Ganim Juggles The Politics Of Election-Year Public Safety

Perez swearing
Mayor Joe Ganim issues oath to AJ Perez in 2016 in acting chief capacity.

For the most part mayors live and die by their budgets. And public safety. And public safety. Did I mention public safety? Yup.

Last year, 11 homicides in Connecticut’s largest city marked the lowest total since the Police Department began documenting murders more than 40 years ago. The first quarter this year is already rivaling all last year. Violent crime, a capricious thing, can continue or level off.

Four years ago at this time Joe Ganim was gearing up for a remarkable comeback, a one-man riot squad raising big dollars, creating opportunities, flashing his Barnumesque campaign persona with public safety one of the foundations of his campaign branding incumbent Bill Finch out of touch on the things that matter, such as an understaffed cop department.

A hole in the fence of a public housing project presented an opportunity. Ganim performed a do-it-yourself fix. Violent crime spiked in the Trumbull Gardens public housing project. No problem, said Ganim. He opened an unauthorized police precinct staffed by off-duty city cops. So what it was unofficial? The point came across. Ganim’s chutzpah forced Finch into confessing me too and opening up the floodgates for police overtime.

Ganim fixes fence
Ganim chutzpah from 2015. Patching a fence at housing project.

Ganim returned to office backed by a majority of rank-and-file cops who raised money, issuing an endorsement–insulating cover from his past–and enlisting boots on the ground.

Now back as the incumbent, with a potential primary six months away, a number of police issues forge a distraction for Ganim on top of the spike in violent crime. Among them:

— 17 officers under probe for a messy Halloween-party response in 2017.

— 2 cops suspended for not following orders after they found the body of a colleague who committed suicide in his Milford home.

— A disturbance between two high-profile members of the department that’s now a criminal investigation.

— Despite Ganim bringing on multiple police classes to beef up ranks, they haven’t kept pace with retirements and defections that’s once again pushed staffing levels below 400, a disquieting number for Police Chief AJ Perez.

— Unionized members upset with Ganim for reeling in overtime and not backing their proposed pay increases.

— Other members questioning nice-guy Perez’s leadership skills.

Ganim’s strength is staying calm when everyone else around him is cracking up. He’s rarely ever swayed by emotion. The Police Department thing, however, forces him in an election year to salute the concerns.

This police toothache can drill an intense nerve-ending root canal or a crown. Some of this depends on violent crime approaching summer and how Ganim’s opponents frame an alternative.

Ganim has two potential primary rivals, his chief opponent State Senator Marilyn Moore and State Rep. Charlie Stallworth, a former Ganim staffer, both of whom are trying to chisel campaign operations while trekking to Hartford to fulfill legislative responsibilities. Not an easy juggle.

Moore, who has selectively challenged Ganim initiatives, is focused on raising campaign cash while Stallworth just recently entered the game in advance of the April campaign finance reporting period showcasing money strength.

Moore and Ganim
Moore, left, and Ganim share a ribbon-cutting in summer 2016.

As Ganim approaches reelection backed by the power of incumbency, public safety, albeit key, isn’t the only thing. In early April he’ll submit his fourth budget proposal to the City Council fueled by a beefed up grand list of taxable property. He’ll not raise taxes. The question is will he cut them a bit?

He’ll also maximize development opportunities across city neighborhoods as well as quality of life issues such as street paving and blight clearance.

Along the way he’ll voice quiet novenas imploring public safety peace.

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25 comments

  1. Mayor Ganim’s judgement is called into question when he chose Perez to lead the Bridgeport Police Department.

    A Stamford man was sentenced to two years in prison for crashing his car into two children and the woman who leaped to their aid last May outside a Bridgeport grocery store.

    Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Tatiana Messina told the judge the state’s case was hamstrung by the very minimal investigation done by city police. She pointed out that the report was only a paragraph long and no test was done to determine if Pearson was driving under the influence at the time of the crash.
    Low and behold a day later, Pearson was arrested by Stamford police and charged with possession of a hallucinogen and possession with intent to sell after Stamford police said they found PCP on him.

    How does Mayor Ganim and Chief Perez explain this dereliction of duty that almost caused this man who deliberately ran over two young children to be let go. Fellas who’s fault is this, Mayor Ganim for choosing the incompetent Chief Perez or Chief Perez for lacking the knowledge, the expertise or the ability to lead the Bridgeport police department?

