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Police Chief Finalists Share Their Vision For Hartford


July 09, 2012

HARTFORD —— The three finalists for police chief hail from different cities and vastly different law enforcement backgrounds. But their visions for fighting crime in Hartford were strikingly similar: strengthening ties with the community, targeting violent offenders and improving the quality of life.

The three men shared their suggestions with residents and city officials at the Hartford Public Library Monday night.

Frank Straub, the public safety director in Indianapolis, Ind., who oversees six divisions, including police, fire and emergency medical services, stressed the importance of treating the community with respect and getting to know the neighborhoods.

Irving Bradley Jr., a former director of police in Trenton, N.J., who now works in corporate security, discussed the value of police presence and officers walking the streets.

William Heim, the police chief in Reading, Pa., emphasized the idea of using the community as a resource, especially in times of budget cutbacks and shrinking police forces.

The three were selected in a nationwide search, but Mayor Pedro Segarra has said that he's also still considering the city's acting police chief, James Rovella, who did not attend the public meeting Monday.

All three finalists said they would move to Hartford if hired. They offered similar priorities:

•Straub said he would spend the first year conducting a listening tour, seeking suggestions from residents and police department employees for the basis of a strategic plan. Straub also acknowledged that he would have to become certified as a police officer.

•Heim said he would use his first year on the job to listen to residents and learn about the city, while developing a plan to reduce crime.

•Bradley pledged to improve the city's perception of safety by increasing police presence and bolstering connections with neighborhoods.

Some residents have raised concerns over controversy in two of the candidates' backgrounds.

Straub resigned as public safety director in Indianapolis effective Aug. 1, according to news reports. He had submitted his resignation in April while facing a possible no-confidence vote from the Indianapolis City-County Council.

Straub came under fire for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's mishandling of evidence in connection with a 2010 fatal crash involving a department police officer, according to news reports. An internal affairs report found that the department was negligent when it mishandled some blood evidence in the prosecution of Officer David Bisard, the Indianapolis Star reported.

The department's police chief, Paul Ciesielski, also resigned in April.

Bradley was arrested in 1998 and later pleaded guilty in Superior Court in Union County to resisting arrest, driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and refusal to take a Breathalyzer test, The Star-Ledger reported. He was sentenced to 36 months of probation.

Police officers in Rahway found Bradley behind the wheel of his car and tried to question him one evening in May 1998, the paper reported, but he drove off and led police on a chase to his own home, where he punched an officer.

Bradley said Monday that the 14-year-old incident "is in my rare-view mirror."

"I had a bad day. Everybody makes mistakes," he said. "I learned from it. I moved on. It never compromised my integrity."

Robert Wasserman, chairman of Strategic Policy Partnership, the firm hired by the city to recruit the candidates, said Monday that many successful police chiefs have things in their record that could raise questions.

"All of the candidates have some issues like this in their past," he said. "This is a business in which the amount of complexity chiefs have to deal with [ensures] that things won't always go exactly right. It's the nature of the business."

People attending Monday's meeting had mixed reactions to the candidates.

Regina Dyton, lives in Windsor but works in Hartford, called the finalists "highly qualified" and said she was impressed with their experience.

Denise Best, a city resident, said she was disappointed that no one from within the Hartford Police Department applied to be chief. "They have some excellent officers who would have made excellent chiefs of police," she said.

Hyacinth Yennie, a city resident who sat on the panel that selected the finalists, said she wasn't particularly impressed with the candidates.

"They talk a real good game, but they don't know our people," Yennie said. "You can be a better chief if you know who you're dealing with. Like any interviewee, they sound and look good on paper, but in reality I have deep concerns about them. I want to see the proof in the pudding."

Segarra said Monday that there is no clear frontrunner for the job. He is expected to appoint a new chief this week.

"They're different," he said, referring to the finalists. "They have different types of experiences in different places.

"It doesn't disqualify any of them, but obviously there is a premium on being familiar with the community and not having that downtime for learning."

Staff writer Jesse Rifkin contributed to this story.

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.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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