June 30, 2006
By DANIEL E. GOREN And TINA A. BROWN, Courant Staff Writers
Hartford Police Chief Patrick J. Harnett is leaving his job after two years, city and police sources say, and his successor could be named as early as today.
Deputy Chief Daryl K. Roberts is the front-runner for the job, the sources said. Roberts, 47, is a 20-year veteran of the force. He has worked as a supervisor in most of the department's divisions and now heads the investigative bureau.
Harnett, 62, is expected to announce that he is retiring for a second time. He had retired from New York City's police department when he was named Hartford's chief by Mayor Eddie Perez in May 2004.
Calixto Torres, chairman of the city council's public safety committee, Thursday confirmed Harnett's retirement. He said he was surprised to learn of the chief's departure from Perez recently.
"We think very highly of Chief Harnett. He will be missed," Torres said. "He has been a true professional. A cop's cop."
Torres confirmed that one of the candidates being considered was Roberts.
Perez chose Harnett over a popular local candidate, Mark Pawlina, who was acting chief at the time. Pawlina had widespread support among neighborhood leaders, but Perez picked Harnett, citing his commitment to community policing. Pawlina earlier this year became chief in Chatham, Mass.
Harnett imported New York's statistic-driven crime fighting technique called "Compstat," breaking down crime figures neighborhood by neighborhood and block by block.
He pointed to a decline in overall crime rates as evidence that his department was effective.
But Harnett never won over many of Pawlina's supporters, and the epidemic of gun violence during his tenure drew widespread criticism. While he touted reduced overall crime rates, residents protested increases in shootings and homicides. In 2005, homicides increased by 56 percent over the previous year, to 25, while aggravated assaults rose almost 23 percent.
More recently, Harnett angered many city residents by his handling of two racially charged situations.
Last month he promoted Stephen J. Miele to lieutenant, 20 months after he had been demoted because a subordinate complained that Miele had ordered him to target black motorists downtown for traffic stops.
Earlier this month, Harnett drew criticism for his comments about the filing of criminal charges against Robert Lawlor, an officer accused of manslaughter in the 2005 shooting death of a young black man.
"It's unfortunate to see a police officer charged with criminal conduct while on duty trying to enforce the law," Harnett said.
Michael Georgetti, Lawlor's lawyer, said Thursday he believes that differences between Perez and Harnett over the Lawlor case contributed to Harnett's decision to leave.
Harnett staunchly backed Lawlor throughout the investigation, he said.
"He would always tell Bobby, `You were doing God's work,'" Georgetti said of Harnett.
Perez, Harnett and Roberts could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
Courant Staff Writer Matt Burgard contributed to this story.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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