Ballot Rigged? Election Splits Local Guardians Organization

Sharpton, Bailey
Rev. Al Sharpton, left, with Ron Bailey during Guardians awards ceremony in 2009.

The Bridgeport Guardians, a 40-year organization fighting for the rights of minority police officers, is in the throes of a testy organizational struggle between current leader Lonnie Blackwell, a lieutenant who commands the Bridgeport Regional Police Academy, and members supporting the election of Milton Johnson as president.

Retired lieutenant Ron Bailey, who served as an officer for the organization, has been a vocal critic of the election process to select new officers. Some argue including Bailey that Blackwell has manipulated the election process to keep him in power including disregard for organization bylaws.

Blackwell, Meekins
Lonnie Blackwell, left, with Ted Meekins, the retired officer who successfully challenged the city’s minority police officer hiring practices. CT Post photo.

Former Guardians president, retired police lieutenant David Daniels who’s contemplating a run for mayor, weighed in on the issue with a comment on OIB addressing an election that was scheduled to take place and votes counted Wednesday of this week:

I don’t know if I’d call it a power struggle, more like a democracy turning into a dictatorship with some righteous people trying to prevent that from happening. There should have been elections last year and the current (un)President stalled them to stay in power to suit his own personal needs. He also stalled an attempted election where ballots should have been counted last night, that situation will be resolved.

Officer Johnson is no stranger to city elections. He was a petitioning candidate for mayor in 2007 and the 2010 Republican candidate for Connecticut’s 23rd State Senate district. OIB reached out to Johnson on the Guardians election issue two weeks ago. He responded:

I am going to decline your invitation for a commentary from me, as this is a private matter, and would be best handled “in-house.” It is my opinion that  publicity, at this juncture, would not serve to benefit the organization, neither will it bring the issue any closer to a resolution.

Milton Johnson
Officer Milton Johnson.

Bailey, who retired earlier this year from the department where he earned his stripes doing deep undercover work of drug gangs, issued an eblast to his contacts with a copy to OIB, declaring, “I have taken the liberty of making this email public to show my disappointment and to protect my interest having been linked to this organization. I do not want to be held responsible for gross violations of state-mandated policies that govern a non-profit organization.”

(Lonnie Blackwell, feel free to issue your point of view as well.)

Bailey isn’t bashful about what he says is Blackwell’s effort to rig the voting process to stay in power.

Unfortunately I can no longer associate myself with an organization that has been robbed of its vote and taken over by a few who have no right to do so.

I have tried to be a mentor to the Guardians and its membership. The repeated by-law violations, lack of active participation in the Bridgeport community, the failure to take a stand on serious issues facing policing in America has left me discouraged. The recent undermining of a voting process Guardians have had in place for over 30 years has left me with no choice but to distance myself.

I cannot tell you how disappointed I am to see this organization failing. And to have your vote discarded by people who are not legitimately in place is too much for me to watch. People in this nation died for the right to vote. No one has a right to change a process in the middle of an election whether its city, state, national or on an organizational level. The principles must remain the same. It’s heartbreaking to see an organization that made major changes in a community and nationally reduced to this.

In the early days of the organization, led by officer Ted Meekins, The Guardians took the city to court asserting wide-ranging discrimination within the hiring process of minority officers, including testing and promotions. U.S. District Judge T.F. Gilroy Daly issued a remedy order to address the hiring practices. The court also put in place a special master to oversee racial balance of the department and address allegations. The court, in an agreement between the Guardians and city, ended special master supervision four years ago.



  1. I was under the impression the Guardians didn’t have their Special Master taken away by the court; instead agreed with the department it was no longer needed. There was a segment of the Guardians that felt the racism and discrimination that existed when they were founded no longer was a major problem in the police department. What a joke!

    My president told me earlier this year he had members of the Guardians who expressed an interest in joining the Firebird Society because they were unhappy with their leadership and what should he tell them. I told him that they can’t join us as we are firefighters and they should work with their leadership and if they can’t, to vote their ass out of office. My president then called and asked if I would be amenable to a meeting with Guardian president Lonnie Blackwell. Of course I said I would because of my respect for my president and the Guardians.

    Well at this meeting all this fool wanted to do was denigrate Dave, Ted and some of the older members of the Guardians, which I took exception to. I told him the Guardians haven’t been relevant in the City of Bridgeport for years and he would be better served re-establishing a footprint in the city that pays their salaries. I went on to tell him the black community hasn’t heard from the Guardians on issues that are relevant to that segment of the community. All my suggestions fell on deaf ears with this dude. I can’t tell the members of the Guardians what to do, but the organization would be better served with a new president. Just my opinion!

  2. The Bridgeport Guardians is the organization that lead the fight to break down discrimination in testing and hiring. With the early leadership of Ted Meekins, Nelson Kearney, Art Carter and other Guardians members, they paved the way for others to follow. With great young lawyers Michael Koskoff and David Rosen, the fight was on for justice. Their victory opened the doors for the Firebird Society as Koskoff and Rosen led our fight for justice. So I thank the Guardians for all their efforts but now this is 2014 and the issues, battles and fights are still here.

  3. Rumor has it Blackwell is leaving the organization if he loses and forming a new one. He also tried to have his aunt count the ballots. He also canceled the count twice while trying to change the election method after hearing he will likely lose. Shame on the current members who allow this dictatorship to survive for his personal gain. Stands to lose more than just power, I hear.


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