    1. Now the cops are fighting in the chiefs office. Chief says he has internal affairs looking into the incident but says it was actually not a big deal. The captain involved has retained legal counsel and the other officer who is the union rep has no comment on the incident.
      The PD is imploding. There will be more buyouts and lawsuits and the men are seeking to go to other departments ASAP. But…. it’s no big deal. Does anyone think that the cops are going to perform under all of this turmoil, discord, and disfunction? You ought to hear what they’re saying to each other about it.
      Bridgeport’s in a heap of trouble.
      More to come….,.

  2. From all of the observables (by way of media coverage, direct observation as a city resident, and “street rumors”) concerning the state of City of Bridgeport public safety and the condition of the BPD, Rich Augustynowicz painted a pretty accurate picture of the unraveling of the BPD and the implications for the City.

    Mayor Ganim went beyond the previous administration in the deconstruction of the terrific community policing program that was bolstered and fined-tuned under the Fabrizi Administration.

    Community Policing has, essentially, been destroyed under Ganim II, even as the festering internal discord within the department, as well as maintenance of internal training programs and team-building efforts, in the context of appropriate reorganization and amelioration of field and bureau-level leadership deficits have been allowed to become increasingly problematic…

    Not to mention the failure to pursue an essential rejuvenation of the Board of Police Commissioners.

    The BPD is in the midst of catastrophic failure (implosion) as a direct result of the failure of the Ganim Administration to acknowledge and address the on-going, internal collapse of the Department, even as the inter-supportive effects of promoted, “real” community policing (per the Fabrizi/Armeno Community Policing initiative) that played at least a small measure in maintaining Department morale and community good will/inter-neighborhood cooperation/community-BPD harmonious cooperation has been studiously deconstructed by this Administration — in contrast to 2015 campaign promises of the revitalization of community policing…

    NOW WE KNOW WHY AV HARRISS MADE SUCH A TIMELY EXIT FROM BPT AS BPD SPOKESPERSON — HE SAW THE ERUPTION OF THE CURRENT, CATASTROPHIC, BPD POLITICAL VOLCANO…

    In any event, Bridgeport, and its police department, are in meltdown-mode, and a rapid response to the crisis is critical. As stated in a previous post:

    “…Where the BPD is lacking in resources is manpower — they are still severely short-staffed and rely on OT to close the gap… (Too much OT leads to burnout and diminished decision-making capacity, as well diminished ability to deal with general stress effects and the demands of the job…) There are also training deficits and field-leadership shortages — not to mention, critical, high-level leadership shortages/role-model examples… And there are intradepartment and community conflict issues that are unaddressed. These things make officers feel overwhelmed and hobbled, with respect to meeting the demands of Bridgeport’s violent/deadly streets… The restoration of real community policing would go a long way in ameliorating these problems/deficiencies, but outside help to bolster morale within the ranks and effective leadership on the force is also necessary and will take significant $ resources — as will recruiting enough capable officers to deal with our urban population of almost 150,000….”

    Mayor Ganim had better get the BPD some serious, outside assistance to deal with the various crises wearing down the rank and file of the department. And he had better get Governor Lamont to avail the resources of the state to the City in order to get BPD back on track and keep Bridgeport safe in the mean-time…

    But, in any event; Joe blew it on several fronts in G2, with public safety being the worst, and most critical area in this regard. This alone paints a bleak picture for is reelection… But with nothing of any substance coming out of the other candidacies in regard to this, or Bridgeport’s other crisis, it could appear that Bridgeport is once again on the cusp of calls for its disincorporation/regional-redistribution per the “bankruptcy days” of three decades past…

    G2 has come full circle with G1…

  3. Perez has thrown every single member of the BPD under the bus with his recent actions and statement. There is a cliche statement”The Buck Stops Here.” That statement does not exist on Perez’ desk nor his office nor his ethical or moral leadership of the BPD. Perez will only save his own skin and that of Joe Ganim. I wonder how Chuck Paris feels these days? Yes,his union members are getting overtime but they are also being called “the problem” by Chief Perez and Ganim,typically,is saying nothing because none of this fits under the PR tent that Ganim brings out for his interminable groundbreakings.

