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Internal Affairs Commander Says He's Eager To Make Changes

By STEVEN GOODE And JENNA CARLESSO

September 27, 2011

HARTFORD The commander of the Hartford Police Department's internal affairs division said Tuesday he supports the recommendations of an independent investigation report issued Monday that criticized the division's operations under a different leader, and that he's eager to implement them as quickly as possible.

"I'd like to do as many as I can push through and use this [report] as a tool to improving the internal affairs division," Lt. Robert Davis Jr. said. "This is a good steppingstone to moving forward."

Davis, who has led the internal affairs division since February, said he made some operational changes soon after taking over, including reinstituting the "command review process," meaning that complaints against officers and the outcomes of investigations are reviewed by the officer's supervisors.

"If we're investigating cases they are more aware of what's going on," Davis said.

He also said he's taken steps to better use the division's electronic case filing and documentation system, which tracks complaints and investigations. The system, installed in 2005, maintains recordings, memos, correspondence and other investigative evidence electronically.

But Davis pointed out that some of the recommendations by independent consultant Frank Rudewicz would require approval by the police chief. Among them are recommendations to limit internal investigations begun by top police officials only to criminal matters and making the internal affairs commander an assistant chief.

The Rudewicz report was ordered by Mayor Pedro Segarra in May, shortly after Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts transferred the former internal affairs commander, Lt. Neville Brooks, to other duties. Rudewicz concluded that the mayor initiated the investigation, in part, "because of an internal power struggle that got out of hand."

The report described an IA division under Brooks, believed by many to be a "close confidant" of the chief, that operated with few restrictions and caused friction with upper echelon commanders.

The report also cited a 2008 internal affairs department review that made many of the same recommendations Rudewicz was making. Davis said the earlier report was brought to his attention after Rudewizc began his investigation.

The Rudwicz report was commissioned, among other things, to determine whether Brooks had unfairly targeted assistant or deputy chiefs for investigation and if those chiefs retaliated against him.

The report concluded that management of the internal affairs division was "lax and sometimes nonexistent for the past several years, which had resulted in a loss of trust in the disciplinary mechanism by members of the department."

Rudewicz, a consultant with Marcum LLP, wrote that "there is an overwhelming atmosphere of paranoia and mistrust that has permeated throughout the Hartford Police Department, not only at the command staff level, but throughout the rank and file."

The report concluded that much of the negative atmosphere "can be attributed to the current internal investigative and disciplinary process."

The report concluded that Brooks, who was transferred by Roberts in April from internal affairs to special events, did not seek any personal gain through his management of the division other than the satisfaction of making the chiefs feel uncomfortable. It also concluded that Roberts was right to transfer Brooks out of the division, but should have done so sooner.

The report also noted Brooks' sporadic attendance between 2009 and April 2011, but did not mention that Brooks, who missed 160 days of work during that time, was dealing with a serious health issue that required hospitalization, surgery and extensive recovery.

"He had prostate cancer," Brooks' attorney, R. Bartley Halloran said Tuesday.

Halloran, who is representing Brooks in a complaint filed with the state Commission On Human Rights and Opportunities, said Brooks' cancer diagnosis appeared to be an intentional omission to portray Brooks in the worst possible light.

"They tortured the findings to make him look as bad as you can," Halloran said, adding that Brooks told investigators about the cancer.

Roberts said Tuesday that Brooks' illness was the main reason he didn't act sooner to transfer him out of internal affairs.

"Yeah, I should have done it sooner but he was battling cancer," Roberts said. "I did the humane thing."

Roberts announced Friday that he was retiring in December after 30 years with the department. Segarra has not said when he would start the search for a new police chief.

"We'll be working over the next couple weeks to devise a proposed schedule and a proposed selection criteria that involves all of the different elements that I outlined before community participation as well as city council participation and make sure we have a good process for that," Segarra said at a press conference Monday about the Rudewicz report.

Segarra said he was unsure if he would call for a national or local search. City council members said Tuesday that if a national search is made, the city will probably hire a search firm. Council members would then conduct interviews of the top three or four candidates, Councilman Kenneth Kennedy said. The council must approve the mayor's choice of candidates.

If outside candidates are interviewed, Kennedy said he would want them to present a plan "to correct the problems in the department pointed out in the Rudewicz study." Candidates from within the department "would have to tell me how they would change the culture of HPD," he said.

Councilman Calixto Torres said he would recommend that the mayor launch a national search "to make sure we have the best pool of candidates."

"I am concerned about having someone who is a top-notch administrator in addition to being a good police officer," Torres said. "That doesn't mean that person isn't within our own ranks, but [a national search] would be more inclusive and give us the opportunity to look at a wide range of candidates."

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.
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