Police Union Leader: Linking Officer Suicide To Internal Affairs Investigation Unfair

Chuck Paris
Chuck Paris. CT Post photo Ned Gerard.

Sometimes there’s a disconnect between a headline and a story. And sometimes tragedy is lumped into a misplaced notion. Maybe it’s much deeper than what’s presented.

Chuck Paris, president of the Bridgeport Police Union, writes in this commentary that also appears in the CT Post, “To link Sgt. Belinkie’s suicide to an internal investigation dangerously oversimplifies and worsens a profound tragedy for his family, friends and colleagues on the force.”

The Connecticut Post’s March 6 article “Internal Affairs report cites 17 cops for misconduct” paints an unbalanced portrait of Bridgeport Police Officers at a time when we are reeling from the suicide of Sgt. Mark Belinkie.

On Oct. 21, 2017, Bridgeport police officers responded to a neighborhood complaint about excessive noise. The video in question failed to represent the efforts our officers made to de-escalate a situation that was made increasingly dangerous by the noncompliance of party participants who refused to lower the music that was disturbing neighbors.

What made the article more painful was the casual, unsubstantiated linkage of Sgt. Belinkie’s tragic death to the Internal Affairs investigation into the events of that night.

Few people bother to understand the immense and medically verifiable injuries, physical and emotional, that accompany the world of law enforcement. A study by the nonprofit Blue H.E.L.P. puts police suicides at more than 160 for 2018, having risen for the third straight year. That’s nearly triple the rate of officers killed in the line of duty.

According to the website TheBalanceCareers.com, studies put the suicide rate for police officers at around 23 per 100,000 officers, while the rate of the general population is estimated at 14 suicides per 100,000 people, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures. That means law enforcement officers are approximately 1.5 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

To link Sgt. Belinkie’s suicide to an internal investigation dangerously oversimplifies and worsens a profound tragedy for his family, friends and colleagues on the force. The increasing problem of post-traumatic stress injury in law enforcement points to the need for strengthening the laws that are supposed to help officers cope with job-related trauma.

Bridgeport police officers are doing our best to keep our neighborhoods safe and peaceful. That always gets lost in the public scrum to blame the police for the chaos that ensues when people fail to comply with requests. And when a good officer and family member dies by his own hand, there ought to be more understanding, more empathy and more nuanced discussion of the circumstances leading to their death.

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20 comments

  1. NO WAY. After these additional comments,I feel even more strongly about my original comment. Chuck Paris and his contracts have created a culture and environment within the BPD of everyone becoming a ” James Honis.” I’ve met some younger police officers and they have smiles and are ebullient with life. Middle aged officers have a deadened and glazed look over their eyes. Our police officers are human being. They need time to relax and smile and enjoy life. However,the “James Honis” syndrome with the support of the Chuck Paris contracts have put pressure on every single police officer to “bank” their vacations,sick days whatever for a big payout at retirement. At what cost ? As time goes on we get BPT Police officers who become robots. Excuse me. Aren’t we just hearing about the Colorado Avenue incident. Hell no. I’m not backing off my statement. We need to take care of our police officers. Not run them into the ground for a big fat payoff at retirement.

    1. You see the problem people, knuckheads and cops have to deal with them on a daily based. That’s why the contracts are the way they are so when the time comes they (cops) can relax, smile and enjoy retirement, not pass by suicide. Dumb Ass.

      P.S most dumb-asses don’t back off their statement. And no we are not just hearing about the Colorado Avenue, We head about it, and the investigation after the other cop passed in the park. SMBH

    2. Frank, you are way off base plus you are only looking at one side of the picture, there are issues you aren’t even looking at.

      Collective bargaining is the process in which working people, through their unions, negotiate contracts with their employers to determine their terms of employment, including pay, benefits, hours, leave, job health and safety policies, ways to balance work and family, and more.

      What is meant by the duty of fair representation?
      The duty of fair representation is incumbent upon U.S. labor unions that are the exclusive bargaining representative of workers in a particular group. It is the obligation to represent all employees fairly, in good faith, and without discrimination. Originally recognized by the United States Supreme Court in a series of cases in the mid-1940s involving racial discrimination by railway workers’ unions covered by the Railway Labor Act, the duty of fair representation also applies to workers covered by the National Labor Relations Act and, depending on the terms of the statute, to public sector workers covered by state and local laws regulating labor relations.

      Frank, the concerns that you have mention are the duty and responsible of the police chief and his staff and the police commission and Labor Relation. Mayor Ganim selected the wrong person to be the police chief. Frank, do you believe that AJ Perez was the best candidate with the City’s nationwide search?

