Following calls for a federal investigation into racial inequality in the Police Department, city officials will initiate an “independent” probe for what a minority officer organization declares a “hostile working environment, unfair employment practices, and unfair disciplines handed out by Acting Chief Garcia.”
The Bridgeport Guardians and local branch of the NAACP have urged a federal examination as well as federal oversight of the department.
One week prior to Democratic primaries for City Council in which the legislative leader Aidee Nieves faces a difficult reelection, The Guardians ratcheted up the pressure signaling out Nieves to do more.
In response Nieves announced an investigation will occur initiated by the City Attorney’s Office, not exactly the antidote reformers seek.
“They are going to be hiring an outside attorney to do the investigation and we have been assured it will be a thorough investigation,” Nieves told the Connecticut Post.
Nieves cannot unilaterally authorize an investigation. It required the blessing of Mayor Joe Ganim who’s taken a lot of heat for his handling of the Police Department
“An independent investigator has been assigned to investigate all complaints as filed by the Bridgeport Guardians. As this is now an active investigation, the city cannot comment at this time,” said Rowena White, spokeswoman for Mayor Joe Ganim.
But Guardians President Davon Polite said they are insisting on a federal investigation. He contended that the city will pay for an outside lawyer and end up getting the result city officials want. “A federal investigation is the only way to get an impartial, fair investigation,” Polite said.
The city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars hiring outside counsel to defend the city’s interests, as well as city employees, during the federal probe into former Chief AJ Perez rigging the test elevating him to top cop. Perez is currently serving prison time.
If this becomes a thorough investigation it will not be cheap. It’s a serpentine, labor-intensive process to review and compare disciplinary matters, employment practices and outcomes.
If there are findings will there be recommendations? How will they be implemented?
The specter of another national search for a police chief looms following the exploration debacle of 2018.
The city is now in the midst of a national search for a permanent personnel director to replace David Dunn who was also charged, and recently released from prison, for his role in the conspiracy. Eric Amado, who has a dual role as director of Labor Relations, is acting personnel director.
Once a permanent personnel director is selected by the Civil Service Commission, the city is expected to initiate a national search for a new chief. Rebeca Garcia is serving in an acting capacity.
Under City Charter regulations, the mayor may select a chief from three finalists appointed to a five-year contract with the possibility of one more five-year contract.
Voters approved the measure in a charter change more than 30 years ago. Under the old rules a chief could remain indefinitely.
A national police chief search will bleed well into 2022 with a mayoral election on the horizon in 2023.
News release from The Guardians
The Bridgeport Guardians have submitted a complaint to city council president Aidee Nieves seeking her assistance in addressing the disparate treatment to which black officers and officers of color are being subjected within the Bridgeport Police Department, in particular the pattern and practice of race based disparate treatment.
Unfortunately, City Council President Aidee Nieves has not responded to the hostile working conditions complaint that black officers and officers of color have brought to her attention on August 23, 2021. The Bridgeport Police Department’s pattern and practice of discriminatory behavior has had an adverse impact on officers’ morale, mental health, well-being, career development, and reputation. In addition, officers are being subjected to hostile working environment, unfair employment practices, and unfair disciplines handed out by Acting Chief Garcia.
The Bridgeport Police Department serves a majority-minority city. This organization that represents black officers and officers of color is offended by the city administration’s abject failure to respond to the facts that show the entrenched racism that pervades the Bridgeport Police Department.
The Bridgeport Guardians and the Greater Bridgeport NAACP are calling and will only accept an independent and unbiased investigation conducted by an outside government agency into the documented pattern and practice of racism in the Bridgeport Police Department. Only the Federal Government (Department of Justice), which neither side will be able to influence, is able to conduct such an investigation. The city’s offer to hire a private law firm/investigator to investigate the issues is unacceptable, since the administration will most certainly be able to influence its findings. The only meaningful way to address these issues is to have the Department of Justice investigate and impose remedies that address, once and for all, the racially discriminatory practices it may find at the conclusion of its investigation, including the appointment of a Special Master to oversee the management of the Bridgeport Police Department and the executive officers running the department.