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Rovella Named Hartford's Police Chief

Acting Chief Appointed At End Of 6-Month, $50,000 National Search


July 10, 2012

HARTFORD After a six-month national search, James C. Rovella, who has been leading the Hartford Police Department since February, was named the permanent police chief Tuesday.

The announcement came just hours after Mayor Pedro Segarra interviewed three finalists chosen by a recruiting firm the city had hired to aid in the search.

The finalists Indianapolis Public Safety Director Frank Straub; Police Chief William Heim of Reading, Pa.; and former Trenton Police Director Irving Bradley Jr. had also participated in a public meeting Monday.

Rovella's appointment takes effect July 18, the mayor said, because a background check must still be performed. Segarra said that Rovella has not signed a contract, though he hopes the new chief will serve at least three or four years.

Rovella, 54, had been considered the front-runner for the position all along even though he abstained from the search process, saying he did so to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.

He was made acting chief in February while serving as head of the Hartford Shooting Task Force, a role he continued after his appointment. He had been chief inspector for the chief state's attorney's office.

Rovella succeeds longtime Chief Daryl K. Roberts, who retired Dec. 31. Rovella will be paid $156,800, the maximum salary for the position.

Segarra said Tuesday that the finalists were "an impressive group of people," but that he based his decision on "the needs of the community," rather than on resumes and interviews. He said he doesn't regret spending $50,000 on the national search.

"I wanted to familiarize myself with who the universal candidates were," he said, adding that some of them stood out in one area or another. Ultimately, he said, Rovella was the best fit for the city.

Others have raised concerns about the process.

Merle Davis, a city resident and former Hartford police sergeant, called the search "a farce." He said some qualified candidates probably didn't apply because they suspected that the mayor favored Rovella.

"I'm upset by all the smoke and mirrors," he said. "Why are we going through this process if he's already made his choice? We're in financial trouble. Why are we spending $50,000? I'm losing faith in the mayor."

Hyacinth Yennie, another city resident who sat on the panel that narrowed the pool of candidates to three finalists, said the national search was unnecessary.

"When you have someone already doing a good job, why waste time going out there and finding somebody else?" she said. "I could use that $50,000 and do something in my community, maybe get the kids a pool for the summer or something, instead of wasting time doing something like that."

The mayor's appointment must be approved by the city council. Shawn Wooden, the council president, said some members have expressed concern about the process.

"We spend $50,000 and we delay the appointment six months to end up at the same place we were at in January," Wooden said. "If you set up a process and you tell the public that this is the process, all the candidates should have to participate in that process. It undermines confidence in government when we say one thing and do another."

Wooden said the council would schedule a meeting at which members will question Rovella.

"Since the chief wasn't vetted by the independent search firm, I want to get a sense of what we don't know about him," he said.

The council has 60 days from July 18 to consider the appointment.

Rovella, who worked 19 years with the city's police department, starting as an officer in 1981 and working his way up to homicide detective, said Tuesday that he was "absolutely humbled" by the appointment.

He said he and his family, who live in Wethersfield, will move to the city.

Richard Holton, president of the city's police union, said the union didn't endorse a candidate for police chief because Rovella wasn't officially an applicant. But he said the union has supported Rovella.

Holton added that morale has improved since Rovella took over.

"He was instrumental in re-jumping the contracts with the union. He was very fair," Holton said. "He understands the rank-and-file needs of the police department. We always supported him."

Roberts, the former police chief, praised Rovella's work as a detective for the department and later as head of the shooting task force.

"He was a bulldog," he said. "He was a hell of an investigator who stuck to it and got some good results."

Roberts said he hopes Rovella continues the city's neighborhood policing efforts and makes himself accessible.

"You have to listen to people," he said. "That's how you build trust."

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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