haven lawyer appointed in 1982 to hear such matters, and given to the chief.

l The city will write a non-discrimination policy for the police department that must be approved by the judge.

"We're trying to move forward and working with the chief to do so," said Sgt. William Bailey, president of the Guardians. "My main concern is that 50 percent of the current number of black officers will be eligible to retire in the next few years. We need to do a more effective job of recruiting more minority officers."

The proposal stems from months of closed-door meetings between the two sides, which U.S. Magistrate Judge Holly B. Fitzsimmons mediated.

"Based on the proceedings today, the city is confident the court will be issuing an order that reflects the significant progress the Bridgeport Police Department has made in recent years particularly under the leadership of Police Chief Norwood," said City Attorney Mark Anastasi. "We look forward to the court returning full operational control to the department in the foreseeable future."

To cover budget gap, city seeks concessions


BRIDGEPORT — The city has hired a New Haven law firm to help negotiate new union contracts and squeeze at least $1.5 million in savings from municipal workers.

Ryan and Ryan, which specializes in labor law, was hired to assist the city as it negotiates contracts with its eight municipal unions. The law firm is being paid $175 an hour for its work.

We have all the unions going at once and they are assisting in all negotiations," said Andrew Nunn, the city's chief administrative officer.

Ryan and Ryan has offices in New Haven and New London, and has represented more than 150 clients in the private and public sector, according to the firm's Web page.Nunn acknowledged the $492 million city and school budget recently adopted by the City Council includes a $1.5 million gap that city officials assume will be covered through union concessions or givebacks. If those savings fail to materialize, there would be an immediate deficit, he said.

The city first plans to offer employees voluntary unpaid furloughs, which essentially means vacation without pay. About 1,500 people work on the city side of government.

Adam Wood, Mayor Bill Finch's chief of staff, said he hopes a sufficient number of workers will take advantage of the furlough program, which can be offered without union negotiations or changes in current contracts, to offset the need for other measures, such as benefit reductions and layoffs."Everyone is going to need to sacrifice and tighten their belts a little,"


Wood said.

Nunn said if nearly all city employees take an unpaid week's vacation, the savings would be sufficient to cover the $1.5 million gap in the budget.

Wood said the request for furloughs also applies to non-union employees, including the mayor.

"Absolutely. The mayor has made that statement. It would apply to everyone," Wood said.

Police officer always provides extra help


Click photo to enlarge
Bridgeport Police Department Crime Prevention Officer... (Tracy Deer-Mirek/Staff photographer)
BRIDGEPORT — City police officer Nick Ortiz got the Liberty Bell Award from the Greater Bridgeport Bar Association for community service in setting up block watches as a crime prevention officer in the Community Services Division.

But it was his extracurricular community service really caught the association's eye.

For Ortiz, outside community service is all in a day's work. His real reward is being able to help people, which he's done all of his life.

Ortiz mentors city students, helps with Police Chief Bryan T. Norwood's taekwondo classes for troubled youth and flips burgers and hot dogs for the annual St. Anthony festival, held at St. Margaret's Shrine.

"I'm willing to help anyone, anywhere, anytime," Ortiz, 48, a 23-year-officer, said as he took a break from serving food at the festival at the Park Avenue shrine on June 13. The shrine used to house a statue of St. Michael the Archangel, patron saint of police officers.

Ortiz was nominated by attorney Douglas Mahoney, who was the president of the Greater Bridgeport Bar Association at the time. Mahoney said he was researching a nominee when he saw Ortiz's volunteer activities.

"Officer Ortiz's name jumped to the top of the list," he said. "I was just so struck by what he was doing."

Then he met Ortiz, whom he'd seen walking near police headquarters almost every day. Mahoney's Lyon Terrace office faces headquarters.

"I recognized him immediately," Mahoney said.

Ortiz, who grew up in the


city's East Side and visited the shrine on holidays as a child, said he's always wanted to help the community. He was inspired to become an officer after seeing a statue, in the shrine, where a tall St. Michael the Archangel stands over a police officer.

For the St. Anthony procession that follows the festival, he donned his uniform while off-duty and directed traffic, as he's done for the four years he has been with the festival.

Nick Mastroianni, an organizer with the festival since it was started 30 years ago, said he always needs people to pitch in at a moment's notice.

"The help is indescribable," he said. "It relieves you of all the pressure. We're grateful to have a person like him."

Another festival volunteer has also experienced Ortiz's help.

Cliff Roberts, president of the Germania Schwaben Society here, said Ortiz helped gather bicycles for children, which were presented around the holidays last year. Roberts hopes to repeat the program.

Ortiz is also trying to come up with fundraising ideas to replace the St. Michael statue, which went missing years ago.

He joined the department in 1985 after graduating from Warren Harding High School. He became a DARE officer, which got him into Community Services.

Today, with two years to go, he's not sure whether he'll retire.

"If I still see I can help, maybe I'll stick around for a while," he said.

One person who would like to see him stay is Brent DiGiorgio, spokesman for People's United Bank, headquartered downtown.

Ortiz linked DiGiorgio with the community, such as by helping him with the bank's Heroes Honoring Heroes program, which recognizes a police officer and a youth for helping the local community.

"He's been an enormous help to me," DiGiorgio said.

The spokesman credited Ortiz's upbringing with his service ethic.

Ortiz grew up in the notorious Father Panik Village, which had its share of violence and drugs and social problems.

