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Norwalk congregations denounce NPD officers’ behavior; Rilling ‘confident’ in Kulhawik

Norwalk Police headquarters, Wednesday evening.

NORWALK, Conn. — There needs to be an Internal Affairs investigation into the behavior of Norwalk Police when State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) came to visit in July, an organized group of Norwalk religious congregations said Wednesday.

“Swearing at, spitting at, and attempting to intimidate anyone, much less one of our elected leaders, is unacceptable and reprehensible behavior. This is true for any employee of the City of Norwalk, and especially true for sworn police officers in uniform and on-duty,” a statement from CONECT (Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut) said, expressing a “collective sense of outrage and disappointment in the behavior of a significant number of Norwalk police officers.”

From reading press reports, CONECT understands that Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik met with Duff and is looking into the incident, CONECT said. “Regardless of that, we call for an immediate Internal Affairs investigation to be launched. Officers should be held accountable or disciplined according to the results of that investigation.”

The statement was sent to Mayor Harry Rilling and the Common Council.

“I am completing an investigation of the entire incident and reviewing video etc. I will then determine the appropriate actions to take,” Kulhawik wrote, in response to the CONECT statement.

The door State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) was standing near on July 24 when an officer came out and spat.

Duff has said he was “spat at” when he went to Norwalk Police headquarters to speak with key union leaders on July 24, as a controversial police accountability bill made its way through the legislature. Officers not involved in the meeting greeted him with “What the f*** are you doing here?” and “30 officers” gathered in the building’s visitor parking lot as he left, “looked as if they were going to surround my car,” which “appeared to be another bullying and intimidation tactic.”

Security camera video viewed by NancyOnNorwalk confirmed than an officer opened a door near where Duff was standing outside and spat at the ground, with Duff about 9 feet away. There were 12 officers on the sidewalk next to the visitor’s parking lot as Duff left. Sgt. Salvatore Calise said that he told the officers to stay on the sidewalk.

“I spoke to Chief Kulhawik this morning,” Rilling said in a statement. “He is investigating to see which officers were involved in any inappropriate behavior. After this investigation, he will determine what discipline is appropriate. Based on my conversation, I am confident he will handle this situation appropriately.”

Duff offered a criticism.

“CONECT representing thousands of Norwalk’s residents and families made a very powerful statement today about the events of July 24,” Duff said in an email. “Their concerns need to be heard. Collectively, they spoke powerfully and with purpose. For the credibility of Chief Kulhawik’s investigation, this process must be open and transparent. In addition, it must be undertaken with the seriousness it deserves, with purpose and with concrete action steps in order for the community to be satisfied.”

Only one Common Council member responded to an email from NancyOnNorwalk asking about the statement. Dominique Johnson (D-At Large) referred NoN to comments she posted Tuesday on Facebook.

“I am learning more about this incident every day. I am deeply disturbed by it,” Johnson wrote, continuing:

“When police officers spit at a community member, it is unprofessional and intimidating in the least. When this happens to an elected official, it is also an assault on civility and disrespectful of the office. This unacceptable behavior also undermines the work of many others in law enforcement who would never think that spitting at a citizen or elected official is justifiable. I have heard from many Norwalkers who are disappointed and alarmed at this incident. We can not tolerate this behavior in our community. As an at-large Common Councilmember, I will continue to listen to my fellow citizens, and work on your behalf to bring attention to your concerns about public safety in our city.”

 

 

‘It should have been on the agenda’

CONECT has seven “member congregations in Norwalk proper as well as other leaders active in CONECT who live in Norwalk but worship in another nearby town,” the statement said, listing:

  • Bethel AME Church
  • Calvary Baptist Church
  • Congregation Beth El
  • Grace Baptist Church
  • Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji Foundation Sikh Gurdwara
  • St. Jerome Catholic Church
  • Temple Shalom

 

“We know that these have been difficult, chaotic months in our country and state, as we all deal with multiple crises and pressures,” the statement said. “We believe there can be legitimate and honest disagreement about how best to improve police accountability and transparency and to prevent unnecessary police use of force.”

It “denounced” the behavior and said it “has no place in that legitimate debate.”

Stuart Garrelick of Congregation Beth El tried to speak to the Common Council during Tuesday’s Council meeting. Rilling told him that the topic wasn’t on the Council’s agenda, and Garrelick was cut off for being “out of order.”

