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A New Chief of Police Must Have Integrity

From an email floating among the cognoscenti in Hartford yesterday: “Strategic Policy Partnership, the firm assisting the City of Hartford to recruit its new Police Chief, is seeking input from residents.  Please consider the following two questions.  1) What qualities and characteristics would you like to see in the new Chief? 2) What issues should the new Chief focus on when he or she begins work?”

Said email explained that the contents of it would be kept private, and that no City employee would ever have to know what was written. Government should be transparent, and the means are the ends. I will send my answers to Hartford _at_ policy-partners.com. I encourage you to draft an email to them as well.

1) The new chief of police in Hartford should embody integrity. The new chief must admit when the police department is wrong and must accept liability and responsibility for corruption.

Integrity is defined as “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.”

Some people will argue former chief Daryl Roberts had integrity. In my personal experience, Chief Roberts played fast and loose with the truth. I know what I did on January 3, 2007, and what was done to me.

What Chief Roberts said I did and what the police did was completely untrue. His adhering to fiction for political benefit of elected officials and officers was disingenuous and damaging to self-governance.  And given other instances of this behavior by the Chief, it seems a pattern a new chief should not engage in.

The law allows a public figure like a police chief to defame someone without repercussion. The law is wrong. The new chief should have an understanding that words uttered by the chief of police can have lasting damage on someone’s reputation. Slander should not be taken lightly.

The new chief of police should understand that when police officers err, the department should not rely on corporation counsel’s office to clean up the mess. I am not just referring to my case, Krayeske v. Hartford, (07-cv-0827-SRU).

I would invite the new chief to examine how the police department colludes with Corporation Counsel’s office to hinder citizens’ ability to pursue redress of civil rights violations.

For example, consider the case of Fred L. Archibald. He sued the City of Hartford, Daryl Roberts, HPD detective George Watson, HPD Detective Joseph Fargnoli and four unknown officers in federal court for human rights violations relating to his October 2007 arrest for ticket scalping and possession of alleged counterfeit tickets.

At the hands of HPD, Mr. Archibald suffered a broken tibia and knee. HPD officers attempted to prevent Mr. Archibald from obtaining medical care, even trying to remove him from the hospital to book him at Jennings Road. HPD then destroyed the alleged counterfeit tickets.

The case went before Judge Mark R. Kravitz in the Federal District Court of Connecticut. Archibald’s attorney, Stephen Savva of New York City, spent months and months in litigation trying to obtain the identity of two of the four unknown officers as Ken Labbe and Karen Spearman.

Attorney Nathalie Feola-Guerrieri works in Corporation Counsel’s office. She defended the City of Hartford in my claim for false arrest and she represented Chief Roberts and the City of Hartford in Mr. Archibald’s claim. The City hired attorney Robert A. Ricketts to represent officers Watson and Fargnoli.

Corporation Counsel’s office protected Chief Roberts by saying Archibald’s discovery requests for the names of the officers were unduly burdensome and overly broad. This is a lawyer’s way of hiding the truth.

Archibald’s attorney eventually got Attorney Feola-Guerrieri to produce Officer Ursula Weibusch for a deposition, and Weibusch identified Labbe and Spearman as being possibly involved in Archibald’s arrest.

Once Archibald’s attorney updated the complaint to reflect this, Labbe and Spearman – through Attorney Ricketts – moved to dismiss the claims against them because the three-year statute of limitations had run.

In a decision dated May 9, 2011, Judge Kravitz rejected Labbe and Spearman’s arguments and issued a public rebuke to them and the City. I attach Judge Kravitz’s decision – Kravitz 5-9-2011 decision, and I first direct you to page 15 of the 22 page decision (09-cv-1558-MRK, doc. #70).

Judge Kravitz cited precedent in the Second Circuit holding that defendants who resist discovery until the statute of limitations ends cannot rely on that clock running out to escape liability.

Then, please turn to page 17 of the decision. In federal court circles, it is rare for a judge to call an attorney out by name in a written decision. You will see here Judge Kravitz publicly admonished Attorneys Ricketts and Feola-Guerrieri because they knew or should have known the names of Officers Labbe and Spearman, but seemingly withheld them for the sake of attempting to run out the clock.

Judge Kravitz imputed the knowledge of Feola-Guerrieri to the Defendant City of Hartford. Essentially, this conduct is costing the city thousands of dollars in legal fees and wasted resources. It may cost much more if there is a plaintiff’s verdict. Mr. Archibald is currently set for trial on June 13, 2012.

But, it should defy comprehension that police broke a man’s leg and knee, and when this man seeks justice and redress of his genuine grievance in federal court, the City protects those bad cops with reprehensible tactics that get it slapped by a federal judge.

If it is not enough that the City spends money on lawyers sans integrity, the next time the City goes before Kravitz in a similar case, he will not believe them. And did I mention that HPD destroyed the alleged counterfeit tickets that led to this violent assault on Mr. Archibald? Destroying evidence is called spoliation, and HPD is no stranger to this either.

I spend so much time on this case because this kind of legal maneuvering occurs only when the Chief of Police sets the tone, allows it, condones it and perhaps even demands it of his lawyers.

The City of Hartford needs a chief of police who will accept responsibility when officers step over the line, which they do far too often, and who will not abuse federal litigation to shield officers from punishment. We must ask “At what price victory?”

Integrity demands conscience and courage to enact the directives of one’s conscience. A chief with integrity who acts out of honesty would not work so hard avoid consequences for police corruption. This will do much to restore the citizenry’s respect in HPD.

Next week, I will confront the second part of the question. I would like to address it now, but I believe that it demands far more than the 1,000 words that I have available to me this week.

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