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Court Monitor Rules Mayor Must Testify In Police Hearing

April 6, 2005
By TINA A. BROWN, Courant Staff Writer

A federal official ruled Tuesday that Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez must testify during a show cause hearing to determine whether the city's police department violated a court order requiring the department to increase its internal affairs staff and reduce the backlog of citizens' complaints.

Richard Bieder, the court monitor of a consent decree, ruled in district court in Hartford after hearing arguments for nearly an hour by the city's attorney, Helen Apostolidis, and attorney Joseph Moniz.

Moniz represents the plaintiffs in Cintron vs. Vaughn, a lawsuit filed by a group of residents and community activists. It was resolved through a 1973 consent decree that required the city to take steps to be more accountable and responsive to the community.

Apostolidis argued that members of the police department can answer any questions the plaintiffs pose. Anything that Perez might say would be "second or third hand," she said.

Moniz, however, said he subpoenaed Perez because Hartford Police Chief Patrick J. Harnett testified last week that he met with Perez and Perez's chief of staff, Matthew Hennessy, to discuss U.S. District Judge Ellen Bree Burns' court order in June 2004 involving internal affairs and citizens' complaints.

"The chief's boss is the mayor. They were meeting specifically about the court order. We have a right to get the testimony from the mayor," Moniz said.

Apostolidis countered that the plaintiffs could call another witness, and don't necessarily need the testimony of Perez.

Bieder disagreed. He said that if the plaintiffs were attempting to prove that the city "willfully" violated the court order, they should hear from the mayor.

The judge's order said in part that the city should increase the number of internal affairs investigators and create a timetable under which complaints must be investigated. It is intended to address the backlog of citizens' complaints filed against police officers.

Bieder also said the plaintiffs have a right to request 12 internal affairs file cabinets containing documents that might prove that the department has a complaints backlog history.

Photographer Riley D. Johnson testified that a month before Burns' court order, Officer Charles B. Cochran, who has since been promoted to sergeant, placed a gun in his face because he thought he was driving a stolen car.

Johnson said his car was stolen in January 2004, but returned by the East Hartford Police Department. Four months later, Johnson said he was at a stop sign when Cochran approached him. He said he told the officer that "if he looked at my license, he would see that I was driving my own car."

Before he attempted to file a complaint, he said, he talked to Cochran and Deputy Chief Michael Fallon. When he wasn't satisfied with their response, he said, he met with Lt. Neil Dryfe, the commander of Internal Affairs, who briefed him on how to file a complaint.

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.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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