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Retiring Hartford Police Chief Redefined Cops' Roles

Daryl K. Roberts: Chief shifted officers from strictly crime-fighters to community helpers

Hartford Courant Editorial

September 24, 2011

Hartford Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts grew up in Hartford and has a good feel for how the streets work. His tenure should be remembered as the time the cops tried to get to kids before the bad guys did.

Believing that early intervention with at-risk youngsters can pay off in better lives and less crime, Mr. Roberts created an innovative truancy reduction and prevention program, in partnership with The Travelers, that got kids off the street and back into the classroom.

He also understood that domestic violence has a hugely negative effect on children, as well as their mothers, and created a special unit to deal with this crime. In these steps and others, Mr. Roberts subtly redefined the role of his officers, asking them to be social workers, educators and community helpers as well as crime-fighters.

We hope his successor will continue this effort.

Mr. Roberts announced his retirement Friday, effective at the end of the year when his contract is up. In a 30-year career he came up through the chairs, commanding every major division in the department. He was one of the authors of the neighborhood policing plan, and after becoming chief in 2006 continued to emphasize community involvement with such initiatives as quality-of-life teams, increased foot beats and bicycle patrols.

A strong, soft-spoken man with a quiet sense of humor, Mr. Roberts was a conservative leader who didn't believe in legalizing drugs, and in 2010 he opposed a proposed racial profiling ordinance because it would restrict the department's ability to gather information. Mr. Roberts struggled to understand why violent crime persisted when there were better options for young people why, as he once put it, the city seemed to be at war with itself. If he didn't pull that sword from the stone, neither has anyone else.

Few if any police chiefs leave unscathed by criticism, and Mr. Roberts took his hits, mostly over internal administrative issues. Notable was the arrest a year ago of officer Hector Robles for double-billing the department, and subsequent claims that other officers were doing it but record-keeping was too chaotic to tell. The case is still pending. The department's internal affairs division may also come in for criticism when the results of an independent review are released.

Nonetheless, Mr. Roberts leaves on his own terms a man who genuinely wanted to help the community and did so.

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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