HARTFORD —— Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts, saying he was leaving on his own terms, announced Friday that he would retire Dec. 31 after 30 years with the city police department.
His retirement coincides with the end of his current contract, city officials said. Roberts has served as police chief since July 2006.
He said Friday that he had been considering other career options recently and that he wanted to "give the current administration time to plan for the future."
Roberts said his decision was not prompted by the imminent release of an independent review of the department's internal affairs division ordered in May by Mayor Pedro Segarra.
"Thirty years is a long time," Roberts told the Courant. "I'm very proud of our record here. I'm leaving on my terms and it's my decision."
Roberts, 53, said incidents that cast the department in a bad light recently, including the firing of police Officer Hector Robles — currently a state legislator — after accusations of defrauding the department of more than $10,000 and a spike in shootings this summer, also did not factor into his decision.
"I'm not a quitter. It was worse for me in  with the West Indian Day Parade shootings," he said, referring to a weekend in which 11 people were shot. "That was the most challenging time."
Roberts said Segarra supported his decision to retire, and that he would stay beyond Dec. 31 if it would help the city.
Segarra could not be reached for comment Friday. In a written statement, he said: "The chief's dedication is reflected in the hard work, achievements and honors he has received. We will now begin the challenging search to find his successor.
"We will continue to draw upon his skills and leadership while we undertake this process. I intend to work with the community to develop an open and transparent process to secure the most highly qualified candidate."
City officials said Segarra plans to consult with the city council and solicit recommendations from residents before launching a search for the next police chief.
"Even though there are still some outstanding issues within the police department, we were surprised by today's announcement," said Richard Holton, president of the Hartford Police Union.
He said the union is looking forward to having a voice in the selection of the next chief.
"From what I understand, if there was to be a change in leadership in the police department, there would be a national search," Holton said. "That's not to say people inside the department couldn't apply.
"We hope that the mayor takes what we have to say into consideration during the selection process."
Nazario Figueroa, the union's vice president, also said the announcement came as a surprise.
"I knew his contract was coming up for renewal, but this is a surprise," he said Friday. "It's a loss for the community. He's a good man and individual that cares about the community."
Segarra ordered the independent review in May by private investigator Frank Rudewicz, a former city police officer who is now with the accounting and advisory services firm Marcum LLP. Segarra offered no reasons for seeking the review.
Sources said the mayor had a long meeting with Roberts on Thursday, the day before the chief announced his retirement.
Roberts joined the department in 1982. He was promoted to detective in 1988 and subsequently held numerous positions, including sergeant in the vice and narcotics division, commander of the crimes against persons division, lieutenant, commander of the juvenile investigative division, deputy chief in charge of the North End and assistant chief in charge of the investigative bureau.
He was appointed chief in 2006 by then-Mayor Eddie Perez and reappointed last summer by Segarra at an annual salary of $156,800.
Segarra said at the time of the reappointment that communication between the department and the mayor's office needed improvement.
The mayor said his vision for the department was to focus on youth initiatives and to take a hard look at drug crime and domestic violence. He also said he would like to work with Capital Community College to develop new police degree programs that focus on the "human side" of police work.
Roberts said he was proud of the department's progress under his leadership, especially in the area of community policing.
Roberts graduated in 1977 from Bulkeley High School, where he was co-captain of the football team and a sprinter on the track team. He earned an associate's degree in criminal justice from Tunxis Community College and a bachelor's degree with honors fromCharter Oak State College.
Several members of the city council also said Friday that they were stunned to hear of the chief's retirement.
Councilman Kenneth Kennedy said Roberts had a good tenure as chief and brought stability to the department. He said he would prefer to see someone hired from within the department to succeed him.
Councilman Luis Cotto, however, said the next chief should come from outside the department.
"If you have a dysfunctional family, you can't choose the next leader from within that family," he said. "We need someone from the outside to come in and clean up shop and create and entirely new environment."
Councilman Calixto Torres, head of the public safety committee, said the council supported Roberts, even when issues such as the Robles firing and Rudewicz report caused concern.
"Questions have always arisen. It's our responsibility to ask those questions," Torres said. "Overall I think he's spent a lot of time doing some really good work for the city and had its best interest at heart."
Roberts said he would recommend a successor from within the department.
As for qualifications, he said the next chief should have "good people skills, tolerance and very, very, thick skin."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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