This is routine, though it’s easier to stop a noncompliant citizen during a virtual meeting. Ordinarily the speaker keeps speaking before being convinced to walk away.

Garrelick told NancyOnNorwalk that he would try again at a Police Commission meeting. “It was not on the agenda, but I certainly think it should have been on the agenda,” he said.

Six CONECT members called Duff after he met with Kulhawik, and have also read Kulhaiwk’s comments in the press, according to Garrelick. While the difference of opinion regarding the bill was understandable, the behavior was not, he said.

Garrelick said, “It’s just unfortunate that people who we basically count on to protect us from intimidation and bullying, were participating in intimidation and bullying, presuming that everything we heard was correct.”

38 comments

Mitch Adis September 10, 2020 at 6:58 am

I trust the Chief of Police more than I trust our Senator. Anytime I’ve called the Police for help, they were there. I can’t say the same for our Senator.

Stephanie Thomas September 10, 2020 at 7:03 am

Sgt. David O’Connor, police union president in Sept 8th article: It’s “undeniable” that the officer spitting “was not our finest moment, but he spit on the ground, not at Duff. We could have done better, and we should have done better. But I think we feel somewhat betrayed by someone who portrayed themselves as our friend…”

These words speak for themselves and are deeply troubling. Why is there the second “but?” Why are paid professionals excusing bad behavior on the job as it relates to personal feelings and friendship? If you feel personally betrayed, don’t attend the next BBQ. That isn’t an excuse to use intimidation while on taxpayer property and on our dime. Could you imagine if a legislator passed a bill lowering prescription costs and the drug company tampered with that legislator’s next prescription refill or withheld it altogether because of hurt feelings? That would be ridiculous right?

We trust professionals to act professional. Regardless of their personal feelings. I hope we trust adults to apologize when wrong. Regardless of their personal feelings.

We must do better. Our community depends on it.

DrewT September 10, 2020 at 7:29 am

This is truly Desperate Bob trying to keep his lies alive. And to waste time with an “investigation “ is just that, a waste of time and money. He is sad! Give it a rest Bob. Your time is up!

City Employee September 10, 2020 at 8:31 am

I can’t wait until I receive my email from Ray Burney when he “accidentally” attaches the video and names of all the police officers involved.

M Murray September 10, 2020 at 9:10 am

Why are some continuing to inflame the situation by claiming that the legislator was “spit at”? From what your own reporter clearly saw from the video, this was a false allegation. The officer looked at Duff and spit on the ground. “AT THE GROUND”!!!! Not “on”. Not “at”. But toward the ground. And according to your reporter it did not look like there was even anything spit, it was merely the gesture. And unless there were other expletives, it appears that the comments were again not stated to Duff, but were from one officer to another about Duff.

John ONeill September 10, 2020 at 9:26 am

Let’s see if I understand the context here: “Swearing at, Spitting at, and attempting intimidate”?? I find that statement amusing. After all, that is something our police officers have to tolerate every day!! In fact our teachers have to tolerate that everyday. I don’t hear Bob Duff and his acolytes raising their collective voices to criticize the general lack of respect these public servants have to deal with day in and day out…It seems to me the word respect is used when it’s politically expedient.
Bob Duff is quoted saying this statement represents the feelings of “thousands ” of Norwalk families..It represents the feelings of politicians who have an agenda that doesn’t have Norwalk’s best interests in mind. But then again, that’s what Bob Duff has represented for 20 years. One needs to remember how screwed our taxpayers have gotten due to the state legislature over the past 40 years..
Lastly, if you don’t think this event is not being orchestrated by the state democratic party, you’re freaking nuts. Non-Norwalk politicians are pulling the strings here. Our community is being used. And our police officers are paying the price.
Freaking Disgrace.

Norwalker September 10, 2020 at 10:09 am

This was a setup by Bob Duff who is exploiting an unfortunate incident had for political gain. He continues to exaggerate and lie about the incident and he continues to lie that he is not making it political. If he didn’t want it to be political why did he himself post it all over social media? Why didn’t he correct the comments people made that were untrue? Why is his post about this incident “pinned” to the top of his Twitter feed? Bob Duff is pandering and can no longer be trusted to be a faithful and honest leader for Norwalk.

Scott V. September 10, 2020 at 10:14 am

Unreal! All over a protest by our dedicated police dept! The tapes will show it was a peaceful protest. Oh but I guess only protesting AGAINST the POLICE is ok?! Be gone Bob, we don’t need people like you in Norwalk.

