Deputy Chief Jimmy Honis, the legendary 47-year veteran of the city Police Department who took on bad guys with brain and brawn, battled police chiefs who didn’t want him and survived local and federal investigations, will reportedly retire next Friday, according to several city sources. And with it will come a city payout involving accumulated personal days, comp time, holiday and unused vacation that sources say will be at least $500,000, in addition to an annual pension of more than $100K. He’ll retire as deputy chief of patrol.
Police Chief A.J. Perez has high praise for Honis. “He’s dependable, comes to work and gives 100 percent. He had a distinguished career. He’s a go-to deputy chief. I really appreciate his dedication and friendship and knowledge. He doesn’t BS or sandbag you. He’s a cop’s cop.”
Honis has been around so long one OIB reader likened him to the waiter at the last supper. It sounds like Honis will enjoy many suppers in retirement based on his payout package, but no one disputes the time he put into the job or his effort to the task. He put his time in. It wasn’t in Honis’ vocabulary to take a vacation or call in sick. It appears Honis is going out on his own terms with his pension completely maxed out. What’s the point in sticking around?
Several years ago City Council President Tom McCarthy, then serving as deputy director of Labor Relations, sighed when thinking about Honis’ government exit. “That one is going to break the bank,” he said. Honis would not confirm details of his exit package, but McCarthy years ago said he believed it would be at least hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Working his way up the ladder through the Civil Service testing process, Honis served in patrol, then radio technician servicing squad cars, vice, Office of Internal Affairs, rising through the ranks until named deputy chief about 15 years ago.
In his younger days as a vice cop, Honis was likened to Dirty Harry, the role made famous by Clint Eastwood, who railed against the injustices of career criminals who were back on the street seemingly moments after an arrest and even conviction. Honis worked undercover in the 1980s during a period some city neighborhoods were war zones of drug violence and gang activity with residents captives in their own homes.
To place things into perspective, when Honis joined the department in 1970, Richard Nixon was president, a gallon of regular gas was 36 cents, a dozen eggs cost 53 cents and a new home was about $28,000.
If Honis likes you, consider yourself lucky. He tosses around compliments like manhole covers. And if you’re a reporter who wrote something that did not jibe with his sensibilities, get ready for a prehistoric noise. But to those who know him, he’s a loyal friend.
Six years ago Honis was the subject of a federal law enforcement investigation reviewing a cold case involving the disappearance of a prostitute that went back some 35 years. He was placed on administrative leave, per union contract, for two years, making his return in 2013. Honis who was not charged sat back reading dubious newspaper headlines and stories that presented a thin case. He made his return in 2013.
Honis’ two-year absence cost taxpayers roughly $250,000 in salary and benefits without the benefit of Honis working. During his time away Honis who has a noncomformist streak grew out his silver locks into a Kid Rock look and when he returned balled it up under his police hat so it would not violate department grooming rules.
Honis was no fan of former Mayor Bill Finch whose administration placed him on leave, then was forced to take him back. Honis, like many city police officers, became actively involved in the mayoral comeback of Joe Ganim. Honis donated to Ganim’s campaign and attended a number of events.
Facing budget challenges, the Ganim administration has sought to streamline Police Department costs, and that includes efforts the past year to weed out the four deputy chiefs who serve under the police chief. As deputy chiefs leave city service it’s possible those positions will not be filled.
Efforts had been made to ease Honis out the door, but now in light of maxing out his pension, sources say, Honis no longer has a reason to don a city uniform. Honis has been a city resident throughout his police career.
I believe we have an expired Police Contract now. The question is how can City taxpayers have input on a new Police Contract? Resolve what many are seeing as excessive monetary benefits to Bridgeport Police Officers. But at the same time, to compare a contract to neighboring suburban police contracts and make sure that a contract is competitive but, yet not, a sweetheart deal. A strong, pro-active Board of police Commissioners would be a good start. Who is doing the negotiating? Is the City Council or any sub-committees part of the process?
Is this article about Jimmy Honis a red flag? Is this a portrait of what is wrong with the Bridgeport Police Department? I’ve met a few members of the BPD and they seemed sincere. Today’s police are of para-military quality. Is Honis of para-military quality? Some in the Police Department praise him. How do we judge the quality of that appraisal? OR is the appraisal wrong? I’ve said this before and I will say it again. Is the Bridgeport Police Department a Para-Military Unit or is it a Para-Political Unit? The people of the City of Bridgeport need to make a decision.
He’s probably losing money now by staying working, as opposed to what he’ll get during retirement. This is an example, why Bpt PD officers hang around on the job for at least 30-plus years before pulling the big R plug. High seniority years means vac. picks, chance for promotion, shift preference, and for some O/T, shift and job picks! It’s costing Bpt taxpayers a fortune for the Haz. Duty jobs O/T, benefits and later retirement.
