It has been more than two years since I came to Hartford as the police chief. During my interview, Mayor Eddie Perez asked: Why Hartford? Why would you leave your home and come to a city that you hardly know and where no one knows you? My answer remains the same: because I believe in public service and I believe that police can reduce serious crime and improve Hartford's quality of life.
During 32 years with NYPD under chiefs Bill Bratton and John Timoney, I joined the major shift taking place in urban policing. The new model rejected random patrol, which produced only random results. It also rejected community-policing models that involved only a few officers who were expected to be buffers between the community and the department.
Instead "information-led community policing" was introduced. Police commanders were given responsibility for manageable areas of the city. They were expected to communicate directly with residents and were held accountable for solving their neighborhoods' problems.
Under this model, police at all levels began talking about crime and other community issues. Officers had a renewed sense of accountability. They were asked at regular meetings to develop ways to deal with crime. In these meetings, commanders were questioned about specific crimes based on mapped problem areas. This model rests on four principles: first, accurate, timely information must be available to all officers; second, supervisors have to develop effective tactics to deal with crime; third, rapid deployment with a sense of urgency; and, lastly, relentless follow-up to help replicate effective tactics and reject less effective ones.
This is the neighborhood policing plan that I brought to Hartford. Many dedicated Hartford police supervisors, especially former Assistant Chief Mark Pawlina, Assistant Chief Mike Fallon and Assistant Chief Daryl Roberts, made the vision a reality.
In February 2005, we introduced the Neighborhood Policing Plan. Hartford was divided into four districts. Each district is commanded by a captain. The districts are split into two zones, each commanded by a lieutenant. The plan includes units in each district, led by a sergeant, to address street level drugs and other quality of life crimes. Narcotics and gun teams work in each district to eliminate the entrenched drug dealers who cause much of our crime problem.
In urban policing, the challenges are never over and the development of effective tactics is ongoing. After the recent increase in shootings in the Northeast District, Operation True North was implemented. More resources were assigned. City officers are paired with state troopers to provide high visibility uniform patrol.
Detectives from major crimes, the intelligence and juvenile investigative divisions and our joint-local Federal Violent Crime Impact Team were also deployed. This operation has recovered a significant number of guns and stemmed the violence. True North introduced a tips hotline, 860-527-TIPS, to allow the public to provide information anonymously. I believe investigations into these shootings will succeed in clearing our streets of the small group of individuals responsible for most of the violence.
During the past two years, I have gotten to know and respect the men and women who patrol our streets 24/7. They are part of a proud tradition. Hartford, like the Bronx where I was born and raised, can be a challenging city in which to do police work. But Hartford cops are outstanding and have been very supportive of this old Bronx cop. They go into harm's way every day and I will always be proud to have led them for two years.
My vision, as expressed to Mayor Perez at the outset, was to develop a policing plan that could be built upon and to help identify my successor and other leaders. During the past two years, Mayor Perez shared this vision and has supported the department and me through some trying times.
Incoming Chief Daryl Roberts is an experienced leader, a true son of Hartford and a terrific role model for the city's youth. He and his team will build upon the plan they helped to create. I believe that better times, including reductions in the shootings, will come through information-led community policing.
My wife of 38 years and my family have been supportive for the two years I have been away in Hartford. It's time for me to go home. I will remain in touch with the many friends I have made in the department. I also value the support and friendship of many of my fellow city employees and department heads, as well as the leadership of the state police and chiefs from the capital region.
Last, I wish to acknowledge the residents of the city, some of whom used to stop me on the street and kid me about doing pushups to be certified. So many of them offered friendly greetings and well wishes to me and my cops; they often made my day. To everyone - all the best!
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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