The Connecticut State Police, "White and Male Only" club?
A New Voice Speaks Out
[Connecticut] STATE TROOPER DEBBIE GUTIERREZ, shown in her attorney's office in New Haven, says she faced discrimination as an instructor at the state police academy. (ROSS TAYLOR / January 30, 2008)
By TRACY GORDON FOX | Courant Staff Writer
February 1, 2008
Trooper Debbie Gutierrez had never publicly complained about racism she says she has encountered within the Connecticut state police.
And she was hesitant to speak out even at a hearing to discuss claims of racism within her department convened Tuesday by the legislature's black and Latino caucus. But Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, D-Hartford, one of the lawmakers who called the meeting, urged her to tell her story after hearing it herself.
So toward the end of the 10-hour hearing, Gutierrez, the first Hispanic woman to join the state police and one of only two in the entire sworn department, sat down at the microphone and spoke of how she was railroaded out of her job as an instructor at the state police academy, the very place where recruits are supposed to be taught about diversity and respect.
Her statements added a different perspective to the racism issue, which had been told primarily through testimony by Sgt. Andrew Crumbie, who had been chief of staff to a former commissioner and commander of the state police laboratory, and other black troopers.
Gutierrez, a 41-year-old mother of two, gave a glimpse ofthe racism that minorities claim is entrenched deeply in the agency from top to bottom.
"We have to stop this," Gonzalez said after hearing the testimony. "It's terrible. It's not fair. It's unbelievable we have to deal with an issue like this in 2008."
Gutierrez, who is married to a state trooper, said it was difficult enough to get through the training academy eight years ago when "she felt the heat" as the only Hispanic woman ever to go through it. Trained as a nurse, Gutierrez decided to change careers after having her children.
Six years after she earned her badge, she was asked to become an instructor at the training academy, and she jumped at the chance to mentor other troopers.
"I was transferred from Troop G [in Bridgeport], went to the academy, and immediately I was treated differently," Gutierrez said. "I went to the duty sergeant, and I said I was not being treated the same and not being respected. My sergeant said that was office politics that is everywhere throughout the agency."
After talking to the sergeant, her treatment there grew worse, she said. Then two of the instructors privately told a third that "my presence there was not welcome," she said. "'We don't want her here,' they said."
"I said, 'Why? Did they say why?'" Gutierrez remembers asking.
She never did get an answer.
And after the last academy class graduated in July 2007, Gutierrez was told she was no longer working at the state police academy and was transferred back to the Bridgeport barracks. She was told that she would have to "reapply" for her position as an instructor there.
She was also not allowed to continue an undercover operation with the U.S. Bureau of Diplomatic Security, even though the agency had requested her continued assistance.
Earlier last month, she filed a complaint with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, alleging she was reassigned from her position at the academy and harassed by co-workers there because she is Hispanic and a woman.
"It's a shame an organization designed to protect the people of Connecticut is run like an old boy's club," said Rob Serafinowicz, Gutierrez's attorney. "It is egregious."
Public Safety Commissioner John A. Danaher said he is aware of Gutierrez's complaint. "It disturbs me whenever there is a claim of discrimination when it comes to our attention," he said. "We have to jump on it immediately."
He confirmed there is an internal affairs investigation being conducted into some of her complaints about the academy. Some troopers who were involved in the allegations of harassment have been moved from the academy, and Lt. Mark Newland, who is black, now commands the academy, Danaher said.
Regarding her complaints about being transferred, Danaher said she was not the only trooper transferred out of the academy after the last class ended.
"So often something happens, the individual sees it through their own light and don't understand the larger agency picture," Danaher said. "Only a small corps of troopers working at the academy stays an extended period of time. When the class is over, we don't need those troopers sitting at the academy."
Regarding the federal agency post, Danaher said there are always requests for troopers that cannot be filled because of manpower issues at the barracks.
"The priority of the department is making sure the troops are fully staffed," he said.
Christopher McWilliams, another trooper, testified that he had been denied positions in several specialized units, despite the fact he scored the highest in testing for those posts. When he questioned the decision, McWilliams said, he was transferred to another barracks that was more than an hour drive from his home as punishment.
"I am constantly being denied a fair chance for advancement, and the commissioner and his managers have provided no valid reason," McWilliams said. "All I am asking for is a fair, equal, unbiased opportunity for advancement and growth."
Danaher said he is aware of McWilliams' situation. "I have been monitoring it and discussing it," he said. "Our ultimate mandate is to be fair to everybody."
He said the hearing was "a valuable experience."
"A lot of things were put on the table, and sometimes we have to air these things out if we're going to make progress and move forward," he said.
Contact Tracy Gordon Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2008, The Hartford Courant
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Are minorities and Whites that get in the way of the agenda of the "White Boy Club", police in Connecticut, terrorized, beaten, or even contracted to be murdered by Connecticut State Police Confidential Informants, state registered CIs?:
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