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
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
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
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
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
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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