By Common Council member Warren Peña (D-At Large)
NORWALK, Conn. – Any time there is an issue that the mayor has already decided on, you cannot have the floor, you cannot debate the issue and there is no discussion period! Therefore, you have no voice and no opinion!
That is my experience in serving under this administration. We have brought up the ban on Norwalk Police captains for the past month and each time it has been tabled without discussion. I did not get elected to show up to council meetings merely to vote up and down the mayor’s agenda and go home. That is not who I am and that is not how I will finish my term.
I thought I would be able to work with both parties to accomplish something positive and change the city for the better. Unfortunately, the mayor and majority party are not interested in working with others, it’s all about them. The truth is, the mayor lays down the law and has the votes to push his agenda without dissent from not only Republican council members but what was originally three Democrats voting in lockstep with him.
Some may say that we are playing politics with certain issues, well the last time I checked, I ran for political office; last time I checked the game I’m in is called politics. There is politics behind everything we do on the council no matter the issue. Believe me the mayor is very political! It’s time the public starts getting the truth.
There is a 17-year-old study, revisited in 2007, that called for the elimination of deputy chiefs and captains. To date, none of these recommendations have been implemented. In fact, one person came into police headquarters in 2007, spent four hours there to make an assessment only to reaffirm or should I say rubber stamp the mayor’s agenda.
In my research, which the mayor was Cc’d on, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities stated, “CCM is currently unaware of any municipalities that have adopted this practice. Police departments in areas such as Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and the Metropolitan Police District have created commander positions. However, those municipalities still have captains and deputy or assistant chiefs.” Although Norwalk is not these major cities, CCM has not found any surrounding towns or any city/ town in the state of Connecticut that has this policy.
What the mayor is afraid of is grievances from officers who did not take the captains exam due to his bad policies in saying that he will abolish the rank of captains. There are others who took the captains exam ready to be promoted on a promotional list that expires Nov. 17th.
What makes Norwalk so different from every city and town that has captains? I will tell you.
The short answer is power and control! The mayor wants to be able to appoint his people to a new commander or inspector rank which will not be part of the police union, regardless of their professional development. It is not about coming up through the ranks, it is about who will listen and carry out his and the police commissions wishes. Folks, this is bad news! If you see what I am experiencing being on the “inside” – Norwalk does not need more of Moccia’s people who vote in lock step and get strong armed and intimidated by him when they disagree with him. Moccia’s hand in controlling the top tier levels of leadership in our police department is pure favoritism and politics.
An example is our last council meeting on Tuesday the 13th. Republican Town Committee chairman and Moccia appointees showed up to our council meeting to call the Democratic Caucus every name under the sun. The city deserves good, quality and educated people that ought to have positions because they have earned it! Banning captains will hinder professional development, career development and create a glass ceiling. This will surely have an impact on morale.
Some have tried to dilute our message by saying we are playing the race card. Let me address this – there are three minority lieutenants ready to be promoted: a Latino, an Asian and an Indian. There has not been a minority promoted above the lieutenant rank in more than 25 years. The upper level management of our police department should reflect our diverse community.
Since the mayor and his commissioners do not like the landscape of who is up for promotion, they have decided to do something that is unheard of, abolish the rank. Since we are on this topic and I am the de-facto Latino Leader of this city, how can I ignore that the next in line to be captain happens to be a Latino? If I am not paying attention to that, who is?
Ask Mitt Romney and the GOP what happens when a party does not pay attention to the entire community, specifically Latinos, African Americans, Asians, the younger generation and women. This is part of a broader issue that we just witnessed in our presidential election. Norwalk’s mayor will not entertain a discussion or conversation when these issues come up. It is time for a change in our executive branch. We need someone that is open-minded and willing to discuss the tough issues.
Publicly the mayor indicates that everyone, including the former chief, is on board with this ban! I beg to differ, I believe publicly folks had to be on board because they are/ were under his appointment and could not disagree with him or else. Privately, from my research and conversations, I know they feel that captains give the police department an efficient span of control, better supervision and accountability. Rank and file members want to be able to continue to strive for something. They want an opportunity to do their job better than the current status quo, they want to fight crime and make our city safer.
People who do not think that the legislative body has a right to debate/discuss any issue pertaining to the city of Norwalk are being misled. The Common Council can speak or debate anything; we are the people this city elected into office. Although we may not have direct decision making authority over some boards and commissions, we have the right to talk about whatever we want. Issues of public safety, the police department and fighting crime is the jurisdiction of the council. We have a responsibility to the people of Norwalk.
Warren A. Peña