COMMENTARY by Helen Ubiñas
September 13, 2005
After Ann Weaver took on Hartford Police Chief Patrick Harnett
the other night, I was certain she'd tell me her phone had been
ringing off the hook.
A few nights earlier, her hands shaking and voice quivering,
she stood to speak to Harnett at a Maple Avenue community meeting.
She apologized for bringing her concerns there. But, she said,
she had no choice.
"No one calls me back."
Not when she calls about kids jumping the fence to the Goodwin
Park pool after hours. Not when she calls about them vandalizing
the pool house. Not even the night she watched a bunch of cars
park on the wrong side of her street, and knew the occupants
were up to no good.
"I live alone and I'm afraid," she
said she told the dispatcher. Could they maybe send a cruiser?
Eighteen minutes later, after no one showed up, she called again.
And three days later, at Thursday's meeting, she was still waiting.
It was unclear, though, where Harnett's attention lay that night:
the woman nearly hysterical before him, or the writer from the
New York Times who was shadowing him. His eyes kept darting between
Weaver and the reporter furiously scribbling in her notebook.
And that's the problem. Cops and city officials talk a good
game about community policing. Harnett and Mayor Eddie Perez
don't miss a chance to tout the plan or their beloved crime statistics.
But when it comes to actually putting the plan to practice with
the community they are paid to protect and serve, to connecting
with the individuals who make up that community, they consistently
I know you might have thought it's going well, seeing as Assistant
Chief Andy Rosenzweig, Harnett's right-hand man in the community
policing plan, is leaving. But somehow the message of community
relations continues to elude many of Hartford's finest.
Case in point: the two bozos
in badges who showed up at a block party hosted by the West
End Civic Association a few weeks ago wearing "Stop Snitchin" T-shirts.
Yep, you read that right - at a time when cops are desperate
to get residents to talk, when more than a half-dozen homicide
cases remain open because of the community's pervasive closed-mouth
mentality, two bicycle cops showed up wearing the shirts.
When residents approached them, the cops said it was just a
joke. They thought it'd be funny. Yeah, a laugh riot; I'm sure
the families still hoping for someone to speak up in their relatives'
homicides would think it was hysterical.
By the time supervisors got to them, the cops had the sense
to change their story, though their excuse was just as lame:
They told their bosses that they were attempting to connect with
the neighborhood kids. And their bosses bought it. The cops were
counseled and sent on their way.
"Believe me, it won't happen again," said
Deputy Chief Daryl K. Roberts.
I appreciated Roberts' input, but if there's one thing you can
always count on Hartford cops to do is to outdo themselves.
And when cops continue to act this recklessly, it's no surprise
the community doesn't have much faith in Harnett's community
After the community meeting, Weaver stood outside hoping for
a chance to talk to the chief. She wanted to assure him that
she had gone through the proper chain of command before calling
him. She doesn't expect the chief of police to deal with every
"I know he has more important things to do," she
He did that night. As she waited, Harnett passed by and headed
straight to the reporter before jumping in his cruiser and driving
And Weaver's phone, she told me Monday, still hasn't rung.