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Duff slams Kulhawik after NPD releases investigation results

State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25), during Monday’s Democratic Town Committee meeting on Zoom.

NORWALK, Conn. — State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) issued a scornful response Monday night to the results of a months-long Norwalk Police investigation into what occurred when he visited headquarters in July.

Duff said Chief Thomas Kulhawik is “coddling few bad cops” and suggested he either take corrective action or be replaced.

Duff alleged in September that he’d been treated disrespectfully and rudely by multiple officers and that he’d been “spat at” by one of them, later identified as Officer Mike Silva, in the July 24 visit, as the police accountability bill made its way through the legislature. About 30 officers had come out “from the back of the police station to the public parking lot where my car was located,” Duff said in a letter. “As I was driving away, it looked as if they were going to surround my car. Whether that was their intention or not, I don’t know, but it appeared to be another bullying and intimidation tactic.”

A screen capture of Norwalk Police video surveillance of the headquarters parking lot on July 24.

The Internal Affairs investigation found no evidence of widespread misbehavior during Duff’s visit and Kulhawik, in a Wednesday letter to Duff, said he concurred with Lt. Thomas Roncinske’s conclusions.

“I can assure you that I am dedicated to assuring my officers act in a professional manner and am committed to fully investigating any allegations to the contrary,” Kulhawik wrote. “When evidence is presented to warrant disciplinary action, you can rest assured that I will take such action. In this case, I do find that Officer Silva acted in a manner inconsistent with our Code of Conduct and has been disciplined as a result. I ordered that he be suspended without pay for two days. However, I do not find that any other officers acted in a matter in violation of law or in violation of our departmental policies.”

NancyOnNorwalk received the investigation results Monday through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Kulhawik, in a letter last week to Duff, said that Duff had called him on the evening of July 24, after visiting headquarters, and asked him to resign from the State positions Duff had appointed him to.

“You stated that you had been treated poorly by members of the department but did not elaborate. I was taken aback and surprised by your call and upset with your request and simply hung up,” Kulhawik wrote.

He assumed there had been heated conversations due to the police accountability bill and immediately called his deputy chiefs, but was told “the actions of the officers present did not rise to a level of concern,” he wrote. Then, a month later, Duff emailed Lt. David O’Connor, president of Police Union Local 1727, with a “very specific list of allegations against officers” and “noted that a group of officers stormed the room in which the Union Executive Board was meeting in a ‘show of force.’”

Silva subsequently admitted that “he opened the door and spit on the ground in a show of disrespect,” Kulhawik said. And in a two-hour meeting with Duff at his house, Kulhawik said Silva wanted to apologize.

“I apologized as well for his actions and noted that although he did not spit at you as was initially reported, his actions were none the less disrespectful and not acceptable,” Kulhawik wrote. “…As a result of this meeting, the ongoing media reports of the incident, and the fact that there were significant discrepancies between your account of the incident and that being reported to me by officers, as well as that depicted on our surveillance cameras, I decided that a formal Internal Investigation was warranted.”

Roncinske had conducted 30 interviews, reviewed surveillance video and cell phone video taken by officers in the meeting with Duff, Kulhawik said.

“I apologize that this investigation took longer than anticipated, however, it was time consuming to schedule the large number of interviews with officers given the process that must be adhered to as well as the fact that you requested that your interview not be scheduled until after the election,” Kulhawik wrote.

Duff released this statement:

“I understand the police chief has released some version of a report that he characterizes as an ‘investigation’ relating to events involving several police officers and me last summer, which I was assured would be sent to me before the public and press. The people of Norwalk should know that I did not ask for an ‘investigation’ and I am not particularly interested in the predictable outcomes from the ‘investigation.’ It’s pretty apparent this was a belated and weak effort by the police chief to paper over the problems he can’t fix in his department.

“The chief’s time would have been better spent trying to change the culture of the department.  What he fails to recognize is that by coddling these few bad cops, he diminishes and demoralizes the majority of officers who work hard and are looking for strong leadership from the top.  Sadly they will have to wait longer for that day as the chief continues to lead from the rear.  Rather than trying to make this incident about me, the chief should be working on developing a concrete plan, with actionable steps and measurable goals so the Norwalk Police Department can acknowledge its shortcomings and take corrective action to benefit the entire community. To date I have neither seen nor heard of any steps in that direction.

“Between my experience and more recent, and unseemly, incidents involving Norwalk police, it should be clear by now to the chief that something is terribly wrong under his command.  The community I represent knows it; he should too.  If the chief doesn’t step up and be a catalyst for change, then our city leadership should intervene and implement the necessary corrective actions before the community loses any more confidence in the department.”

 

Officers Michael DiMeglio and Sara Laudano were arrested Jan. 4 and accused of drinking on the job and shirking their duties on Oct. 26.

