July 6 - 12, 2006
Column By KEN KRAYESKE, The Hartford News Staff Writer
Back in 1990, Public Enemy rapped: “I dialed 9-1-1 a long time ago, don’t you see how late they’re reacting?”
Lately, those words have rung true.
A few weeks ago, my friends were driving down Sargeant Street on a Friday night when a man heaved a bottle at their car. My friend swerved, avoiding the bottle. He jumped out, and confronted the pitcher. The man pointed to his waist, implying that he was packing heat. My friend jumped in his car and fled, calling the police.
Police never showed up. The next night on Sargeant Street, a man was stabbed to death after asking some thugs to stop leaning on his girlfriend’s car. Perhaps had police responded to my friend’s complaint Friday night, the anarchic atmosphere of a public execution might not have ensued.
Last week, I had a less scary situation happen when I asked a man sitting on the electrical box on my front lawn to leave, move along. He told me I wasn’t Christian for letting him rest. I thought he was waiting to buy drugs. My now ex-girlfriend called 911, I walked inside and he left. The cops showed up 45 minutes later. Better late than never, I suppose.
I didn’t bother calling 911 about the prostitute servicing the john in my driveway Thursday night.
But this past Friday morning, I took Berli the dog onto the front lawn for a potty stop, and two doors down, and I dialed 911 as Berli and I witnessed a chaotic shouting match unfold.
On the street, an African-American woman swung a baseball bat, swatting at a woman leaning out the third floor window, yelling about a man they were fighting over.
Casey the slugger pounded her aluminum weapon on the front porch, challenging Rapunzel to come down. Like a fairy tale princess, Rapunzel bared her breast, telling the slugger that she would never look this good.
All this before 10 a.m. Police arrived within minutes, but Casey at the bat fled in a station wagon with two other women. The exhibitionist Rapunzel, when interviewed by police, failed to mention her strip-tease torment.
Before the officers departed, I approached one to explain Rapunzel’s indecent exposure. Our conversation meandered to Chief Patrick Harnett’s departure. The officer said he had never met Harnett until that morning, moments after Harnett’s resignation.
To that cop, it was good riddance. Harnett showed no leadership. To that cop’s knowledge, Harnett never showed up to a roll call, didn’t know his name. Harnett always went straight to his office, and at the end of the day, always left out the back door.
Mayor Eddie Perez’s rapid response time to Harnett’s re-retirement avoided a crisis, and it bodes well that incoming Chief Daryl Roberts is a local, like should’ve-been chief Mark Pawlina, who we lost when he was rejected in favor in Harnett.
Chief Roberts already seems like an improvement. He’s known to wander the halls of Hartford Public Access Television. I asked Chief Harnett for interview years ago, and it never happened. Talk about rapid response times.
I hope Chief Roberts will be accessible. I would love to see him have an open door policy like Mayor Perez does and invite constituents in and listen to their issues with the police.
Chief Roberts has also shown he is open to new ideas. He participated in the drug policy reform discussions with Councilman Bob Painter, so I’m thinking he might be courageous enough to re-examine Hartford’s prosecution of the war on drugs.
The next step would be for him to invite officers from L.E.A.P. – Law Enforcement Officers Against Prohibition – to discuss ways to shift resources from pot busts to violent crimes.
Now if Chief Roberts would advocate for a Civilian Review Board with more teeth and mandate rapid 911 response times, the city would be on a roll. All 911 calls should be responded to within 5 minutes. Period.
Let’s give the Chief a little time, and see how he responds to his new job. In the meantime, here’s applause to the new leadership at the Hartford Police Department, and let’s hope it translates into safer streets.