Today’s PD is a para-political organization. Remember, Perez was Ganim’s driver during Ganim 1.
The last contract negotiated by McCarthy and Osborne gave away the store.
Honis doubled his pension with the new pension the city gave the cops and FF. Under the old pension contract Hones would have received 75% of his base pay and no more.
Can you blame him for wearing a Halloween costume? $500,000 is absolutely ridiculous, as well as $100k a year. No wonder the city is broke!
You can’t blame Honis for this one. He took what he could. God Bless you, Jimmy. And God Damn the morons who allowed this to happen. Just another example of what happens when you let a political appointee negotiate contracts.
He deserves every last dime he could get, he didn’t negotiate this contract, he did his job every day for 40 years, get all you can Jim, and enjoy your retirement.
Frank: The street cops of the ’80s and ’90s were the front line between a total public-safety meltdown and the ability of Bridgeport to hang on for another day. Do you recall the insanity of that period? Kids sleeping in bathtubs at night to avoid getting hit by stray bullets during gang shoot-outs in their neighborhoods; people getting shot by stray bullets on their way to work. The control of the Green Top Posse of one whole block of the East Side. The street cops of that era who worked the streets and prevented a total meltdown of functionality of the city (in a period of time in which there was chaos within the department, starting at the top, for a protracted, interim period, between chiefs Walsh and Sweeney) are owed a lot. Sure, Bridgeport is taking a hit, but if it weren’t for the street cops of Jim Honis’ era (especially the “real” “street” cops, who worked undercover/vice/narcotics, like Jim), there very well might not be a city that has to give one of the good-guy street soldiers their due after 47 years. (Think about that number, 47 years as a cop in one of the toughest cities in the country.) We owe Jim and should be glad to pay him. And Jim has lived in Bridgeport during his whole time on the force. I know that; he’s my neighbor in Lake Forest and has been for as long as I can remember.
And in terms of being paramilitary; Jim Honis and fellow vice and narcotics cops of that era were the equivalent of special forces/special ops solders. The toughest. The elite. The ones with the biggest cojones. I recall Detectives David Boston and Paul Carlson from that era. Also in regard to the busting up of the gangs, such as Green Top Posse, the Latin Kings, The Number 1 Family, et al. Very violent, murderous gangs. There were several shootings every day and 1-plus murders every week. Jim Honis and the street cops of that era were in the middle of the worst of it.
I personally don’t know Deputy Chief Honis. Several of you seem to vouch for him and I respect that. I question some of the ancillary issues his career might bring up. Of course, there is the contract which we may lay at the feet of those who negotiated the contract. I question that he never took vacation and has kept all that type of accrued time. Yes, it is allowed but a police officer’s job must be stressful and based on the situation in the 1990s, it must have been even more stressful. IMHO, the “management” of the Police Department should be aware if any burnout issues arise. Officer Honis was also politically active and, frankly, my opinion is the Department itself and the Union have been too politically active. Going back to Police Department Management, why did it take TWO YEARS to investigate and eventually clear/not file charges and Officer Honis was paid during that time? My questions are not personal towards Deputy Chief Honis. I’ve lived all my life in Bridgeport and I certainly remember the 1990s. A family car was stolen and I chased into Father Panik looking for it. It was a hellhole. I recognize his achievements based on what several of you have described. (I still have doubts about the political activity.) I believe a new contract is due to be negotiated with the Police Union/Department. Hopefully, city leaders will look at what some may see as deficiencies in the expired contract, compare contracts to other municipalities. In the big picture, I would like to see some more openness, transparency and community involvement in the negotiating and the finalization process. Beyond that, I would like to offer my thanks as well to Deputy Chief Honis for his long years of service to Bridgeport. The fact he has lived in Bridgeport during his years of service provides even further accolades. Today’s police officers are highly trained paramilitary officers who continue training and seek even higher levels of education if they aspire to move up in the ranks. I would like to see a Bridgeport Police Department that allows each officer to be 100% committed to their profession. One improvement i would like to see is a Police Department that is also more accountable to the community in terms of its central role in Public Safety but also its role in the fiscal health of our community. I believe I had read Acting Chief A.J. Perez was requested to meet with the Budget Committee earlier on but he did not show. Maybe going back to a more robust Board of Police Commissioners that would create greater separation between the Mayor’s office and the Police Department. Are there things we can do better or are we happy and satisfied with the present arrangement and with the general outlines of the previous police contract? I would like to end by saying, Thank You Deputy Chief James Honis.
Bottom line. This career shows positives and negatives of the Bridgeport Police Department/Union. Keep it as it is or change it. That is the question.
I remember those days, Jeff, on the front lines with real cops. There may be a few left but I’ve seen some pretty bad cops lately.