Mayor Harry Rilling in an 8:37 p.m. email said he had just received the “final documentation” regarding the investigation “this evening.”

“It is approximately 42 pages in length,” he wrote. “I’ve been on several meetings right up to this very moment and therefore, have not had an opportunity to read the investigative reports and statements. I will be reviewing the reports over the next couple of days.  I am hopeful, now that the investigation is complete, we can move forward and put this behind us.  These are indeed challenging times and there is tremendous frustration and stress related to this pandemic.”

Rilling did not speak at Monday’s Norwalk Democratic Town Committee meeting. His wife, Lucia Rilling, said he was tied up with a Democratic caucus meeting.

“In all my conversations with Senator Duff he has had nothing but praise and support for our men and women on the department,” Rilling wrote. “He has also been a strong advocate for our city bringing in millions of dollars in state funds.  I also know our police officers to be dedicated men and women who are committed to protecting the citizens of this city.”

O’Connor also said he hadn’t yet seen the report. But, people have seen the surveillance video and the video shot by police union members so “there should be no mystery about it.”

“We had an honest, candid conversation with Bob Duff,” he said. “We were respectful and polite the entire time, except for that one very small incident by one officer, which is unfortunate. I think he got caught up in the moment with some personal things going on at the same time, with him. It was unfortunate but I think by and large, we were the gentlemen in the room.”

Duff alluded to the controversy while speaking at Monday’s DTC meeting, the first one held since the election.

“Even though you know we won (the election) top to bottom… you could say that it was a, you know, in some ways locally a difficult year because of some controversy that were going on. But ultimately the voters decided and it was all just noise in the background.”

16 comments

Scott Vetare January 26, 2021 at 7:18 am

Duff needs to go. He lied and tried to get away with it. The suspension of Officer Silva is just rediculouis. Duff needs to be arrested for filing a false complaint. The video is proof. Again the left spends money on a false complaint!

Mitch Adis January 26, 2021 at 8:12 am

That’s funny Senator Duff. That’s exactly what I keep saying about you – Do your job or leave. Frustrating isn’t it?

stuart garrelick January 26, 2021 at 11:36 am

The validity of any investigation is obviously dependent on the independence and integrity of the investigator. At the time of the incident I tried, on behalf of CONECT, to call for an independent, out of house investigation at a City Council meeting and was ruled out of order. This investigation may have been entirely objective but you don’t ask the foxes to investigate the raid on the chicken coop. The optics are just bad.

JOHN ROMANO January 26, 2021 at 12:32 pm

OMG, unbelievable. Duff still thinks he has some moral high ground. I for one am in full support of our stellar Chief of Police Tom Kulhawik. Duff demanded disciplinary action, but claims the Chiefs time would have been better spent doing other things. (why because the results/truth was not to his liking). Put off his testimony until after the election to impede the investigation for his political gain. A thorough investigation was done, 30 interviews, and guess what, it was all on tape. Duff lied plain and simple, used this incident for political gain. Maligned the department and the officer who expressed as a right his distain. Bob was never in any fear or harms way but used our taxpayer funded Capital police to create a “POOR BOB DUFF” amongst his faithful followers. He incites politically expedient discourse because it is the WOKE thing to do. Now is the time for you to man up and resign. The people of Norwalk deserve better.

John O'Neill January 26, 2021 at 1:58 pm

First I’d like to note the supporters who blindly supported Bob Duff in the late summer without having all the facts. You should all be ashamed of yourselves when political climate at the time is taken into context:
Rev. Richard Clarke, Lucy Dathan, Chris Perone,Travis Simms, Stephanie Thomas, Conect, Dominigue Johnson, Stuart Garrelick, Bruce Kimmel. I congratulate each and everyone for their devotion to Bob Duff. Many would argue at the expense of our city. I certainly would.
Now to the present:
I’ve lived in this town for 30 years. Not until recently have I involved myself in politics. WHAT AN EYEOPENER !! What I’ve found is the less you know about Bob Duff the better you like him and the job he’s doing. He’s quoted above about the vote going his way in November. I would bet every cent I have many of his votes came from people who blindly pulled the Dem. Lever. Heck, the guy from 137th District missed practically every meeting in Hartford the prior session, AND was still elected. If it seems like I’m calling many Norwalk voters naive and unknowledgeable about their candidates, I AM ! How do I know ? Because I was one of those for almost 30 years! Norwalkers need to become more proactive and understand who and what the heck they are voting for! Many of us are too busy working and raising a family to get involved. I hope this incident opens their eyes. The vast majority of Norwalkers are being pushed around by political zealots who don’t have their best interests in mind.
I find Bob Duff’s actions unconscionable. Does he have no shame? Is every civil servant in Norwalk expected to kiss his ass? It is my hope that Chief K and Mayor Rilling put an end to these ridiculous theatrics.
I also call on the above named individuals and groups to apologize for their ignorant support of Duff before knowing all the facts. I’m not holding my breath.

