Ganim Has Strong Institutional Power Over Police Department, Short-Term Caretaker Required Until New Chief Appointed

September, 2020, Ganim issues oath to Rebeca Garcia.

The mayor of Connecticut’s largest city arguably possesses the most power among municipal chief executives in the state.

It wasn’t always that way. Once a weak mayoral form of government, charter revision initiatives the past 35 years approved by voters bolstered mayoral power, providing increased strength over public safety appointments, the budget and term duration.

The Police Department’s handling of the December deaths of two young women transitioned from a squeaky mousy chirp to a lioness’s public roar, backed by a growing national media blitz questioning racial bias and insensitivity to family notification.

Some people demanded that the mayor step in. The same demagogues who meowed for mayoral action have pivoted to motives, timing and authority to do so.

Some of them questioning the mayor’s inaction and subsequent action are current and former political leaders whom themselves covet the position including State Senator Marilyn Moore. In her eight years in the Senate, has Moore done anything to address the timeliness of family notification following death? She has the power to try.

Let’s start with the premise Mayor Joe Ganim’s handling of the Police Department is a self-inflicted weakness rather than historic strength. During JG1 praised was heaped for boosting staffing levels, reducing violent crime, diversifying racial makeup of the department.

Loyalty to disgraced former Chief AJ Perez during JG2 ripped open wounds a warehouse of bandages and tourniquets fail to stem. It was a screwy appointment pointed out prior to the fact. Perez is gone replaced by Rebeca Garcia in an acting capacity.

Most voters will not judge fallout from Ganim’s appointment of Perez as the sole issue in the 2023 mayoral election. They will judge his decision-making moving forward, as a national search for a police chief is underway, basing a mayoral scorecard on overall performance.

Mayors don’t want to run the damn police department, but sometimes a mayor must step in. Realistically, Ganim needs an eight-month department caretaker until he selects a permanent chief from a list of three finalists presented to him later this year. How deep is the bench? Is Garcia his only option?

Now, let’s examine the politics, the government, the community reaction to the department’s handling of the two deaths. Good, bad or ugly, Ganim decided to step in because these cases combined were taking on a life of their own with no confidence current police leadership has a clue fanned by the top cop retreating for a week specifying no reason for her absence.

WTF chief!

Ganim could not get his police chief on the phone.

With the chief effectively AWOL, Ganim conferred with Deputy Chief James Baraja on the next steps: a public apology to the family, condemnation of department insensitivity to death notification, removal of two detectives pending review.

Some challenge the mayor’s authority to order temporary removal of detectives. The police union will oppose it.

Former Mayor Tom Bucci who knows the City Charter as well as anyone on  the planet and is no fan of Ganim, says “I can’t say he doesn’t have the authority to do it.”

Not persuaded? Presented here the first line in the City Charter specifying the powers and duties of the chief of police: “Subject to the operational control of the mayor”

Powers of the mayor below, as well as power of police chief.

Section 1. – Selection; Powers; Duties.
The chief executive officer of the city shall be a mayor, elected pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 2 of this charter.
The mayor shall take care that the laws are executed and enforced within the city; shall be the conservator of the peace with the city; shall have and may exercise, within the limits of the city, all the powers given the sheriffs or other officers as provided by law; and shall exercise ultimate operational control of all departments and agencies of the city.
The mayor shall devote the full time necessary to the duties of the office and shall be responsible for the proper performance of their duties by all the appointive officers and departments and employees.
The Mayor shall be, ex-officio, a non-voting member of every board and commission of the city and shall have the right to attend all meetings of every board and commission of the city and to address it at any meeting. No board or commission shall have the authority to exclude the mayor from its meetings. The mayor shall have the power to convene a special meeting of any appointive Board, provided he/she specifies the reasons for calling the special meeting and the business to be transacted. Unless expressly provided for in this charter or the ordinance creating the board or commission, the mayor shall have no right to vote at any such meeting. The provisions of this Section shall not apply to the Planning and Zoning Commission; the Zoning Board of Appeals or any other board or commission whose decisions are appealable to the superior court based on the record before such board or commission.
It shall be the duty of the mayor to recommend the adoption of all such measures connected with police, fire, and public safety, public health and social services, public facilities, planning and economic development, finances, policy and management of the city, and the improvements of its government, and improvements all of which shall within ten days thereafter, be entered in the records of the city council. It shall be the further duty of the mayor to fill, by appointment, any vacancies in office in all cases in which the Mayor is given by law the power to appoint.
The Mayor shall have authority at any time to examine all data and property of the city in the possession of any officer, agency, department, commission, board, authority, employee or any other member of the municipal government, and may exercise this authority in person or through any other official appointed by the mayor for that purpose by written designation and authority.
In addition to the powers enumerated herein, the Mayor shall have authority to perform such acts and duties as may be prescribed in this charter or by the laws of this state or the United States or by the ordinances of the city of Bridgeport.
Subject to the availability of funds, the Mayor may appoint such assistants as the mayor deems necessary for the administration of the duties of the office of mayor.

Section 17. – Removal of Certain Officers.
If the mayor believes that any person appointed to the office by him/her or any of his/her predecessors to be incompetent, or guilty of misfeasance or malfeasance, or violation of ethics as determined by the ethics commission, such mayor may, upon thirty (30) days written notice, summon the officer before him/her at a place and time specified in such summons to show cause why he/she should not be removed from office. Such summons shall include a written statement of the charges against the officer. If, after full hearing, the mayor finds that such officer is incompetent or guilty of misfeasance or malfeasance, or violation of ethics as determined by the ethics commission, he/she may remove such person from office.

