Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin wants to reappoint Police Chief James Rovella. The city's police union is apparently not enthusiastic.
Bronin said that Rovella has managed the department with “a steady hand in challenging times.”
“What I give this chief a lot of credit for is being out front in engagement with the community," Bronin said. "In making sure that the spirit of engagement and community policing as much as possible is embraced throughout the force, in building relationships with community leaders with faith leaders around the city, the kind of outreach effort that’s so critical, especially in a time like this.”
Bronin campaigned on policing and public safety following a rash of shootings last year. But he says his ire was directed more at Mayor Pedro Segarra than it was at the chief. Rovella, a Hartford native, was appointed to that post in August 2012 by then Mayor Segarra. Bronin criticized Segarra for understaffing the police -- it needs around 500 officers and it has just under 400.
“So we’re trying to make up for the years of failure to pay attention to the dwindling force," Bronin said.
Richard Holton is the president of the city’s police union. He’s not as pleased with Rovella as Bronin is. He says morale in the department is low, in part because officers on patrol don’t feel as respected as units like the specialized Shooting Task Force.
“The atmosphere has become that patrol is now the support unit of all of these specialized units, and it should be the other way around," Holton said. "In the last couple of years, I’ve had members bring up they want to do a vote of no confidence in the chief at least three times. And each time we sort of staved it off... But I don’t know if I can hold them off anymore.”
Bronin said he was surprised to hear Holton’s comments about the chief, about whom he has previously spoken highly. But the tension may be understandable. Rovella’s appointment comes as the city and the police union are still negotiating a contract.