With Acting Chief Rebeca Garcia inexplicably away, Mayor Joe Ganim on Sunday ordered the administrative leave of detectives assigned to the deaths of Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls, pending an internal review, cases taking on national significance involving law enforcement and media white-black bias.
In both situations, tardy police notification has been decried by family members of the respective losses in December, following dates with men.
Curiously, at the height of the national media blitz, Garcia is mysteriously absent from the department until Thursday taking personal time. Garcia did not specify the reason for her absence in a department memo. Deputy Chief James Baraja is in charge, pending her return.
Ganim recently announced a national search for a new permanent chief with an expected completion date late summer. Ganim tapped Garcia as temporary top cop following Armando Perez’s guilty plea for rigging the 2018 top cop test. He was recently released from federal lockup.
See current Police Department Death Notification policy.
Statement from Ganim:
I again would like to express condolences to the families of Lauren Smith-Fields, and also to the family of Brenda Lee Rawls.
I want you to know that I am extremely disappointed with the leadership of the Bridgeport Police Department and find actions taken up to this point unacceptable. After reviewing the matters even more closely and in the absence of the Police Chief, I have directed Deputy Chief Baraja to immediately put on administrative leave the two officers who are the subject of a Bridgeport Police Office of Internal Affairs (OIA) Investigation and disciplinary action for lack of sensitivity to the public and failure to follow police policy in the handling of these two matters.
To be clear:
EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY BOTH DETECTIVE LLANOS AND DETECTIVE CRONIN ARE SUSPENDED FROM DUTIES AND PUT ON ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE UNTIL SUCH TIME AS THE OIA INVESTIGATION AND DISCIPLINARY CASE HAVE BEEN COMPLETED.
In addition, the supervisory officer who was in charge of overseeing these matters has retired from the department as of this past Friday.
The Bridgeport Police Department has high standards for officer sensitivity especially in matters involving the death of a family member. It is an unacceptable failure if policies were not followed. To the families, friends and all who care about the human decency that should be shown in these situations in this case by members of the Bridgeport Police Department, I am very sorry.
I want to be clear to members of the public and the department that insensitivity, disrespect in action, or deviation from policy will not be tolerated by me or others in this administration. My disappointment and demand for accountability in these and any other matter brought to my attention will remain until all the questions are answered to the satisfaction of all.
It should also be known that the untimely death of Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls are both under active investigation and have been reassigned to members of the Bridgeport Police Department for resolution.
I want to thank Attorney Crosland, and the families, and the thousands of others for reaching out asking the questions that needed to be asked and that still need answers. I as mayor, but also as a father, cannot fully comprehend what you must be going through. I can only pledge my continued support to try to ease your pain by getting answers and holding those responsible accountable.