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With Ganim On The Horizon, Finch Pitches Diversity In Police Department Recruitment Effort

March 17th, 2015 · 19 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Politics, Firefighters, Law Enforcement, News and Events

In an election year, closing in on the deadline to apply for the latest police recruitment class, Mayor Bill Finch was flanked by members of the city’s clergy including Anthony Bennett, Bernadette Maynard-Hickman and Charlie Stallworth (see video), promoting diversity that reflects the makeup of the city. In doing so Finch is reaching out to African American and Latino voters, a constituency that has nostalgia for former Mayor Joe Ganim whose official entry into the race for the city’s top job could be weeks away.

When Ganim was elected mayor in 1991 violent crime was the largest issue in the city, larger than the federal bankruptcy filing of the mayor he defeated, Republican Mary Moran. The city was experiencing historic violent crime, innercity neighborhoods were war zones, averaging one murder per week over a series of years while operating with a severely undermanned department.

Roughly 100 new officers were hired in Ganim’s first term under a Police Department led by Thomas Sweeney who implemented a community policing program that provided much needed security leading to deep reductions in crime during the 1990s.

Finch is touting the lowest violent crime rate in 50 years. This police recruitment is also an effort to rebuild the lowest staffing levels in decades that have dipped below 400.

The city is challenged to compete with the pay scale and benefits offered by surrounding communities. Veteran members of the department have left-–many cashing in retirement pay–-for higher-paying communities and private-sector security positions. Some within the department also say morale issues have forged departures. In recent years collective bargaining agreements have required city police officers to contribute growing shares to medical benefits. Some area communities are offering lateral movement hires, meaning city officers can segue right into the respective systems because they are certified in law enforcement. The towns save money on training of recruits.

Finch administration critics such as retired city firefighters Ron Mackey and Donald Day, both past presidents of the Firebird Society that fought for racial balance in the Fire Department, assert the city has lost its way hiring police and firefighters that reflect the makeup of the city that could be 75 percent black and brown. Finch argues Bridgeport’s public safety is the most diverse among Connecticut cities, but adds it’s still not diverse enough. The Mayor touts an aggressive recruitment campaign to strengthen minority hires such as:

Collaborating with the Guardians and Hispanic Officers Society to better inform minority populations about career opportunities; holding recruitment drives across the city including churches, parades and college job fairs; providing incentives for city residents with an additional 15 percent on their Civil Service exam.

Ganim will challenge Finch’s veracity on the recruitment issue wondering why it’s taken more than seven years to bring hiring in line with the makeup of the city. Also, do the lower crime statistics reflect how residents feel about public safety?

Public safety will be key in the mayoral race with many police officers telling OIB they will support Ganim over Finch for a variety of reasons, including morale issues and lack of progress in a new labor pact.

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19 Comments so far ↓

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Here is a message for the black ministers: STAY HOME. You are a bunch of phonies who are in the pocket of the Democratic party. You are worried about diversity in the police department? Since when?
    Let me ask the ministers, where have you all been in regards to education? You must be aware the majority of students are minorities and not a word from any of you.

  • Ron Mackey

    All one has to do is to look at how many blacks, Hispanics and females have been hired since Bill Finch has been mayor in both the police and fire departments and you will see he has lowest numbers of the past 40 years. Finch wants to get credit for something he had nothing to do with, promoting diversity. Lawsuits and a special master who was the watchdog for the police dept. for almost 30 years is how the police dept. changed. Bill Finch has done nothing to change the way police and firefighters are hired, he refuses to hired only Bridgeport residents and taxpayers first like Hartford does.

    • Bob

      Hey Ron, where are the Charlie Tisdales when you need them?

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      So Finch (and Adam “Pecker” Wood) don’t like to hire women, African Americans or Latinos. The latter two demographics account for roughly 66% of the city’s population. I guess his opinion of women is they should be subservient like Lydia Martinez and Santa Ayala, always serving the Man With the Pepsodent Smile.

  • Lisa Parziale

    Andy and Ron, I doubt the members of the Police Department and their families and friends are going to buy this horse and pony show. Too little too late!

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Lisa, to tell you the truth I don’t care what they buy or don’t buy, the majority live in the ‘burbs.

