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There Is No Excuse for HPD’s Systems of Abuse

The hundred or so people who stood in front of the Hartford Public Safety Complex Monday, afternoon July 6, 2015, chanting “We Want the Chief” knew HPD Chief James Rovella would not come outside to speak with them.

I know. I was one of them, singing “There is no excuse for systems of abuse.” I never expect HPD brass to engage in productive dialogue. I expect lies, even under oath. HPD has to do significant work to rebuild trust. And I don’t mean an officer who can rap for a public safety announcement.

HPD won’t engage in this hard work of earning respect. HPD sees its role as population control by any means necessary, and officers know an army of lawyers will protect them and allow them to abuse power again and again.

The Black Lives Matter/Moral Monday protest sought to address the most recent abuse of power – a video of officers Brian Salkeld and Officer Robert Fogg, Jr. beating the crap out of Hartford resident Samuel Bryant, 34.

As one officer held Bryant in an upper body tackle kind of position, the other officer repeatedly struck Bryant in the legs with a baton, telling him to stop resisting.

Bryant was allegedly apprehended for drinking alcohol in a paper bag. He does not move in the video, nor does he obeying the officers’ commands to get on his knees (which might be difficult given the hold he was in).

HPD has not issued any major statements about the beating. The cowards in HPD’s front office watched the Moral Monday march from a second floor window and tweeted pictures, but did not come down and engage in a discussion.

American police cannot articulate anything but the language of violence. Rovella knows his officers act indefensibly, so he avoids confrontation. HPD and Rovella have a systematic problem with racism and brutality. Rovella has no control over many of the cretins he allegedly manages.

HPD’s issues mirror the larger problem of policing in America. Bryant should be happy he wasn’t killed (as if it is any compensation).

Across the United States, in the first five days of July 2015, state and local police departments killed 20 people. This is more people than police forces in most developed nations will kill in all of 2015. And America loves Dirty Harry, so, do you feel lucky, punk?

HPD’s racism problem starts with officers like Kamil Stachowitz. Thanks to Kevin Brookman’s website wethepeoplehartford.blogspot.com we know Stachowitz was banned from Foxwoods for life in February 2015.

Stachowitz got so drunk he fell down in a hallway. The Foxwoods security team reported Stachowitz was “increasingly hostile and verbally abusive toward security staff.” Another Foxwoods officer wrote in his report: “I heard the intoxicated male subject say the word, ‘nigger.’”

In vino veritas. Stachowitz was so wasted his filters were off, and he demonstrated how he really feels: that about 40 percent of the population he polices is less than human. This kind of sub-rosa prejudice will not make for positive community policing.

Stachowitz remains on the Hartford Police Department’s payroll. Brookman wrote he personally made Council members Kyle Anderson and Cynthia Jennings aware of Stachowitz’s behavior.

Silence is complicity. This lurking hatred for the people Stachowitz patrols will result in videos like the one of Bryant getting beaten.

While Brookman tried to justify the brutality in the Bryant video, explaining Bryant broke Salkeld’s nose, I’m not sure I buy it. Why? Let’s review the docket in Martin Ross v. John Doe and the City of Hartford, civil case number 3:12-cv-141(AWT) in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, Judge Alvin W. Thompson presiding.

Officer Robert Fogg, Jr. is a named defendant. My “favorite” lawyer Joseph McQuade of Kainen, Escalera and McHale, PC represented Fogg and co-defendant HPD officer Donald Linde. Corporation Counsel’s police protector Nathalie Feola-Guerrieri defended the City of Hartford (along with McQuade).

On March 4, 2013, Judge Thompson denied a motion to dismiss filed by Fogg, Linde and Hartford. Judge Thompson, taking the allegations in Plaintiff Ross’ complaint as true, described Fogg’s conduct as follows:

“On January 3, 2010, the plaintiff drove from Waterbury to Hartford to pick up his girlfriend. They had a verbal altercation which resulted in her leaving him in Hartford. At some point thereafter, the plaintiff was approached by a police cruiser being driven by defendant Fogg. The plaintiff fled from the officer. After about ten minutes, a second police cruiser, driven by defendant Linde, intercepted the plaintiff. The plaintiff put his hands in the air and stated words to the effect of ‘I give up, you got me.’ “From this point on, the plaintiff offered no resistence and was fully compliant with orders by the police officers. When defendant Fogg arrived and got out of his cruiser, he violently charged the plaintiff, knocking him to the ground. Fogg then sprayed pepper spray in the plaintiff’s face and began to beat him around the face, head, shoulders, back and legs with his fists and hard blunt objects. Defendant Linde assisted Fogg in beating the plaintiff. The plaintiff lost consciousness, and when he regained consciousness an ambulance had arrived.

“At the hospital, the plaintiff was treated for head injuries. However, before the hospital could treat injuries to his shoulder, wrist, ring finger and front tooth the officers instructed hospital employees to cease treatment because the plaintiff had to be transported to the police station.

“There was a hearing the next day before a judge. The matter was continued until early February. During his time in custody, the plaintiff received no further medical treatment. The plaintiff suffered permanent injury to his head, front tooth and ring finger. In addition, he continues to suffer from headaches, sleeplessness, nightmares, anxiety and mental and emotional distress.”

The government has a duty under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution to provide medical care to one who has been injured while being apprehended by the police. City of Revere v. Massachusetts General Hospital, 463 U.S. 239 (1983).

Ross and the City appear to have settled the case in September 2014. By Ross’ complaint, Fogg appears to have committed a felony assault, at least a second degree, if not a first degree. But, Fogg was never even charged with a crime.

The HPD union contract holds that the City has to indemnify Fogg, so McQuade and Feola-Guerrieri file their appearances and pay the piper for him.

This frees Fogg to go back on the street, and continue to cause mayhem. Thanks to Mr. Ross, we have a record showing that video of Samuel Bryant getting the spittle kicked out of him is not an isolated incident, but potentially a pattern of behavior by Officer Fogg.

I can hear people saying Fogg is a good cop and Bryant had it coming after breaking Salkeld’s nose.

But how many cases like this does the City of Hartford have to defend? How much of our property tax treasure goes into protecting bad officers? No doubt, McQuade and Feola-Guerrieri go home to their families and go to sleep contented, thinking they have done God’s work protecting violent, vicious, Constitution-violating cops.

But what if they aren’t doing God’s work? What if junior’s tuition payments come from defending a system so unjust and putrid that only radical transformation will save us from it?

That’s why I stood out in front of HPD on a perfectly fine summer Moral Monday. HPD needs to be reigned in. Protest may not do it alone. Lawsuits may not do it alone. But know this, HPD, America is in a revolutionary moment in terms of policing.

We know you are watching us, taking pictures of us from unmarked cars and making lists and checking them twice. But we are watching you, too, and understanding who cannot be trusted with public safety. We are patient. We shall overcome.

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