Norwalker September 10, 2020 at 10:16 am

Making a spitting gesture to the side and at the ground is a long time cultural expression of showing someone your distaste in them. It is not the same as spitting at or on someone with the intention of your spit landing in them. Especially when it is done from several feet away as were told the video had shown. If it were in the Middle East they would’ve thrown their shoes at him!

Michael McGuire September 10, 2020 at 10:37 am

So, police officers who are citizens of the United States, therefore given all the rights of every other American citizen, are not allowed to express their personal opinions, particularly when it affects them directly? Really? When did that happen?

The oath that police officers take is about serving and protecting, not denial of their basic rights of free speech. Here is the link to the oath for a Norwalk Police Officer. https://www.norwalkct.org/DocumentCenter/View/17336/1-App_A-Oath-of-Office

Hypocrisy? Is it OK for Senator Duff to refer to other people as racist simply because they don’t agree with his point of view (see “Enough Duff Fluff” in NoN).

Or how about Mike Mushak being allowed to remain on Zoning, then Planning Commissions for years when he is so vocal on NoN, for years, about people that he doesn’t not agree with being “less than ideal according to his world view”. I can extrapolate this outward into the nightly spin spewed by legacy media nationally but I’m sure you know that already. At least I hope you do.

But free speech is allowed by the 1st Amendment and I will support/defend that to the bitter end.

However, free speech can have consequences, particularly when leaders abdicate their leadership responsibility as we have seen in Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, NYC, Washington D. C. etc.

Consider that actions like CONECT’s statement can be used to fan the flames that divide us. I wish they had taken a page from the Bible, stepped back and called for cool things down, to consider all sides since none of us are perfect. As the saying goes “it takes two to tango”.

There are times when our speech should be considered wisely. Perhaps this is one of those times.

Bob Giolitto September 10, 2020 at 12:10 pm

Kudos to CONECT. “I spoke to Chief Kulhawik this morning,” Rilling said in a statement. “He is investigating to see which officers were involved in any inappropriate behavior. After this investigation, he will determine what discipline is appropriate. Based on my conversation, I am confident he will handle this situation appropriately.” Hmm. If I commit a felony and go to trial, what if the judge is my brother and the jury is made up of family and close friends? This incident is being investigated by “family.” I am not judging what happened; I simply want to know the truth. We need an independent and impartial review. Three months ago the mayor said he was forming a Racial Equity task force after a Zoom meeting that lasted over two hours and was attended by a large number of concerned citizens. Included would be a review of police procedures. The mayor said that this was timely and “has to happen without delay,” that we cannot wait. It’s been three months and we’re still waiting.

Andrew September 10, 2020 at 4:17 pm

This is some of the best political theatre Norwalk has had in years.

The Mayor must be so happy the Senator is trying to keep this alive.

Denise DeMarsh September 10, 2020 at 4:30 pm

Why are the police so put out by a demand for accountability? If they follow procedures, there won’t be any problem. And if they don’t, they deserve what they get.

M Murray September 10, 2020 at 5:05 pm

I saw a photo today of a large group of football coaches with signs around the capitol protesting the canceling of high school football. I wonder if Bob Duff fella “bullied” and that it “looked like they were trying to intimidate him”. I wonder if he felt that if these coaches could do this to a “privileged legislator like him”, what they would do to referees. Is he writing a letter to the local Boards of Education, the Athletic Conferences calling for an investigation? How dare they show contempt for a politician….

carol September 10, 2020 at 5:23 pm

duff is getting his free pre election publicity and he does not care who he hursts–it is always all about him. TIME TO GO DO NOTHING DUFF FOR NORWALK.

John ONeill September 10, 2020 at 5:45 pm

@Stephanie – It should be pointed out that recent legislation that lowered insulin costs to users of drug did NOT actually reduce the price pharmacy charges. It simply shared those costs with ALL those who don’t need the drug.(Everyone’s insurance will go up).Im sure you knew that, but not all readers might realize that.