Section 5. – Powers and Duties of the Chief of Police.
Subject to the operational control of the mayor, the Chief of Police shall be responsible for:
(1) The administration, supervision and discipline of the Police Department including suspension, loss of pay and discharge of members of the department;
(2) The proper care and custody of the property, apparatus and equipment used by the Department;
(3) The preservation of the public peace, prevention of crime, apprehension of criminals, the enforcement of traffic laws and regulations, protection of rights of persons and property and enforcement of the laws of the state, and the Ordinances of the City;
(4) Making all appointments and promotions to positions in the Police Department. The Chief of Police shall be the appointing authority for all subordinate positions in the Police Department;
(5) The assignment of all members of the Department to their respective posts, shifts, details and duties;
(6) Making rules and regulations concerning the operation of the Department and the conduct of all officers and employees thereof subject to approval by the Board of Police Commissioners;
(7) Conducting an investigation and initial informal hearing or hearings in relation to any charges against any officer or member of the Department concerning abuse of power, negligence or dereliction of duty, incompetency, incapacity to perform or some delinquency seriously affecting the Officer’s general character or fitness for office. At the completion of the investigation and hearings the chief shall, forthwith, reported the results of any such investigation and hearings, including the discipline, if any, imposed to the board of police commissioners;
(8) Establishing procedures for the filing and recording of all complaints and the disposition thereof;
(9) Attending meetings of the Board of Police Commissioners as a nonvoting ex-officio member.



  1. TIME TO REFORM THE POLICE DEPARTMENT & MAYOR ! Below I’ve paste a comments from the the Conn Post that shows why Mayor Joe Ganim lacks the leadership skills to be the mayor. Mayor Gamin didn’t have the time, respect and sensitivity to reach out to these two families during this tragic lost to these families. The mayor was a total NO SHOW.

    Rawls Washington said Ganim’s announcement Sunday , which included an apology to Smith-Fields’ family and her own, was “too little, too late.”

    She said actions would speak louder than words, repeating her call for an independent probe. Rawls’ family doesn’t believe the department can do “a fair and thorough investigation,” she said. “We think someone from outside should be doing the investigation.”

    The case echoes that of Lauren Smith-Fields , a 23-year-old Bridgeport woman found unresponsive and declared dead hours earlier — and blocks away — from Rawls, whose family has also raised questions about how the case was handled.

    On what would have been Smith-Fields’ 24th birthday, her family and friends were joined by hundreds on a march from the police department to the Margaret Morton Government Center, where they called attention to Smith-Fields’ case .

  2. Publisher/Editor Grimaldi introduces the article today by way of presenting Joe Ganim as having the most municipal powers in the State of any elected town/city leader. I haven’t seen such a debate presented to the public, but when I begin to review my own reading of the current Charter, amended three decades ago, theoretically to remove controversies between the relatively power weak Mayor and the former Board of Taxation and Apportionment, I begin to see that the strengthening of the office of Mayor after voter approval, coupled with JG1 as an officeholder with self-serving and corrupt behavior in mind, and with no independent fiscal, legal or accounting support for Council members who had interest to work one or more issues for the benefit of taxpayers has taken us to the chaos of the day.
    The Mayor is not interested in hearing from qualified and dedicated citizens especially if learning and expressing diverse opinions is part of their charm. So he does not respond. In fact when there are folks reaching out to him in the time of COVID he has called folks in the know in another City rather than contact local leaders who have signaled their interest in participating in City progress, especially Police, City employment practices, and housing issues.
    I value genuine Openness, Accountability, Transparency, and Honesty, when they are practiced by organizations. These have not been values practiced regularly or even often in the time of Ganim2. And whether Ganim2 enjoys his work and playmates or yet has a plan for progress through purposeful agenda and disciplined oversight, is frankly unknown by the public.
    Why are Boards and Commissions not declaring their pride in what the City is accomplishing? Is it because they, along with voters find too much rushed or unexplained? Do they value their personal integrity too much? Has the foul air of revelations and allegations in Superior Court cases gotten too much for our silent majority? Or is it best represented in the military phrase, ” YOU CAN’T SHINE S__T!” ? Time will tell.

  3. I found Ganim 1 to be a good mayor, someone who had time to listen and to discuss issues, even if there was a disagreement there was a open door, that was G1. Ganim 2, Joe is a totally different mayor, he’s too busy, there’s no open door or followup, he doesn’t have a true feeling and understanding of certain issues and what’s worse he doesn’t care.

  4. Ron, I can listen to your opinion of G1 with respect though I did not know about him in those days. I was focused on my professional insurance work and lots of activities for the benefit of others.
    Back in the day I knew little about how city government functioned but I was aware of the $One Million transfer from some type of Port Authority account to purchase life insurance for a small group of City employees and saw the self-concern of the leader without making a case for deserving. Like so many other things that the FBI discovered, proved in court, and with which Ganim has disagreed. But disagreement led to seven years away from the community, loss of those youthful years, with home and family and a return with a plan to rise again. So the second chance run was supported in the community, but then instead of proving how much he learned in the years away about caring for others, he ran for Governor, and the stripes of G1 were revealed in G2.
    Consider the years he will have been #1 in Bridgeport when he finally departs the stage, if you will. What will keep his name raised in wonder and awe in the future? Will it be inappropriate development near the shoreline with increasing reach of tides and storms to sites like the Bassick project re-engineering? Will the opportunity for regular swimming pool development and maintenance be a reason for water safety programs for all youth or the tearing out and decommissioning of pools leaving the largest City in the State with no swimming teams? And City Hall oversight? Where has been success for vision and funding because his administration was organized for effort, effectiveness and ultimately, excellence? In your considered opinion, Ron, what will time tell?


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