Chuck Paris, president of the Bridgeport Police union, has seen a lot in his years on the force as well as the roughly 400 others who currently put on a uniform. In this commentary that first appeared in the CT Post, Paris shares his perspective on the death of 15-year-old Jayson Negron in a police-involved shooting. “Understanding what the world looks like from our vantage point will be helpful as we piece together the tragic shooting of Jayson Negron and its devastating impact on everyone involved, including the dedicated officers who responded to the call of danger.”
The events of Tuesday, May 9 and their aftermath deeply impacted our community and also served as a reminder of the challenges police officers face on a daily basis. As president of the Bridgeport Police Union, AFSCME Local 1159, I’d like to offer my account and my perspective.
It was that day that an officer-involved shooting occurred in the area of Fairfield Ave and Park Ave. According to what I’ve been told, Bridgeport police officers responded to the location after a call for assistance was requested by other officers in the area who observed a stolen vehicle that was occupied. Officers attempted to stop the vehicle but the operator refused to stop.
Within minutes, the vehicle was stopped and the officers exited their cruiser in an attempt to detain the occupants. The operator refused to leave the vehicle when ordered by the officer. The incident resulted in two individuals being shot, one fatally, and three police officers getting injured. Trust me–this is an outcome you never want to see happen.
The next day I attended a press conference at the mayor’s office in city hall. Several citizens, clergy, reporters and police officers attended, everyone had the same opinion: the incident was tragic and the loss of a young life was overwhelming.
I listened to several accounts from the invited speakers. Most had the same message that we all need to do better. Others wanted to turn this into a community against the police. One gentleman talked about how parents need to do better and teach their children that they should respect authority, further observing that Jayson Negron did not wake up in the morning expecting to die.
That caused me to think about the police office involved in the shooting. When he woke up that same morning, put on his uniform, and drove to work, the fact that he would have to make a life-changing decision was the last thing on this mind.
I have heard all kinds of comments about the shooting, including the suggestion that the officer in question only had limited time on the streets. This kind of criticism is misleading, because the process to become a police officer is lengthy and demanding and filled with real-world training. Your life changes forever when you make a commitment to protect and serve.
It begins with rigorous preparation that includes testing, followed by months of background checks, physical, psychological and medical exams. When you are finally accepted, more than a year has elapsed. You then go through seven more months of training, followed by three months in field training with a veteran officer. Only then can you be put in a patrol car for assignment.
Not everyone can be a police officer. It is truly a calling. You see the best and worst of humanity and everything in between. Our officers field over 400 calls for service a day, everything from noise complaints to domestic violence calls, suicide responses, car stops, counseling children and older adults about crime prevention and so on. We are asked to protect lives, homes and businesses.
The badges we wear may symbolize law enforcement, but we are often assigned the additional roles of social workers and bridge-builders. We go to work each day to keep our neighborhoods safe, unsure whether we will come home in one piece. When disaster strikes, we come to the rescue. We face down criminals with automatic weapons–entire arsenals in some cases–while carrying only a service weapon. When others run from danger, we run directly into it.
Understanding what the world looks like from our vantage point will be helpful as we piece together the tragic shooting of Jayson Negron and its devastating impact on everyone involved, including the dedicated officers who responded to the call of danger.
I am proud of the men and women of the Bridgeport Police Department who put on the blue uniform every day. We will never quit on our city. I am proud, too, that our community held together after May 9, and did not listen to any outside influences motivated by hate rather than by healing.