Thursday, July 31, 2008

Abolish the Connecticut State Police

Connecticut State Police misconduct is legendary. [video]

Institute a Connecticut Highway Patrol. Civilian Oversight is necessary. Ritt Goldstein made [this video] about Civilian Oversight of Police, and the need for it, and just after, was so terrorized by Connecticut police he fled to Sweden seeking political asylum.

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Public Safety Commissioner Slowly Changing A Troubled Department

By TRACY GORDON FOX | Courant Staff Writer
July 31, 2008

MIDDLETOWN — - Months after he was named public safety commissioner, John A. Danaher made a surprising discovery in some old newspaper clips while researching his family history: His great-grandfather, Cornelius J. Danaher Sr., helped establish the Connecticut State Police in 1903.

"It makes me feel very connected here," Danaher said in a recent interview. "Like I've come home."

But home for the top administrator of the Connecticut State Police has traditionally been a less than idyllic place. In March 2007, Danaher walked into an agency rife with controversy, infighting and back stabbing.

Accusations of racism, lingering internal affairs problems and retaliation by managers against troopers who had been whistle-blowers were some of the woes Danaher faced soon after being sworn in.

More than a year later, Danaher, a former U.S. attorney, said he is slowly working to change the department's culture by offering more support and programs to state troopers through education and long-term planning, including new infrastructure

"What I need to do for people who work here is support them as much as I can," Danaher said. "I do think my primary job is to provide support for them in many forms. They need support, more staff, more information technology. We are going to work on all these things."

Danaher revived the department's clergy program, calling on priests and rabbis to help troopers better deal with the turmoil they face on the job. He also supported an in-house peer counseling program, which trains troopers to help their colleagues, particularly after stressful incidents, and has helped to establish a support program for troopers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and their families.

Union President Steven Rief, who earlier this year stood with dozens of state troopers at the Capitol and urged the legislature to make changes in the troubled department, agrees that things have changed for the better. He just doesn't give Danaher all the credit.

"Certainly, there have been some improvements," Rief said. "But all of those were generated because of the actions the rank-and-file members had taken to get some relief."

The number of internal affairs investigations has gone down. There have also been fewer complaints from members of the public — a development Danaher views as an indication that the department is making progress.

A joint investigation by the Connecticut Attorney General's Office and the New York State Police shed light on problems with the department's internal affairs unit and forced changes in departmental procedures. The report highlighted incidents of domestic violence and drunken driving involving troopers and the supervisory lapses that failed to deal with them appropriately.

Danaher said an eight-page inventory of pending internal affairs cases has been reduced to one page. Many of the worst cases noted in the New York report have been resolved, with troopers either retiring or, in several cases, being fired.

But Rief says morale is still low among patrol troopers who do not believe they have the support of the department and upper management. He said troopers believe "there is still not a level playing field."

"There are still concerns about speaking out and retaliation," he said.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who has been critical of the state police's handling of internal affairs cases, said Danaher has "dealt capably and professionally with serious, systemic problems he inherited and always listened carefully and closely to my concerns."

"He has taken significant steps to address problems relating to a small fraction of troopers whose conduct merits internal affairs investigation and action," Blumenthal said.

Like the line of public safety commissioners who came before him, Danaher has no police management experience. His knowledge of law enforcement was based on time in the U.S. attorney's office as a senior litigation counsel, and then as interim U.S. attorney.

Danaher says he was surprised by the scope of the public safety commissioner's responsibilities. Beyond the 1,200-member state police division, there are the building inspectors, fire marshals and elevator inspectors.

"I spend a huge amount of time with all of those things," he said. "This is a multifaceted job."

He was reminded, to his embarrassment, of the political nature of a commissioner's job. He had written a letter to employees, informing them that Gov. M. Jodi Rell had appointed a new building inspector, Milton Gregory Grew, but that notice was a little premature. The appointment did not come to pass.

"All candidates are advised that appointed positions are subject to a series of final checks," Danaher said. "In the end, the governor must be comfortable with the decision to make any appointment. I understand and support the governor's decision in this case."

But the awkward situation pointed out what the commissioners before Danaher had learned: The governor makes the key decisions on appointments.

Danaher is politically savvy enough to know that his job is a political appointment. When he listed his responsibilities, Rell's objectives came first. "She has to balance the interests of all agencies," he said.

Rell publicly praised Danaher's performance, saying he has done what she has asked.

"As we continue to implement cultural changes at the Department of Public Safety, we need a leader who commands respect and knows how to work with all of the interested parties to get things done. I continue to have every confidence in John's abilities to meet those demands," Rell said.

Danaher appears to have developed good relationships with upper management in the state police, including Col. Thomas Davoren, commander of the state police, who was appointed by Rell shortly before Danaher was named commissioner.

"The many support and leadership programs he has worked to put in place for our personnel are only part of what he has accomplished in a relatively short time," Davoren said.

Someone recently gave Danaher a picture of his grandfather in a state police motorcycle sidecar that was probably taken in the early 1940s, when his grandfather was Connecticut's labor commissioner. The picture hangs prominently in his office.

Danaher said his family history with the department is a reminder to him: "Don't mess this up."

"You never want to let these people down," he said. "I'm very hopeful for the future here."

Contact Tracy Gordon Fox at

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[click here] for my beef


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