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James Rovella Appointed Interim Hartford Police Chief

To Replace Brian Heavren, Named Interim Chief In December

By JENNA CARLESSO

February 15, 2012

HARTFORD James C. Rovella, head of the Hartford Shooting Task Force and chief inspector at the chief state's attorney's office, will take over as the city's interim police chief, Mayor Pedro Segarra said Tuesday.

Rovella replaces Brian Heavren, a department veteran and assistant chief who was appointed interim chief by Segarra less than two months ago. Heavren succeeded longtime Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts, who retired Dec. 31.

Segarra, announcing the change at an afternoon press conference, would not elaborate when asked multiple times why he was making the change. He said only that he was exercising his power to appoint a leader of his choice.

"Part of the mayor's job is to make those decisions in accordance with what he or she believes is in the best interest of promoting safety for our community," he said. "I'm totally satisfied with the work that Chief Heavren has performed, so it's no indication on him. I just think that we need to move in a direction of doing some things that I've discussed with Chief Rovella and we have the support of Chief Heavren."

Segarra had named Rovella his special assistant in late December at the same time that he appointed Heavren interim chief. In that role, Rovella served as liaison between the police department and the city administration in addition to his duties with the shooting task force and chief state's attorney's office.

Rovella retired from the Hartford Police Department in 2000 after 19 years of service, starting as a police officer in 1981 and working his way up to homicide detective.

He joined the chief state's attorney's office in 2000 as an inspector for the former statewide prosecution bureau. He transferred to the Hartford state's attorney's office in 2002, where he also worked as an inspector.

The next year, he returned to the chief state's attorney's office, assigned to the public integrity bureau, which has since been combined with the financial crimes bureau. In 2004, he was assigned to investigate cold cases, and in 2007 he was promoted to serve as supervisory inspector for the office's cold case unit.

Chief State's Attorney Kevin T. Kane appointed Rovella chief inspector in February 2009.

In July, Rovella, 54, became head of the Hartford shooting task force, which includes law enforcement officials from several state, municipal and federal departments. The task force has made more than 100 shooting-related arrests since it began work seven months ago.

Rovella said Tuesday that in his new role he plans to focus on community policing, upcoming budget preparation and cracking down on violent crime.

"It's very broad in scope," he said of his plan for the department. "Do I see anything that needs to be fixed tomorrow? No. But within a week or two I think we need to really evaluate exactly how we're delivering our police services and from there we'll make some decisions with the guidance of the mayor and Brian."

Asked about his qualifications to lead the department, Rovella said: "I am chief inspector for the [chief] state's attorney's office, so I have experience with being a chief."

Rovella will remain head of the shooting task force while serving as interim chief, at least in the beginning, city officials said.

Richard Holton, president of the Hartford Police Union, called Rovella's appointment Tuesday "a breath of fresh air" for the department.

"I think the change will be good for the department," Holton said. "You'll see things being done differently. I think [Rovella] will bring a new perspective to law enforcement in the city. He's worked there before and he sees what's currently being done, and I think he's going to take all that experience and apply it."

Hartford police Lt. Lance Sigersmith, who serves on the shooting task force, said the police department would "benefit tremendously" from Rovella's background.

"He's very adaptable and very aggressive when it comes to violent crime," Sigersmith said. "He's a positive influence not only for the police department, but for the entire community. If you look at what he's done here over the last few months, imagine what he can do."

Segarra said Tuesday that he would press ahead with the search for a new police chief. The city last month hired the Massachusetts-based recruiting firm Strategic Policy Partnership to assist in the search. The city will work with the firm for 10 to 12 weeks, though the search could take up to six months, Segarra said. The firm will be paid about $50,000.

Rovella said Tuesday that he is still considering whether he'll apply for the permanent job, though he said: "I think I am planning on applying for the job."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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