The issue has been in the news for more than a year and has certainly frustrated a number of city police officers, but this week the city is expected to announce disciplinary action against Lieutenant Lonnie Blackwell and another officer involving the fabrication of a racially charged letter that has generated unrest in the Police Department.
The city has moved slowly to announce the sanctioning of two officers in a case that dates back to the administration of Bill Finch. In the last week of Finch’s mayoralty, then-Police Chief Joe Gaudett was poised to place a high-profile police official on administrative leave in connection with the motive and authenticity behind a racially charged letter distributed throughout the department in February of 2015 that also involved now-retired police officer Clive Higgins, the only one of three city police officers acquitted in federal court with the stomping of a suspect in Beardsley Park several years ago. State law enforcement officials also simultaneously conducted a criminal investigation involving the role of city police officers manufacturing the letter typed anonymously on police letterhead to embarrass police leadership.
A few hours before Gaudett’s scheduled disciplinary action, the meeting with the chief was cancelled. As one source said then, “This may be a case where the next administration has to clean up the dirty dishes.” Finch left it for the Ganim administration to address it.
A local police internal investigation centers on fabrication of the letter that investigators believe was a ruse to set the appearance of a racial divide within the department. In one letter threatening language was directed at Higgins, an African American veteran police officer. Another letter distributed in 2015, headlined “White Power,” falsified the name of then-Assistant Chief James Nardozzi who stated following disclosure of the letter, “I am disgusted that someone would make such a hateful statement and falsify my signature to the document. I did not write or sign this letter nor have I made statements that even remotely reflect the sentiments of this letter.”
Higgins was also mentioned in another letter as well as Blackwell, president of the Bridgeport Guardians minority police organization. As the investigation gained traction, Higgins resigned from the police department, was charged criminally and received probation.
Retired city police lieutenant Ron Bailey, who also served as president of the Guardians, asserts prior to his retirement in 2013 that Blackwell urged him to write a report claiming Nardozzi was a racist.
“He wanted me to make up some things about Nardozzi making him out as a racist, he kept after me to do it but I refused,” Bailey is quoted in a Connecticut Post article.
Police Chief AJ Perez admits to being frustrated by the pace of the investigation. He wants to administer the punishment so the department can move on from the controversy. The case has been under review by the City Attorney’s Office for quite some time, but it appears whatever legal issues had to be cleaned up have been cleared for an announcement this week.
Blackwell is represented by former Mayor Tom Bucci, a seasoned labor attorney.
Last December Bailey issued this statement to OIB about the case:
As a past president of the Guardians and knowing personally about this case, I am offended by the recent turn of events. We as African America officers, for that matter any officer, should never compromise our integrity in the manner that has been exposed. I would say this, Clive Higgins has said he was coerced into writing that racial motivated letter. He is telling the truth. I know first-hand he was not the only one approached and asked to do something of that nature. I have also cooperated with all investigative bodies because it was the right thing to do. The investigation is still ongoing so I cannot divulge more than this for now.