Hartford Chief Roberts Leaving Job He's Always Wanted
By STEVEN GOODE and JENNA CARLESSO
December 28, 2011
HARTFORD —— Ever since he was 11, all Daryl K. Roberts wanted to be was a cop.
"I was always watching 'Adam 12' and 'Dragnet,'" Roberts said. "They got to help people and chase bad guys."
That all changes Friday, as Roberts, a Hartford native who started his career with the city police department three decades ago as a patrolman, retires after five years as chief.
"I'm a son of the city," said Roberts, a Bulkeley High School graduate. "I'm just thankful the community accepted me and allowed me to serve."
Pictures: Chief Daryl Roberts Retires
Surrounded by 30 years of memories hanging from the walls and perched on the shelves of his Jennings Road office, Roberts reflected last week on his career and his five up-and-down years as chief.
Roberts, who was named Hartford's 21st permanent chief in 2006, is proud that he brought some continuity to the position after a succession of short, sometimes professionally embarrassing, tenures by administrators from within and outside the department.
"One thing I wanted to do, and did, was add some stability back to the position," Roberts said.
But as he leaves, Roberts also is concerned that he has not been solicited for input on naming the next interim or permanent chief. In fact, Roberts said that he and his command staff have not been told anything by Mayor Pedro Segarra about who the interim chief will be.
"Not knowing is not fair to the police department, the city or the community," Roberts said, adding that he was in a unique position to help with the process.
"I have something to offer not only as chief, but as someone who grew up in the department," he said.
Segarra, who praised Roberts for his 30 years of dedicated service to the city and for significantly reducing crime during his tenure as chief, said Wednesday that he expected to name the interim chief on Thursday.
Roberts, 53, might have brought some of his isolation from the mayor's office and the process on himself as the department suffered some less-than-shining moments of its own recently. They included the 2010 firing and subsequent arrest of a community service officer accused of bilking the city out of thousands of dollars in fake overtime, and a scathing independent investigative report that found that the department's internal affairs division was "lax and at times non-existent."
Robert's retirement announcement in September preceded the release of the report by a few days, although he denied that there was any connection.
Still, Roberts acknowledges that he handled poorly the situation that led to Segarra's calling for an independent review.
"I thought I handled it right, but should not have moved as quickly as I did," said Roberts, who is facing a lawsuit over his decision to remove Lt. Neville Brooks from his position as commander of the internal affairs division. Roberts said he also feels badly that the situation ended long-standing friendships in the department.
"People who were friends don't talk anymore," he said.
Kevin Brookman, a childhood friend of Brooks, posted information about the internal affairs saga and other less-than-complimentary issues that popped up during Roberts' tenure on his "We The People" blog (wethepeoplehartford.blogspot.com), including a lawsuit filed by an officer against the chief alleging that he was subjected to slurs and anti-gay remarks. To Brookman, the Brooks situation was an example of Roberts' lacking leadership skills and making poor personnel decisions.
"He had an opportunity to prove himself to Mayor Segarra, but didn't use it well," Brookman said.
Regardless of Roberts' shortcomings, Brookman said, no one doubts that he cares deeply about the city.
"He'll be remembered for his relationships with the neighborhoods and residents," Brookman said, adding that he liked the chief personally.
Roberts also took heat following the 2008 West Indian Day Parade shootings that left one man — a cousin of his — dead and several others wounded, and was heavily criticized for a slow response to a rash of shootings this summer that resulted in the formation of a multidepartmental shooting task force on the orders of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
"I've taken a lot of hits, but I've been accountable and always answered questions," Roberts said.
One of those occasions almost ended Roberts' tenure as chief in June 2008. In an unusual display of public anger, he vented to the gathered media at police headquarters about a rash of violence in the city. It was highlighted by a savage daylight street beating and robbery of former Mayor Nicholas Carbone and the hit-and-run of a 78-year-old man on Park Street that was caught on video surveillance and showed disinterested onlookers walking and driving around the man as he lay paralyzed on the busy street.
"I'm ashamed to say our city has a toxic relationship with ourselves," said Roberts, whose remarks led the evening television newscasts and were splashed across the front page of The Courant the following day.
"[Mayor Eddie A. Perez] was in my office waiting for me that morning," Roberts said. "I thought I was fired."
But Roberts hung on to his job, even when he distanced himself publicly from Perez after the former mayor was arrested on bribery and other charges in 2009 and held several rallies at city hall surrounded by other department heads.
"It was the right thing to do," said Roberts, adding that he won't miss the politics that goes with the job.
Nazario Figueroa, vice president of the Hartford Police Union, said that Roberts did things on his own terms and that his departure is no different.
"He decided to do what he wanted to do according to his rules," Figueroa said. "He's always been that sort of person. He's leaving the way he wants to leave. I think it's a good time."
Figueroa said that many in the department were sad to see him leave, though, and that he would be remembered as someone who "wouldn't ask you to do something if he wouldn't do it himself."
Roberts, who celebrated the hanging of his portrait with those of other chiefs in the main lobby of headquarters Wednesday and spent time this week addressing roll calls, said that it was important for his officers to know that "I came from where you came from."
As for his legacy in and out of the department, Roberts said, "I hope they remember me as a chief who was accessible and loved the people of this city."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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