steve September 10, 2020 at 6:15 pm

Sorry I hear a lot of rationalizations. Not sure what socialism has to do with this–sounds like gaslighting. Cops aren’t students and Duff was doing his job. You may not like his politics but he was elected. Cops have enormous power. Tell me your leg doesn’t freeze up when you see a cop in your rear view mirror- even if your traelling under the speed limit. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupt absolutely. A cop intimidating a politician- especially when on the job- should be subject to serious disciplinary charges- possibly fired. If a kid did that in school they should be too, and if a perp did that to a cop- my guess is they’d be arrested and possibly more. Norwalk cops generally do a great job but there’s been more than one lawsuit against them for abusive conduct…most memorably to a white lacrosse coach who ended up w/a shattered eye socket. My guess is that lawsuit and others cost the city in the $millions. Don’t dumb down bad police behavior or lower the bar. Norwalk’s finest should be Norwalk’s finest

Dana Pevsner September 10, 2020 at 7:16 pm

The police officers behaved inexcusably with the spitting and threatening behavior. If an elected official (and a white male) is treated this way by Norwalk police, then think what happens to people of color.
And the posters above who verbally abuse Duff and seem to worship anyone in a police uniform should be ashamed of their own ignorant thuggishness. (Or they’re just malicious trolls.)

JustaTaxpayer September 10, 2020 at 7:46 pm

Years ago I was driving up East Avenue with the Green on the left. There was some event happening on the Green. I notice a car mounted on the curb with lights flashing. A man gets out with his toddler and carts him across the street. That man, the ultimate glad hander. Bob Duff.

Ron Morris September 10, 2020 at 8:10 pm

M Murray
If what you are stating is true why are they not releasing the video. Seems like they have something to hide.

Joanna Cooper September 10, 2020 at 8:18 pm

So bored of Bobby’s victim mentality. I think he needs to grow up and stop stirring the pot. He is skilled at making mountains out of mole hills….a real drama queen. I wish he’d get to work solving real problems for his constituents. I see this as his own personal problem. I don’t buy his story and so far there is no direct evidence to convince me of his claims. I’m not holding my breath waiting for any either. Enough already.

Voter and taxpayer September 10, 2020 at 8:30 pm

sorry; the police nation wide know the symbolism of spitting in front of someone. With whats going on in other areas, the police know they need to be able to stand up to a higher standard, and now people will give them a second look instead of the benefit of the doubt. But the original question still is out there: what do they have against the new law passed in ,Conn. That the senator spoke of? Does loosing the choke hold or the addition of a civilian review board bother them? Well don’t get mad at the politicians, get mad at the very few brothers in blue that made these laws necessary. If you dont like a politician you n vote them out; what if you think a police officer went over board and it was recorded and shown on every news program nation wide. He or she is given a review so maybe they can be found less guilty and keep their benefits. Politicians and cops need someone to be answerable to that doesn’t belong to the same “union”. When is the mayor appointing that review board he promised?

M Murray September 10, 2020 at 9:05 pm

Ron Morris, you are either calling NancyonNorwalk reporter Harold Colin a liar, you fail to read the follow-up posts before you comment, or you are just playing dumb and hoping everyone will fall in line. It was reported on this site that NON reporter Cobin watched the video at NPD headquarters, saw the officer look at Duff from I believe he said 9 feet away, and then made a spitting “gesture” toward the ground. He also said that it did not appear that he actually spit anything out, but that it was the gesture. Tell me you don’t remember reading that???

NorwalkDown September 10, 2020 at 9:23 pm

Ray Burney should release the video and then he will have 2 lawsuits against him. This City is going down it needs new leadership at the top. Chief Kulhawik is a well respected man

Mike O'Reilly September 10, 2020 at 9:45 pm

Bob’s new campaign slogan should read “Small Minds matter” Bob your bill that you see in such a rush to pass will prevent police from the kind of proactive police work that every good cop know’s is what really prevents crime.Thanks to you A stop and question,check for a outstanding warrant or frisk for an illegal weapon could lead to a confrontation that escalates out of control, and now cops realize they risk being thrown to the wolves by local prosecutors and hungry lawyers
as you have opened them up to.

Please come back to earth and tell your crazy Assembly to give the Police the tool’s they need to do their job. Then apologize

Charles September 11, 2020 at 12:22 am

Sgt. David O’Connor of the police union will defend officers facing discipline from this incident. Will he also defend people who spit on the ground towards him?

Police unions have no scruples, a national problem which is tarnishing the noble work of good cops nationwide

Ron Morris September 11, 2020 at 12:27 am

The cops are 100 percent wrong on this issue. One would think that a good cop would welcome this needed legislation and that only the bad apples would complain.
It seems that Norwalk must have many bad apple to cause this ruckus. I am thinking that one of reasons that they are concerned is this legislation opens up their files for public examination. Norwalk has had many cops over the years get arrested themselves and this will be in the files. Also let us not forget that some of these cops are still on the job. One has to wonder what other bad things are in their files.
I want to say Thank You to Duff, a majority of the state senate and the governor for thus legislation.