"He has seen others suffer and in his life and, consequently, always wanted to give back to his community. His heart and his head are always in the right place," DiGiorgio said.



Finch wants Bridgeport to up its savings


BRIDGEPORT — Mayor Bill Finch, concerned about the impact of the city budget's shrinking fund balance on its credit rating, is implementing a new policy designed to shore up the account.

Finch on Tuesday announced the fund balance will now be at least 8 percent of the annual budget, which this year is $492 million, requiring about $40 million for the fund.

The mayor admitted reaching the goal will be difficult and could cause budget cuts similar to layoffs and spending cuts that drew nearly 1,000 protesters to City Council meetings while the budget was being set this spring.

"The city is in a financial crisis and this is another step we are taking. In the recent past we spent down the fund balance, and we spent it down in good times," Finch said.

The fund balance is the city's savings account, meaning money in the budget that is not allocated for specific use. The funds are supposed to be reserved for emergencies and unforeseen problems.

Credit-rating companies prefer a healthy fund balance or reserve account. If those credit firms reduce the city's bond rating, it will cost more to borrow money, and that can affect taxes.

Under the 2008-09 budget, which begins July 1, the city will have $15 million in the fund balance, or about 3 percent of the operating budget. That projection is a best-case estimate that assumes Finch will secure an additional $1.5 million in savings from municipal unions as contracts are negotiated in the coming year. By comparison,


the city's fund balance in 2000 was more than $50 million.

Finch warned there would be more layoffs if unions refuse to give back vacation time and other benefits.

Michael Lupkus, the city's deputy finance director, said the policy should allay immediate concerns credit-rating companies are likely to have over the diminished fund balance.

The new policy sets a goal of placing $2.5 million a year in the fund balance. During the 2009 fiscal year, about $1 million would be added, officials said. The City Council is now considering a resolution to make Finch's plan the city's official policy.

City Council President Thomas McCarthy, along with council members Robert Curwen and Leticia Colon, who jointly chair the council's Budget and Appropriations Committee, said they support the policy designed to bolster the fund balance.

"We are willing to take tough medicine. It won't be easy for citizens to take," McCarthy warned.

This year's budget battle illustrated how tight city finances have become. The move to privatize the school-based health clinics, for example, saved $1.5 million by taking dozens of nurses and other workers off the city payroll.

But $1.5 million, just to use that figure as an example, is $1 million less than the city's goal of placing $2.5 million in the fund balance by the end of 2010.

One factor that could ease future pain, and offset the need for more layoffs in coming years, is if the city gains additional revenue from economic development projects, such as Steel Point.

Bill Cummings, who covers regional issues, can be reached at 330-6230.

Arbitrator: NET staffing improper

AARON LEO Staff writer

BRIDGEPORT — A state labor arbitrator has ordered that the police Neighborhood Enforcement Team be staffed in compliance with seniority rules spelled out in the city's contract with the police union.

The ruling, however, is being appealed by the city, and pending the exhaustion of that process, the team will continue to function as constituted, according to John Bohannon, the lawyer hired by the city to handle the case.

"NET will continue performing its duties," said Bohannon, a former assistant city attorney. The state arbitrator, Joseph M. Celentano, heard arguments May 12 in City Hall and the ruling was issued June 5.

The Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159, in its complaint, contended that Chief Bryan T. Norwood violated the contract by personally selecting members of the 11-officer squad without regard to their seniority or promotional status.

The team tackles quality-of-life issues in target neighborhoods, such as loitering, illegal drugs and guns, break-ins and underage drinking.

The chief should have chosen the NET officers based on seniority, the union complaint states. However, union leaders add they do not want to see the squad disbanded.

Officer Frank Cuccaro, the union president, said the ruling called for the department to "rebid the positions and go by seniority."

The city must abide by the contract, he has said.

Mayor Bill Finch supports the team and the way its members were selected. "The NET team is essential to the public safety


of this city and we have seen great success with them under the direction" of the chief, he said.

"I support the NET team and the chief's method for staffing it one hundred percent and I will fight tirelessly to keep the team intact here in Bridgeport."

The team recently arrested a man who had escaped for the third time in six years from the Connecticut Valley Hospital, the state's mental hospital.

NET officers were alerted to look for the man, Roy Sastrom, 44, who was considered armed and dangerous for allegedly using a handgun to rob a bank in Chelmsford, Mass., after his escape.

Bohannon said that's just one of the team's recent accomplishments.

"It's an intelligence-gathering team" that also works on gangs and parole enforcement, he said.

The chief picked the team in consultation with two deputy chiefs. The unit hit the streets in February 2007, and is made up of a sergeant and 10 officers.

Each officer has different police-work specialties.

"It works because the people were hand-picked for their particular abilities," Bohannon said.

"This touches on the chief's ability to manage the department effectively," he said of the decision to challenge the arbitrator's ruling.

The union filed the grievance on behalf of an officer who applied to be a NET member, but failed to be selected, he said.

Sgt. Paul Grech, the head of the team, declined to comment on the ruling.

But, he said, Officer Chris Martin was recently added, bringing its membership to 11.

Meanwhile, the team was slated to receive an award Thursday from Mothers Against Drunk Driving for its enforcement of laws on underage drinking, Grech said.

In several sting operations, the team has nabbed numerous college students using false identification to illegally buy alcohol. The unit has also underscored the enforcement campaign by organizing forums on underage drinking with area college officials, and bar and package store owners.