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.
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.
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.