M Murray January 26, 2021 at 3:14 pm

We all remember Bob’s statements……

“Duff says when an officer spat at him on his way out, he questioned the community’s safety as well as his own.”
“ He then looked at me in a menacing manner, and spit at me. Yes, spit at me. “
“At that moment, around 3 p.m., a lieutenant said that the officers were angry and suggested Duff leave, accompanying him to the public parking lot. An estimated 30 officers then emerged from a rear entrance. “As I was driving away, it looked as if they were going to surround my car”

And then we all remember the videos proving Bob is a liar……..
Officer Silva standing at the doorway about twenty feet away from clearly spitting directly at the ground, nowhere near in the direction of Duff. And about 5 Officers standing on the sidewalk watching Duff pull away and out of the lot, not “surrounding him” nor impeding him on any way. Flat out lies and political pandering. I will personally make sure Officer Silver does not suffer financially one cent of harm for Duff’s histrionics and false victimization.

BAS January 26, 2021 at 3:29 pm

I kept asking myself what? How? As I read through it. Be nice get the full report but this line really stood out to me
“the fact that you requested that your interview not be scheduled until after the election,” seems like he kinda knew the sheep/people just pull the lever blindly.

Vote the politician not the party.

JustATaxpayer January 26, 2021 at 4:15 pm

@JohnONelll. As always, spot on. I’d give you my name but with our cancel culture, I’m likely to be hung on the Town Green by a roving mob of Duff acolytes.

As Pelosi correctly stated “in some races a glass of water with a ‘D’ on it can win office”.

Tom Lametta January 26, 2021 at 4:19 pm

Who the hell is Bob Duff to threaten our sitting police chief because he felt disrespected. Maybe if he did something to earn people’s respect instead of being such a cry baby people could look up to him , instead of laughing at him. Time to stop hiding under your political covers and be a MAN.

Dennis January 26, 2021 at 4:50 pm

I’m sure most NPD Officers are good, hard working people, committed to doing a sometimes dangerous job with courtesy, professionalism, and respect. With that, the on duty hostility of even one officer to an elected official supporting reasonable police oversight is unacceptable.
We have seen reported here at N.O.N., that scores of officers are regularly earning more than $200K per year. As an aside; there should be a full accounting to prove that the 15% administrative fee paid to the city for extra hours and overtime does offset additional taxation, and extra fees that residents pay for electricity, and cable, etc.
I support our police; but in exchange for a well paying job, residents should expect humility, respect and deference to our elected official.

Nora King January 26, 2021 at 6:33 pm

I cannot believe I am actually going to state this because some of the passive aggressive behavior with Bob Duff has been disturbing especially when it comes to Norwalk schools. He cannot handle when people have a difference of opinion and he definitely holds grudges. Something I never understand because I am one that states my mind and moves on. He cannot do this. He plots for ways to get back at people – very sad. I used to support him until I realize you were not allowed to have a difference of opinion. It is his way and if you don’t agree he will knife you in the back. I am always afraid to say anything for fear of retribution from him. Taking the chief off of the committees was wrong and a total power play but very typical of Bob Duff. However – I am huge supporter of the police – but I have had my own disturbing incident with them regarding the traffic on Route 1. I was very disturbed by the behavior of the officer located there a few Saturdays ago and I was even more disturbed by the cover up and the lack of acknowledgement that the police officer could so something wrong. He did. He was being paid to manage traffic and he was too busy sitting in his car and do nothing and was too lazy to get out of his car and manage the chaos taking place there. He did not like someone honking his horn. Very crazy and a very disgraceful attitude from a Norwalk Police Officer. I was saddened and so disappointed because I love our police officers and fire fighters. They are out there helping us and I have always taught my kids to respect them. I think some of those officers could benefit from some personality skill development. None of us are above the law. The chief unfortunately was very quick to defend him. I think if the police officer is being paid to manage the traffic of duty that is what he should be doing. Not sitting in his car.

Karen Doyle Lyons January 26, 2021 at 6:58 pm

Hope the voters in 2022 will

Dump Duff
SUPPORT OUR POLICE

take a good look at what these officials do in the
This term….

Milly January 27, 2021 at 6:02 am

Didnt Sgt Calise say that Duff had to leave because the officers were angry? This is what the problem with the police is – they never admit the truth about bad behavior ever! Say the cops were mad and were behaving
aggressively that day ( because they did not like that Duff voted for more police oversight). It is ironic that their behavior that day shows that oversight is needed.

Al January 27, 2021 at 9:30 pm

@Ken Prince – People who didn’t want to vote for an anti-vaxxer during a pandemic, at a time when planning to deploy a vaccine was actually an important state matter

It’s like choosing to get punched in the stomach or face. Not a great choice but R’s can’t get out of their own way and pick someone competitive

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