HARTFORD, Conn. — An uptick in lawlessness on the streets of Connecticut’s capital city is not only affecting the quality of life of residents, but now, police officers are calling out their superiors for what they say is a lack of leadership.
Hartford police officers said they are tired, burnt out and don’t always feel empowered to do their jobs to the best of their ability.
"It’s so common that sometimes you can’t realize if it’s a gunshot or fireworks," remarked Edwin Caraballo of Hartford. He's a lifelong resident and lives on Bliss Street with his grandchildren, where at 1:30 a.m. Monday gunshots shattered the silence, wounding two men.
Hartford residents are now caught in a different kind of crossfire.
"Our members are tired and frustrated," said Hartford Police Union President Anthony Rinaldi. It's a verbal spat between unionized officers and top police brass.
"I sympathize with that but inherent with this job in law enforcement we have to be reactive to the situations that pop up," said Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody.
Union President Officer Anthony Rinaldi spoke exclusively to FOX61. He said for the traditional weekend of the Puerto Rican parade, officers received a message, forcing them into work. Some of the officers pulled 23 hours shifts. Rinaldi says that’s not unusual.
"Not that we expect Chief Thody to understand or relate to the efforts shown by our officers as he was on vacation in Florida during one of the busiest events the city of Hartford hosts," said Rinaldi.
"I think it’s kind of cheap shot," said Chief Thody.
Thody points out that due to COVID-19, this year the city did not sanction a Puerto Rican parade. He told FOX61 there was little indication crowds would escalate.
"To say in hindsight being 20/20 you should have canceled your vacation. I was away for four days. It was pre-planned. I was here for all the planning events going into that weekend," said Thody
Since a year ago, the ranks of Hartford’s Police Department have thinned from 426 officers to 400. They have a budget for 475. Police brass cited COVID-19 retirements, but the union said quality officers are jumping ship for positions in other departments. The Union called on Chief Thody to wake up.
"They could change the mandatory minimum staffing levels for each shift maybe come up with a different report writing system, so we don’t have to dispatch and officer to every call," Rinaldi said.
Thody said he just changed the forced overtime policy. Effective immediately, Hartford PD will rely on officers who volunteer for overtime first, then they will begin forcing officers in, in an order of least to most seniority. Every officer will get one refusal until the list resets.
"To the residents: As an administrator, I will continue to do what I must do to keep not only the residents safe but my officers safe," Thody explained. "I would rather be answering questions about how inconvenienced my officers are than answering questions as to why one of my officers has been hurt."
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