      1. OurBPD officers are human beings and they need to be taken care of. The number one civic leader is the mayor. There is the City Council. There is the management of the Police Deoartment itself. There is the union that represents these human beings called police officers. Police officers are not robots. From the start of their careers,they need to live,love,have family,have friends,enjoy life and maintain smiles throughout their careers. Especially in the last few months I have met new BPT officers. They are strong,they smile,they have a sparkle in their eyes,they have a strong handshake. We need to maintain that effervescence. I will not back off.

  4. Don, Rich and Jeff you guys have spell out the problems and the issues with the police department, Mayor Ganim and the Police Commission and the meltdown with no answers in sight and nothing from the candidates who want to be the mayor. Outside help and new leadership is needed, it’s obvious that Chief Perez and Mayor Ganim are lost.

  5. There were apparently eight police officers assigned to maintain order at Tuesday night’s Police Commission meeting which had approximately 25 attendees.

    This is a blatant form of police intimidation.

    We have 7 murders to date, rampant crime, gang banging, drug dealing, robbery, sexual assault and more, yet eight police officers were monitoring a meeting at 999 Broad Street instead of patrolling our neighborhoods.

    1. If that’s the case and that many were assigned to “maintain order” then my guess would be the commission expected a large turnout to protest and or demand action in light of the situation at the department and in the streets. If that’s indeed what was expected then it was either because of rumors or believe it or not, common sense on their part that a large amount of citizens might show up. They weren’t afraid of any officer issues that may have been on the agenda were they?
      Either way I guess whatever they expected if anything, never materialized. Similarly, we would expect throngs of citizens to go to the polls during elections and vote many Bridgeport politiicans out. Will that ever happen?!!!!
      And again I say: where are the “newer” CC members voices? The ones who are thought to have seeked office to shake up Bridgeport’s controllers?
      A sad state of affairs, and again points to the insiders corrupt and mismanaged way of doing business. Maybe not so mismanaged at the political higherarcy!
      Nothing here that’s ‘for the people’.
      Oh, and speaking of corrupt and devious Bridgeport politics and again, NOT for the people, this Monday’s zoning meeting is when after 4 years Defilippo will probably get his wish to open his liquor store. Then the fight against that will AGAIN continue… more to come.

    2. What a joke, I remember when the voters woke up and started attending council meetings and then mayor Lenny Paoletta, did the same thing to call in the police and asked for camera to be install in the council chambers.

  6. Off topic. The TestaGanim parasites have been working Twin Towers facility within the last week. I have seen it with my own eyes. Does any civic leader have the gall the check with Twin Towers management about who has entered the facility. These two people are NOT. Residents. Is there videotape of these two entering the facility. Are there sign in sheets to show the entrance of these two non-Twin tower residents and why they were there. The documents they had on hand are an indictment of what these two were doing.

  7. Also: could someone please post the timeline of the following: The date of:
    The “tussle” in the office; the day Bucci was hired by Fitzgerald; the day Bucci’s letter arrived at the PD, and then: when AJ sent the incident to IA for “investigation”.
    More to come…….

  8. I don’t know what is worse with regard to the incident last May, the Officer who did a poor report, or the supervisor who read that Post-It- Note called a police report and signed off on it. This incident can’t be the only time nor will it be the last time an Officer will fail to do their due diligence. This will only continue if their supervisor fails to call them on it and brings it to his or her attention.

  9. “…This police toothache can drill an intense nerve-ending root canal or a crown. Some of this depends on violent crime approaching summer and how Ganim’s opponents frame an alternative.

    Ganim has two potential primary rivals, his chief opponent State Senator Marilyn Moore and State Rep. Charlie Stallworth, a former Ganim staffer, both of whom are trying to chisel campaign operations while trekking to Hartford to fulfill legislative responsibilities. Not an easy juggle.

    Moore, who has selectively challenged Ganim initiatives, is focused on raising campaign cash while Stallworth just recently entered the game in advance of the April campaign finance reporting period showcasing money strength…”

    It would appear by the abject failure of the G2 to effectively respond the current crisis-mode of the BPD, as well as the bewildering failure of the Moore and Stallworth candidacies to appropriately comment on this urgent crisis, that we have the prospect of a mayoral race between candidates that are collectively clueless about how to deal with a city in chronic crisis mode and that collectively shouldn’t even be candidates for the job (albeit, one of the candidates is an incumbent…). This paints a bleak picture for Bridgeport…

    Anybody out there that wants to be Bridgeport’s mayor and can do the job?

