July 12, 2006
By TINA A. BROWN, Courant Staff Writer
Tonight, when Daryl K. Roberts is sworn in as the city's 21st permanent police chief, he'll have an advantage the last two chiefs didn't.
Patrick J. Harnett and Bruce P. Marquis both came to Hartford from other parts of the country, but Roberts - born and raised in the city - has spent the last 23 years rising through the ranks of the Hartford Police Department.
He doesn't have to get directions to a crime scene. And he won't need a roadmap to understand how things work within the department because he has managed many of the divisions, worked midnight shifts, headed the detective bureau and had other critical assignments.
"An internal candidate knows the organization, its people and its culture. He or she knows the community, its leaders, its politics, its expectations," said West Hartford Police Chief James J. Strillacci, a former president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association. "It's good for an agency's morale because it signifies confidence in its members."
A similar sentiment was reflected this week by several high ranking members of the police department.
"I think he's a great choice. I'm very happy it's one of us. He is a role model to the community," said Assistant Police Chief Michael J. Fallon, who was interviewed for the job. Though admittedly disappointed not to get the job, he said: "I'll serve where Daryl needs me. Daryl is my friend. I'm going to support him."
"Everyone is on board with it," said Deputy Chief Jose Lopez Sr., commander of the South District.
But being an insider has also proven challenging at the Hartford Police Department, which has had a succession of seven permanent and temporary police chiefs since 1999.
Joseph Croughwell, an HPD veteran, retired amid a series of departmental scandals, including a federal investigation of police misconduct that resulted in several officers going to prison.
Croughwell was replaced by acting Chief Deborah Barrows, who resigned after it was revealed that the department was not adhering to court orders, and that its property room was in disarray.
Barrows was then succeeded by another acting chief, Robert S. Rudewicz, who was suspended in November 2000 after he admitted falsifying an accident report, and later retired from the department.
All three had risen through the department's ranks.
The next chief was an outsider, Bruce Marquis, whose first day on the job was marked by the egging of his car. Marquis, a former police chief of the Houston school district, earned a reputation in Hartford as a strict disciplinarian who made professionalizing the police force a high priority.
But Marquis' critics, mostly community activists, claimed Marquis was too focused on internal matters and weak on implementing community policing efforts.
Marquis left Hartford for another post in Virginia, and was replaced by Mark Pawlina, who was popular with community members during his brief term as interim chief.
Two years ago, after a national search, Mayor Eddie A. Perez selected Harnett, a New York City Police Department veteran.
During Harnett's tenure, observers say, he fixed systemic management problems, upgrading technology to track the status of criminal cases, and reducing a backlog of civilian complaints.
The morale inside the department, many officers say, has improved since Harnett implemented a new community policing plan in February 2005 that divided the city into four districts and made captains and lieutenants more accountable to the neighborhoods they serve.
Perez said he selected Roberts because of his input in crafting the city's neighborhood policing plan and his capacity as a leader. "Chief Harnett was the builder of the police department's new management structure and Daryl was one of the architects.'"
The neighborhood policing plan, co-authored by Roberts and Fallon, will help the Roberts administration, high-ranking officers say.
"It's a great opportunity because he's part of the team. He doesn't have to come here and spend six months trying to figure out things," said Deputy Chief Neil Dryfe, commander of the North District.
"There is a much more positive sense of anticipation amongst the officers here because they are not expecting wholesale changes," Dryfe said.
Roberts has yet to announce his chief assistant and has not declared his philosophy for managing the department. But he said he has learned quickly that being the chief means there are far more people he's accountable to.
Roberts, 47, is taking over a 440-sworn member department that includes many young officers. He said he's found it difficult to maintain his reputation of returning every telephone call, with 300 calls pouring in since his appointment last week.
"I'm looking to improve the services we provide, to build positive relationships and to make the city safer for everyone," Roberts said during a five-minute break Tuesday.Roberts will be sworn in at 7 tonight at city hall.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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