James McGeorge September 11, 2020 at 10:30 am

I had problems with a former landlord and went to a desk sergeant. He did not even listen to what was said and acted like it was All Me. He yelled through the glass partition and I walked out of the lobby.
Same thing when an officer took a report about problems with the same landlord.
The responding officer acted like it was All Me.
Glad I don’t live in Norwalk CT anymore.

Jason September 11, 2020 at 4:28 pm

I don’t dislike Bob Duff. I’m pretty ambivalent to be honest. But what does he REALLY have to gain by fabricating a story about horrible behavior on the part of (some members of) the NPD? I support the police. I also support our elected officials. At best, this is the case of a few bad apples spoiling the bunch. At worst, it’s indicative of a much larger problem within our community, and quite frankly not one that I expected to see. Norwalk has MOSTLY held itself to higher standards in times such as this. Let’s hope the outcome here will be the same.

David T McCarthy September 11, 2020 at 5:02 pm

Seems odd to me that a religious organization would wade into a political fight. If it was the churches themselves, one could argue they were violating their tax exempt status in doing this. Since it is this other stand alone organization it isn’t as clear….but to me, no understanding of facts, just the words of a politician fighting for re-election and they come out like this? The optics are very poor for them.

Meghead September 12, 2020 at 10:00 am

The tax-exempt status to not-for-profit organizations is granted because they are public nonprofits and rely on charitable donations and grants to operate and provide services, they are not income-producing. There is no requirement that not-for-profits be apolitical. In fact, one could argue that a religious organization is, at its core, a political organization, since it exists by the tenets of its respective faith and faith, itself, has been politicized. To reduce this issue to the believability of Sen. Duff is narrow and parochial. The real issue for consideration is whether or not we value individual civil liberties and whether we support accountability from our public servants (including Sen. Duff!). Voters may dispatch elected persons in due course but have limited means of recourse to directly affect change in public policy, unless the cause is assumed by a politician, a special-insterest group (read: Not-for-Profit), or is part of a larger social movement. Or, in this case, all three! I trust that the good outnumber the bad at NPD but there are enough reports of unusual behavior by some of Norwalk’s ‘finest’ (even prior to Duff’s July visit to NPD) to at least warrant serious discussion and rigorous public debate. Religious organizations and citizens, alike, have a vested interest in civil liberties and social justice. To dismiss the problems some have reported in their encounters with NPD, wholesale, on the basis of one’s disdain for Duff, is a disservice to all Norwalkers. We deserve better, from all public servants, regardless of political affiliation.

Another City Employee September 13, 2020 at 11:31 am

As reported by NoN the video shows an Officer at least nine feet away from Duff making a spitting gesture and around 10-12 Officers on a sidewalk that did not go anywhere near or attempt to surround his car at anytime. For him to go on the news six weeks later and say that he was so scared from 7/24/20 that he now on 9/3/20 needs capitol police to guard his house….. Doesn’t that not only make him an attention seeking crybaby, but doesn’t that also make him a LIAR??????

Meghead September 14, 2020 at 9:01 am

@David McCarthy I’m afraid it is you who is incorrect, Sir. You seem to have confused the IRS prohibiting a not-for-profit from formalized partisan campaigning, on behalf of/in opposition to an individual candidate during an election cycle, with a prohibition on ALL political activity. As an employee of a religious, federally-recognized 501(c)(3), I regret to inform you that this does not preclude a not-for-profit from advocating for/against issues in a particular platform, or engaging in legislative advocacy, or, even from lobbying. In fact, the IRS recognizes the legitimacy of many of these activities as valid and legal, although it does regulate the scope of such, depending on the type of tax-exempt status of the entity. Here’s a helpful chart:
https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/common-tax-law-restrictions-on-activities-of-exempt-organizations

Bryan Meek September 14, 2020 at 9:39 am

@Meghead. Ignorance of the law does not make one innocent. NFPs are expressly prohibited from making political speech. Churches have not only lost their federal tax exemption status, but they have also lost the much more important exemption which is the local property tax exemption. Most NFPs are break even, but if they had to pay property taxes, it would be a massive financial hit in most cases.

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