UPDATE from original story. Sergeant Bradford Seely, president of Local 1159, says no official vote has taken place yet by union membership and the union has not released a formal statement. The vote is planned for March 10 at Port 5 in Black Rock.
A planned vote of no confidence in Acting Chief Rebeca Garcia by Bridgeport Police Local 1159 calls for “a new acting chief be appointed immediately, and the city begin the process of a nation-wide search to select the most qualified permanent police chief to lead the agency into the future.”
Many Hispanic police officers, defending the honor of the first Latina chief, are opposed to the vote.
Mayor Joe Ganim tapped Garcia top cop last September following the resignation, and subsequent federal guilty plea, by A.J. Perez for connivance of the police chief exam.
Ganim has not signaled if he will order a national search for a permanent chief. The City Charter does not require him to do so.
When cops are mad at the brass it often involves distribution of overtime, or lack of it, something that is highlighted in the union’s litany of grievances in the statement that follows. City officers dominate the annual list of top 100 wage earners via generous heaping of overtime. Speaking of that, OIB weeks ago made an FOI request for the 2020 salary list. No word from the city other than the request has been received.
Garcia, as was former Assistant Chief James Nardozzi, is notably austere in the parceling of overtime.
Letter below was issued to union membership by leadership in advance of the March 10 vote.
Rebeca Garcia was appointed acting chief of police by Mayor Ganim on September 10, 2020 after the resignation of Chief Armando Perez, who was indicted by the United States Attorney’s Office, charged with rigging the police chief examination in his favor. Perez and Mayor Ganim had previously appointed Garcia to the role of assistant chief.
Since being appointed acting chief, Garcia has failed to lead the Bridgeport Police Department, and has engaged in conduct that is contrary to effective leadership.
1. The acting chief demonstrates a pattern of excessive discipline and disparate treatment among the ranks
2. The acting chief is inconsistent in rotation of specialized unit assignments and continues to blatantly violate the bargaining agreement
3. The acting chief fails to distribute overtime in a fair and equitable manner
4. The acting chief lacks a plan in career development opportunities for all employees
As a result, new and veteran officers are resigning or retiring at record rates, leaving the department grossly undermanned.
A vote of no confidence in Acting Chief Garcia’s ability to lead is necessary at this time because the union has no other recourse to effect change in the department, that will provide for fair and equitable treatment of all officers. We believe that the Mayor is aware of the leadership void in the Bridgeport Police Department and has turned a blind eye to the change that is necessary.
Examples of Acting Chief Garcia’s leadership failures include:
— Heavy handed and inequitable discipline of officers, that includes ignoring some officers conduct that grossly violates department policy, while swiftly disciplining others who have committed minor infractions
— The acting chief has taken away the authority of supervisors to make recommendations on discipline and the discretion to counsel officers. The acting chief ignores supervisors recommendations on justified use of force incidents and instead sustains charges against officers based on internal affairs investigations
— Inequitable rotation of specialized units that stalls career advancement opportunities of officers, while others are permitted to linger in positions well past the timeline established in the collective bargaining agreement
— Preferential treatment of officers who are perceived as loyal to the acting chief by awarding certain officers preferential assignments, ignoring the 120-day rule for acting positions of certain officers, and failing to assign the most qualified officers to positions
— The acting chief does not abide by the chain of command, does not effectively share information with the command staff, and does not allow the command staff to have input on decisions concerning their areas of operation
— The acting chief has been ineffective at combating violent crime in the city which saw a record number of shootings and homicides in 2020
— The acting chief has ignored the manpower shortage in the department that has had a drastic effect on the crime rate, puts the public at a higher risk and creates serious officer safety concerns
— The acting chief has failed to address the attrition rate in the department that has seen dozens of experienced officers leave the agency. These officers cite poor leadership, lack of career advancement and soaring health insurance costs as the reasons for their departure
— The acting chief has been ineffective at supplementing the current manpower shortage with overtime backfill and special details to combat crime and quality of life issues, while continuing to cut overtime in the midst of a soaring crime wave and pandemic that has stretched resources
The above issues negatively impact the membership by forcing well trained professional police officers to leave the agency to work for other police departments with better working conditions and stronger leadership. Bridgeport police officers are tasked daily with increased responsibility and scarce manpower resources that lack the support from the acting chief. Officers are reminded on a regular basis through the issuance of mundane department memorandums that they will be subject to discipline. These constant reminders have a negative effect on officer morale and contribute to a further loss of confidence in the acting chief’s ability to protect them and effectively lead.
The inability of the Acting Chief Garcia to effectively lead the Bridgeport Police Department has a negative impact on the citizens and business owners of Bridgeport by reducing the overall quality of life of residents by not deploying manpower and resources in an effective way to keep residents safe. The acting chief has ignored the recommendations of the police department command staff and union that are necessary to protect Bridgeport.
Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159 expects that the mayor will appoint a chief of police that is an effective, empathetic, and caring leader who is fair and impartial. The chief of police will have vast experience in all facets of police operations and administration and will be perceived by officers and citizens as legitimate. The union believes that the chief of police should have the higher education and training and command experience that mirrors national best standards for medium-sized city police chiefs in the United States as established by The International Association of Chiefs of Police and The Police Executive Research Forum.
Bridgeport Police Local 1159 in a vote of no confidence in Acting Chief Garcia’s ability to effectively lead, ask that a new acting chief be appointed immediately, and the city begin the process of a nationwide search to select the most qualified permanent police chief to lead the agency into the future.