    CHRIS CARUSO — OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS!
    JOHN FABRIZI — CLIMATE CHANGE WILL PRODUCE ALLIGATOR-SIZE MOSQUITOS IN FLORIDA. TIME TO COME HOME AND RUN FOR MAYOR! (AFTER A WHILE YOU CAN RETIRE TO DELAWARE OR NEW JERSEY, WHICH WILL BOTH FLORIDA-LIKE IN A DECADE OR SO…)

    1. Despite his shortcomings as a politician and some personal problems-(which much of the population has), at least most people know that John Fabrizzi sincerely cared about the city and its people.

  10. Rich Augustynowicz, let me reply to your concern, again as far as council members, newer members want to stay in office because they just got there and older council members who have been there for a while think they know everything so they need any information and they all are scare of their district leader, Mario Testa, Mayor Ganim and Hamilton Burger so they MUST do as they are told or they we will be in a primary.

    Here is thing that can not be challenge and that’s the fact these problems here in Bridgeport has NOTHING at all to do with Republicans because EVERYTHING is control by Democrats. “A fish rots from the head down.”

    1. Oh I know that to be true but I think that any of them that could have the nerve and heart to do what’s right could get a platform with the media as often as they want to and would be supported. The problem I see is that no-one wants to speak up except some that blog here and stand in front of the council and the boards and committees and speak their minds.

      1. Rich, there are a few of the newer council members who I really like and who could have a bright future, they smart and are willing to work and to learn but they can’t put together a coalition to make any change because they know that they will be primary. As for those more senior council members and those in leadership feel that they know everything so there is no need for them to speak out and challenge the system because they don’t want to get on the wrong side of Mayor and Mario Testa. If someone stood up and said something different than what they were told to do they know they will have no future. The entire City Council needs to be voted out of office along with Joe Ganim. The problems with the Bridgeport Police Department is enough to vote Mayor Ganim and the members of the council.

  11. What is up with current leadership across the issues raised? Is there a threat of “lockjaw infection” where the more problems that show up, the less leaders either explain or act?
    Ganim2 hired Guidepost Solutions as a City Consultant about five weeks ago. (The article did not explain the specific purpose or instructions given to Joseph Jaffe, compliance officer forGuidepost, though the CTPost revealed that negotiations were held on the hourly rate.) How is that working out? I have written to Mr. Jaffe one month ago. No answer.

    Is anyone keeping track of the existing number of legal actions between employees and the City? How many City employees are lawyering up with the ongoing investigations? Isn’t this part of oversight, City Council?? Let’s make a list by subject area and see if there are any legal specialties coming down to short supply status?

    Perhaps there is some wisdom shown by the anti-Ganim2 candidates at this moment? If money is necessary, get it raised with momentum. Keep “raising people” as supporters and get them organized as well who believe that Ganim2 is too tired and uncaring about leadership issues. It’s about finding your priorities, identify a handful, and the integrity to pursue them steadfastly. Ganim2 with 3 years of flatline education support has had only one meeting with the Superintendent of Schools so far in 2019 about upcoming school budget. How will the failure to appoint qualified people to Boards and Commissions (including appointments of those loyal or “most beholden” to the DTC for personal prestige, etc.) and leave gaps and vacancies affect citizen participation and overall governance? Ask Ganim2? Apparently he feels things are in fine shape on these fronts. While he did appoint Angel DePara to such a task, there is never a lot of publicity nor hurry about the task.

    Is Ganim2 worn out? Tired of playing? Have too many people looked behind the mask he often wears and become as “unreal” as he “himself” appears? What are his accomplishments of the past three years? Other than showing the voters of CT what his full presentation and found it wanting?? Well the voters whom he wantonly attacked in his first year, and subsequently ignored, will have their day. Time will tell.

    1. Two police officers who discovered Belinkie’s body, Lt. Ronald Mercado and Sgt. James Geremiah, were later suspended by Perez after, sources said, they turned their back to the chief at Belinkie’s wake in a protest.

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