During public meetings streamed on social media to vet three finalists for chief of police one thing came across like the reality of a rap sheet: the arrested dislike Acting Chief Rebeca Garcia and Captain Lonnie Blackwell harbor for each other.
All the stuff police insiders heard and talked about played out during those intriguing forums, the first of their kind for police finalists to put themselves out there, somewhat nakedly, to share their management vision of the future.
Blackwell talked about the haves and have nots–the fraternal organization he represents, The Bridgeport Guardians, persistent critics of Garcia for allegedly meting out disproportionate punishment to Black officers.
Garcia referred to commanders who tried to undercut her authority by urging subordinates to leave the city police for the greener pastures of the suburbs.
Retired Captain Roderick Porter was far more nuanced and selective in contrasting the present with his prospective future plans.
He was like the character who emerged from the cloud of dust with the other two still grappling.
The latest national search for a new chief proved one thing: internal candidates enjoy a decided advantage to top-list because they know the territory.
Porter finished among the top three in 2018 and again in 2022.
Mayor Joe Ganim permitted Garcia more than two years to display her leadership skills after Armando Perez resigned following federal arrest for rigging the 2018 top cop test. She brings decades of experience that Ganim values in the course of duty. Crime stats are also down.
He also recognizes Blackwell’s community strengths.
Ganim’s dilemma? He knows what he has with Garcia in charge. That means a rift between the chief and Black officers is not a good thing. She’s also not front and center during public controversies that end up in the mayor’s lap. She did show, however, in this public search process an ability to be much more visible raising her community profile in recent weeks.
When you talk to people who know Blackwell most say he’s likable, community engaged, yet for some there’s a but associated with it.
Does he keep score to the point, if appointed chief, he drives Garcia out of the department?
Ganim does not want that, for professional, political and practical reasons. He sees the value in both with concerns about their inter-personal fencing.
That leaves Porter.
What’s the dynamic if he’s in charge? He seems to check more boxes that fit the appointment including ameliorating the Garcia-Blackwell split. He comes across circumspect, understated without an agenda to get mad or even.
If you prefer an outsider to take over the department, Porter’s the best fit having retired earlier this year that provides a perspective from a distance.
But Porter filed a federal racial discrimination case against the city, recently dropped, doesn’t that matter?
Not to Ganim.
He wants peace within the department without a piece of controversy heading into an election year. Mayors don’t want police crap in their laps.
What’s Ganim gonna do?