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Colin McEnroe: Misunderstanding the HPD Won't Solve the Problem

Ken Krayske

July 31, 2008

I think if Colin McEnroe wants the Hartford Police Department to show up at a call, he needs to throw a party. I did this past Saturday night, and HPD showed up twice in two hours.

So when I read Colinís column this past Sunday about HPD taking forever and two Tuesdays to respond to a burglary call, I was perplexed. Maybe Colin should have said something different to dispatch. The one thing he had right was that he was going to receive some angry responses. I heard lots of people talking about the column, many angry, many confused.

Consider this column not an angry response, but one puzzled by Colinís surrender. A few weeks ago, Colin wrote a column about cities being important because they are the places where everything happens.

We need people like Colin here, but if he chooses to leave, someone else will fill the vacuum he leaves, and weíll miss his reporting on incidents with HPD.

My interactions with HPD could fill a book. Generally, experience shows me that honorable officers fill out the ranks of HPD, they just take orders from people who emphasize the wrong priorities.

For example, if I take photos of the wrong person, I can be surrounded by six officers in under 30 seconds.

Or, like this past Saturday, I threw a backyard kegger with three hardcore punk bands, (part of a bicycle race celebration known as an Alley Cat), HPD showed up twice in two hours for noise complaints (well before the noise ordinance kicked in, but thatís another qualm). No arrests, no bad blood. Good clean fun with loud, obnoxious rock and roll.

Or, like a few weeks ago, when an abandoned building needed clearing out of scurrilous elements who may or may not have been inside Ė HPD arrived in five minutes with military armaments and a German Shepherd.

Or, I can go back even farther and recall a few years ago, a car thief in my backyard hit me in the head with a pipe, HPD responded in under three minutes. We caught and successfully prosecuted the perp.

Sometimes, I think itís a matter of how you frame the call, and that HPD officers will respond rapidly. Other times, I do think HPD is genuinely inept and needs to be held accountable by a body with more teeth than the Court of Common Council.

When I saw Councilman Luis Cotto last week out at Hartford Jazz Fest, he shared wisdom about how things work in the city. We were discussing council oversight of HPD, and Cotto said he could inquire about a matter of someone because ďHe likes me this week.Ē

Does HPD like you this week? Itís a tough question to ask of an organization staffed by more than 400 people. The answer, I think, depends upon our vision of the police.

If we approach HPD as a cash-starved political beast tilting at windmills, we can better understand the culture of those charged to protect us from threats our own society created by misguided policy. The violence, the drugs, the crime on the streets are all symptoms of the disease of poverty.

If you further believe that poverty is a result of government policy, and not caused by God or personal shortcomings, then finding ways to improve HPD should be much easier.

HPD is underfunded and overarmed in the war on poverty. We are asking too few officers to protect us from the ills caused by the greatest wealth disparity in the past 100 years.

The best way to prevent violence is through education. This solution requires patience from an impatient society. Officers chase bad guys with guns. But if the bad guy learned to read, it is highly likely he would never have picked up the gun.

Add to that impossible mission of battling povertyís henchmen the federally-imposed mandates of militarism and winning an unwinnable war on drugs, ďprotect and serveĒ becomes lost in the daily grind of surviving, and responding to the heavily armed camps causing chaos on the streets.

I wasnít there with Colin and J. waiting for two hours for a response to a buglary. So I donít know what they experienced. But I can imagine, and I do think that HPD responds quicker for certain streets than others, and for certain people faster than others.

So when I read Colinís heartwrenching ďIím moving outĒand he manufactures a reason like this city canít provide basic security, my emotions react, saying ďBummer, but go.Ē No one is forcing you to stay, and if you donít want to be here, we donít need you.

Imagine if instead of fleeing, Colin doubled down. He could run for office. Itíís one thing to comment, itís another to tussle with political forces here in Hartford. What kind of a race would that be? Colin McEnroe for Mayor. Versus Eddie Perez. Or he could challenge Senator Eric Coleman. My money is on the Yalie in both battles.

Do I think Colin is looking for reasons to pacify his liberal guilt about moving out of the city? Maybe. Heís lucky he has the resources and the wherewithal to move from a very secure condo complex on Woodland Street out into the suburban yonder.

Monday night, I saw Libertarian Richard Lion out at a bar. I asked him if he was running for any office this year. He said no, because he was trying to put his life back together financially after getting beaten up by some hoodlums.

The unknown assailants broke his jaw in four places about 18 months ago, and it was a catastrophic fiscal incident. ďItís life in Hartford,Ē he said.

Reprinted with permission of the The Hartford News.
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