Nancy Chapman’s reporting on this site continues to deliver fresh insights into Bob Duff’s “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day at the Norwalk Police Department.” That’s how Duff, our State Senator representing Norwalk and most of Darien, described it on a local community website. But what if it was not such a bad day? What if it was actually just the opening PR gambit in another of Duff’s re-election campaigns?
We all know about Duff’s love for the camera. His attention to ribbon cuttings. His devotion to self-promotion. Those are valuable skills for a politician. But where Duff really excels is in his mastery of PR. Now, in picking a fight with the cops and keeping it going, he may have topped all previous efforts.
Do I have evidence for saying this? No, just surmise and conjecture. But it’s reasonable surmise and conjecture. I’ve watched Duff. I ran against him in 2014 and lost, like every other Republican who tried to unseat him over the past 15 years. He has the formula for keeping his seat down pat, though it certainly helps that his district is heavily Democrat.
He works every angle to maintain his image as a nice friendly family man. At the same time, he performs in Hartford as a reliable tool for the state Democrat bigwigs and state employee union chiefs, regardless of whether it’s good for Norwalk. There’s a reason why Norwalk taxpayers get back only one dollar in state revenue sharing for every ten dollars they send to Hartford.
So let’s step back from the bare details of this Duff-NPD brouhaha and ask if there’s something more to it than bad manners at police headquarters.
Why did almost a month elapse – 27 days to be exact – from Duff’s supposed “bad day” on July 24, when he felt some police officers were being rude to him, to the day Duff decided to light the fuse for a full-blown scandal by sending a long, irate letter to the head of the Norwalk Police Union?
July 24 was just a couple of days after the State House of Representatives had approved the Police Accountability Bill — detested by virtually every law-enforcement agency in Connecticut — and days before the State Senate would approve it. Gov. Ned Lamont promptly signed it into law.
So on July 24, Senator Duff had not yet voted on it. But the cops knew perfectly well how he was going to vote, and they were in no mood to be excessively friendly during his visit.
This was followed by the interesting 27 days of public quiet. Then, with timing that was probably calculated, an irate letter full of fulminations about police “bullying,” and even a charge of being “spat at,” arrived at police headquarters. Not long after, copies found their way to the Hearst newspapers and the Hartford Courant. Just as it was hitting the front pages, Duff was on Connecticut Public Radio telling his story. Nancy started digging for more details at the same time.
What’s odd is that any seasoned politician is accustomed to getting negative feedback from constituents, and they normally take it in stride. Publicly whining is unusual.
It’s different, though, if you’re Bob Duff and you have another re-election campaign to run.
It’s different if your challenger, Ellie Kousidis, is an especially attractive Republican who is running a vigorous door-to-door campaign across your district.
It’s different, furthermore, if Kousidis is about to win the formal endorsement of the Norwalk Police Union. Knowing the endorsement was going to Kousidis, Duff tried to blunt the impact by telling the union head, Lt. David O’Connor, “I do not want it and I would not accept it.”
But there’s another reason for Duff to have deliberately engineered a public spat with the police. Rumors are that he is facing a challenge to his Senate Majority Leader position, and it’s coming from a far-left, super-woke Senate colleague from New Haven. How better to establish your own woke credentials than by bashing the cops?
Not only does it demonstrate Duff’s woke cred, it makes him a victim of sorts. In this case a victim of police hostility. For a white male in this era of Democrat identity politics, victimhood is hard to achieve, and an asset.
In addition to all that, he’s getting his name and nice photos of himself in the paper, and front-page stories — all with perfect timing for his re-election campaign. Well done Duff!
But before we close, let’s pause for a thought about one of Duff’s fellow Democrats, Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling. As a former cop himself, a former police chief no less, he can’t be too thrilled about being thrust into this particular briar patch.
While being expected to quiet things down and limit the harm to police morale, he must also be watching the Antifa/BLM mayhem in cities like Kenosha and Rochester. Like other Mayors in similar smaller cities and towns, he’s got to be nervously praying that Norwalk isn’t next.