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A Community in Mourning

Denise West

October 01, 2011

Thirty years ago, newly-wed and new to Hartford, my husband and I bought a home in Upper Albany, which unbeknownst to us was also home to a variety of drug dealers, from as far away as Springfield, Massachusetts. Concerned about the safety of our young daughter, I began the tedious task of shooing away drug dealers from in front of my house, and calling the police every day when I returned home from work. If and when a cruiser actually responded, the dealers would disperse only to reconvene as soon as the police crested the small rise midway up the street. It was a fruitless exercise that my neighbors, many of them elderly, had long since given up. There was absolutely no sense of trust or faith in the Harford Police. Guided by NYPD or some other popular cop show, I called the HPD number that I had now committed to memory, and asked the dispatcher for the vice squad. A young sergeant, Officer Daryl Roberts, answered the call. He instructed me to organize my neighbors for a meeting, and he walked us through the process of standing complaints and no loitering signs. He followed up with a number of stings that resulted in the arrests of white-collar customers, the closing of a shooting gallery, and the scattering of drug dealers. Sergeant Roberts was my hero!

I followed Officer Roberts’ career as he ascended the ranks to Chief of Police. No one deserved it more! Slowly, but surely the nature of policing began to change in my neighborhood. While speaking to a group of University of Hartford students, he remarked that he instructed his officers to treat everyone as Sir or Ma’am, until they proved otherwise. One of our local merchants commented on the respectful way in which he was treated afterhis store had been vandalized.

I’ve had many opportunities to converse with our Community Service Officers and other officers who applauded Chief Roberts’ management style, which promoted increased communications, accountability and transparency.

Our community is in mourning. On Friday, September 23rd, in response to the Mayor’s announcement of Chief Roberts’ pending resignation, I received several emailssimply stating, “How sad”, or “Terrible news!” These statements were immediately followed by questions, “What will we do now?” “Will it go back to being business as usual?” “What will become of our community policing strategy?”

We can only hope that the Chief’s leaving will not negatively impact the growing trust between our peace officers and the community. We sincerely hope that his successor, will like Roberts, be a native of our Capital city, that he, or she will reinforce the strategies that have been working so well in our communities, and that we will not again be subjected to rudeness, profiling, and a general lack of caring. Our community is in mourning, and while we wish Chief Daryl Roberts the best, we warily hope for the best for ourselves as well!

Reprinted with permission of the The Hartford News.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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