      1. Lennie, Honis has been an amazing representative for the women and men in blue. It has not been in his interest to comment on things that would distract from his purpose to get the most compensation and benefits for those same people and part of that has been to re-arrange the chairs from Plan B Pension for Police to move to MERS, the State plan. With a stroke of the pen, all current internal and external overtime that has been paid out to current employees, INSTANTLY became part of the denominator base of a fraction plus their annual income as the ratio to pay out retirement income. The City over a couple years adjusted the books, but just bonded over $99 Million to pay into MERS for the additional benefits conferred on retirees. (I will write on this again from a financial viewpoint.)
        However while it takes 25 years or so to create a full basic pension benefit, if your earnings for overtime (received @ 150% of base) over three years equals your base, then two years of work performed during the three years of high income DOUBLES YOUR RETIREMENT INCOME. Wow. Any comments on that?
        Certain deployments carry extra pressures when people are attempting to gather overtime hours. An hour working traffic at a street site or guarding activities at a Stop and Shop do not seem to equal the confrontations that get written up in the news almost daily. Yet two years of time on overtime total can equal a monthly income equal to the same pension benefit from 25 years of activity. IS THIS AN IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTING FACTOR TO THE EMOTIONAL STATES OF THOSE WHO ENFORCE THE LAW? Would a program of community policing training, supervision, and standards supported by technology and a changed community sense of respect and support work? Would evaluations of officers be part of such a system?
        Is every response to concern or criticism met with distracting information from the City or the Union? Where is genuine leadership in public safety? Time will tell.

      2. Lennie,
        Thank you for deleting my initial comment because,upon some introspection,I did go over the line in one particular statement. It was good to finally meet you in person for the first time at the BOE meeting. After I made my public remarks,I left and walked over to the police officer and school security officer,shook their hands and said,”Thank you.”

          1. Ron,
            Both of them seemed a little surprised. The younger officer (probably a newer recruit) was strong,smiling and we had a strong handshake. He seemed to be loving his job as a BPT police officer. The school security officer was a little older but still extended his hand in friendship..

  2. Not sure who inked this officers death to an internal investigation as the reason. I know the paper linked it to highlight police abuse, and the current events in the investigation to what happened that night. Let’s be honest, career wise, police don’t have the highest suicide rate and no laws is going to stop it without addressing the root causes.

    However empathy swings both ways, as well as dismay, as you are and rightfully so when a life is lost that could have been prevented. Same can be said for Jayson’s Mom, sister, friends, and family. There isn’t an honest officer that is true to the word or God knows that it should’ve ended without a passing of life. He was ill prepared mentally and emotionally. So people when speaking of empathy, lost, order, chaos, it swings both ways.

    http://www.news12.com/story/37502525/video-shows-bridgeport-officers-being-dragged-by-car

  3. This is not “My Father’s” police department that I witnessed growing up in the Nort End of fathers and good neighbors and pillars of the community. Officer Joe Bolton-NOT!

    Swarming bullies as I was the victim of defamation a while back at the hands of Officers Lattanzio, Vincennes, Hearst Reporter, Dan Tepfer and the thug bouncers at Brewport (Mr Browning)

  4. I believe everybody should stay on topic. A police officer, a man with a family is gone. I lost my son many years ago, does it matter to me or anybody else how he died? Leave this officer’s family to grieve, and his soul to rest in peace.

  5. What’s the topic Lisa? More importantly what should it be? To each their own. Frank to vent an over the top statement at Paris because that’s BPT politics. Bob to express his encounter with the police at Brewport. Ron to attack AJ as Ganim’s pick t run the department. Me because my displeasure of a 15 year old kids passing in the streets by an officer because of a “stolen” car. Paris himself using this tragic officer’s passing to deflect from 17 officers and their action that were less the acceptable or professional. Because let be honest people. What he penned was not about this officer or other who die at their own hand, or any other man or woman who put on that uniform. It was more about protecting a culture of behavior.

    I don’t know about everybody For me, I’m sure dealing with the bullshit of society can get to officers, but dealing with life’s bullshit get to everybody. How we deal with it, to each their own.

    ” Three things can’t be hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” ~ Buddha

    How many officers abuse their wives, kids, girlfriends, and department does nothing to prevent it or help them or their families? Some are cops themselves. So is it really about the officers and their family that puts on that uniform or the uniform it self. What is was, is, or should be? Do expect a certain types of behavior to go away without punishment, condemnation or that is rewarded, protected.

    The discourse one will have will always be one’s motivation. I don’t fault Paris for what he penned because he probably didn’t write it himself. Right? Not the best picture though. JS

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaLsZEOovW8

  6. Why are you mad me? Do you feel my comment wasn’t a contribution?

    Please tell me how my comment offended you, but Frank’s pathetic over-the-top comment didn’t deserve your input? JS

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