  • Steven Auerbach

    Lennie, no offense. Is everything or anything Mayor Finch does have anything to do with Ganim? I do not believe Finch does anything that has anything to do to impress a past convicted mayor and those who would put him in power again. It is ludicrous to assume that. Finch has years and money under his belt with a slew of feel-good accomplishments to brag about. Ganim has nothing to brag about and when he starts talking bankruptcy, Moran should publicly call him out. Finch has positioned himself for good things providing he gets rid of some stale dead wood and replace them with local worker bees who have an investment in Bridgeport’s future.
    If minorities do not apply for positions with the city, is the Mayor to blame? These are well-paying jobs. Who does the blame really go to? The ministers? The councilmen? The lazy recipients of government handouts? Ron Mackey? Donald Day? It seems to me a grassroots effort is needed to get people to apply. There has to be an aggressive recruitment effort. I think the Mayor has done his job. I DO NOT THINK GANIM HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH IT!!!

    • LennieGrimaldi

      Steve, no offense taken. You’re welcome to call me on it. At this stage of the campaign cycle just about every decision the mayor makes is filtered through the goal of reelection. Right now, whether you like it or not, Ganim is Finch’s chief obstacle to reelection, otherwise his spokesman would not weigh in so hard on Ganim. If they saw him as no threat, they’d just leave it alone. The mayor is trying to solidify a voting bloc where Ganim currently resonates. That may change. Part of trying to achieve that change is mayoral strategists positioning Finch to persuade those voters to back him. This is basic strategic groundwork to shape a message that fits the incumbent. And by the way, a department that reflects the makeup of the city is good for the public. Folks can get into the merits of who’s on the side of the angels on this issue. I have been a campaign strategist for both Finch and Ganim. I no longer serve that role so I believe I bring a unique perspective on two candidates backed by a history of running city races. I’d be shortchanging my readers if I did not point out this is also campaign positioning.

  • Bob Walsh

    And you think the advertisement that is running on Only In Bridgeport is an effort to attract qualified minority candidates? I think it is all politics. Nothing but politics.

  • Ron Mackey

    Steve Auerbach, that’s not the problem, the problem is the type of testing, no dumbing down. Why have white females not been hired? They were passing the police and fire test for years and being hired, now they are not, why? Are they not smart enough, are they not able to perform the duties?

  • The Phantom

    Hey Ron. Look who’s on the Mayor’s right. The $200,000 a year Lt. He popped out of Finch’s pocket in time for the meeting.

  • Donald Day

    The lack of diversity in both police and fire is the fault of the mayor. He put David Dunn in charge of Civil Service, who lacked any experience in this field of expertise nor an appreciation for hiring people of color from Bridgeport. He wanted to hire people like him, suburban white males. That’s what he has done and hired the fewest Bridgeport residents for both police and fire than any other Director of Civil Service in the last 40 years.

    Mackey and I told Mayor Finch at a meeting in March 2011 if he implemented the changes recommended by Dunn it would result in the lowest hiring of blacks, women and residents in 30 years. He took Dunn’s advice and for the first time in 30 years no women, a class with no blacks and the fewest number of Bridgeport residents were hired. That’s a lack of leadership Bridgeport can no longer afford.

  • The Phantom

    Freedom of Information Act the top payee list for 2014 since the Mayor does not issue to press. See who’s at the top. The photo op will make sense afterwards.

  • Daisycutter

    They have nostalgia for Ganim because Ganim was never known to make racist comments.

  • Tom White

    The ministry of public enlightenment (and propaganda) is cranking out campaign malarkey at taxpayer expense. Lennie is a journalist and can make news stories, not just report on them. Lennie knows how to develop political strategy and he knows it when he sees it. Let’s all enjoy the show.

  • Bob Walsh

    Delusional Bill told the CT Post from an economic development perspective the St. Paddy’s Day is the biggest event downtown all year.
    The CT Post reported 500 spectators wree present. How sad is that? How very, very sad is that!!!

    • Pete Spain

      Bob Walsh,
      Sad to say, I’m guessing under Finch the biggest downtown economic-stimulus day occurs during the summer Vibes festival when eventgoers are overcome by the munchies, mosquitoes and/or sun, and in response errantly cut themselves on a can opener, beer can, or in trying to divide a pint of Ben and Jerry’s with their tent or hacky-sack buddy, and need to replenish their munchy/beer/Off/Coppertone stash and to buy Band-Aids and/or a first-aid kit and bottled water.

  • Bob Walsh

    I’m with you on that economic analysis. But how did you factor in all the free tickets to City Council members, city employees and FOB’s (Friends of Bill). Is that a positive impact since many of these would never actually spend a weekend in B’port. Or a negative since this comes off the top of whatever King of the Vibes Ken Hays decides to pay the city.

  • Daisycutter

    Finch has fired more African Americans than any mayor in the city’s history.

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