June 1, 2006
By DANIEL E. GOREN, And CHRISTOPHER KEATING Courant Staff Writers
After 16 people were shot in five days in Hartford, Mayor Eddie A. Perez and Gov. M. Jodi Rell fired accusations at one another Wednesday in a high-profile clash of public letters over how to stop the bloodshed on the city's streets.
Rell claimed Perez had turned away the state's helping hand. Perez said no such thing was even close to true. As the day continued, much ink was spilled by the two political rivals as each lobbed explosive letters at one another.
In the midst of it all, the state's top cop said troopers would be on the way to Hartford within two weeks to help stop the violence that has struck several neighborhoods in the city's North End.
Public Safety Commissioner Leonard Boyle told reporters Wednesday night that he expects to send about 10 uniformed state troopers, along with additional plainclothes officers, to help Hartford fight violent crime. He declined to provide details of the police assignments, saying that the element of surprise is a key component of police operations.
"I think it's time for the war of words to be over," Boyle said. "I don't want to get into a tit for tat."
But the war of words was not over.
The back-and-forth responses put on display a strained relationship between Rell, the Republican governor, and Perez, a Democrat who is strongly supporting Democrat Dannel P. Malloy's efforts to unseat Rell in November.
The exchange started on Wednesday when Perez received a letter from Rell in which she said she had offered, on two occasions this year, to send the state police to help patrol the city's streets. Perez declined both offers, she said.
The media had received a copy of the same letter the day before.
Perez fired back and said the governor's claim was untrue. Perez said he had never declined help from the state. In fact, Perez added, he had been asking for the state's assistance to battle crime in Hartford for nearly two years with no substantive response from Rell.
"I was shocked by your false statement that I had declined your offer of state police assistance at some point this year," Perez wrote in his letter Wednesday. "The points I have made to you over the past 18 months remain."
Perez said that the solution of sending the state police into the city is no more than a "Band-Aid" on a festering wound. Instead, the city needs investigative help getting illegal guns off the streets, tougher gun-trafficking legislation, closer supervision of criminals who are free on probation and parole and more state money to hire local police officers, he said.
Perez also charged that he did not receive Rell's letter until Wednesday - long after reporters had received a copy of the letter Tuesday evening.
"Election year photo opportunities do not constitute a crime fighting strategy," Perez wrote.
In response to Perez's accusations that Rell had made a false statement, Rell's spokesman, Judd Everhart, said Boyle had on several occasions reached out to Hartford Police Chief Patrick J. Harnett.
In a reply letter that was released shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday, Rell rejected the notion that the state had not helped the Hartford police during the past year.
"Over the past several months the Connecticut State Police have held numerous formal and informal discussions and meetings with the Hartford Police Department to offer additional assistance," Rell wrote. "To that end, the State Police have committed to certain enforcement actions which should not be detailed in writing, but of which you are undoubtedly aware."
The state police, she said, had been asked to back off.
"Furthermore, we had hoped to initiate such actions several months ago, but we were asked to put such actions on hold," Rell wrote.
Boyle declined to provide any details about those conversations.
But the help offered by the state to the city has already been costly, Rell said.
"Let me remind you that just ten months ago the Connecticut State Police assigned both a contingent of undercover narcotics officers and its traffic squad to work with the Hartford Police Department in combating violent crime and quality of life issues in the north end of Hartford," Rell wrote to Perez.
"To do so, of course, came at the cost of reduced narcotics and traffic enforcement in other parts of the state," she said. "Nevertheless, your request was immediately granted. I might add that the funding for the state police traffic squad also included a $75,000 grant at no cost to the City of Hartford."
As for why Perez received Rell's initial letter a day after Tuesday's press release, Everhart said that the letter was mailed to the mayor.
Perez's response on Wednesday was faxed to the governor. Her reply was sent by e-mail.
By the end of the day, the dispute had not slowed down.
Perez said in a press release he would visit Rell at the Capitol today to make sure that the city and state are doing everything possible to "ensure the safety of the people of Hartford."
But Everhart responded, saying, "The Mayor has not contacted the Governor's office and there is no meeting scheduled. Governor Rell encourages him to call her office and she would be happy to set up a meeting with the Mayor."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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