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Norwalk needs a Police Civilian Review Board

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On Tuesday, Jan. 26th, NancyOnNorwalk published an article, Duff slams Kulhawik after NPD releases investigation results. Two issues concern me: the internal police investigation and the Mayor’s non-response.

Because this incident resulted in an internal investigation, we still do not, and likely will never, know the truth. While many are attempting to present their judgements as facts –depending on who they support – we don’t have all the facts because of the nature and lack of transparency of internal investigations. What if I am charged with a crime? If so, I will investigate myself. If I determine that I should be brought to trial, I will ensure that the judge is my mother and the jury is comprised of my relatives and closest friends. Ludicrous right? Sure, but not a big stretch from how alleged police infractions are currently investigated and settled internally, behind closed doors.  What is there to hide?

Are there good cops? Of course … I know many. But are there bad cops? Sadly, as in all professions, yes … and I know some of them. Should good cops be cited for the good that they do? Absolutely. I have written about how well the police served us all in the way they handled the Black Lives Matter protest this past summer that started on Connecticut Ave. and ended at police headquarters. They performed in the same exemplary manner at the subsequent protest at Vet’s Park. But should good cops be used as excuses to protect bad cops? No.

Shortly after the incident with Senator Duff and the police was reported, a Norwalk policeman posted on his Facebook page that Mr. Duff “got what he deserved” (the post has since been deleted). A few days later, while out for walk, I saw this policeman on duty in his car and I asked him if he believed that a person should be spat at because of a disagreement. He replied that he had never condoned spitting “on” Duff (I had not mentioned Mr. Duff and I was careful to use “at,” not “on”). Not until I told him that I had seen his Facebook post did he cease his denial. I also told him that I was recording the conversation, at which time he got out of his car and told me he wanted to “put my body camera on to protect myself because you are going to make your video public.” I told him that I had no intention of making the video public, that I was recording for my own protection, and asked him twice why he was assuming that I would publish it. He never answered.

Perhaps most alarming, this on-duty policeman was not wearing his body camera as required, had to get out of his car and search for it in his back seat, and then, over a five-minute span, couldn’t get it on. Was this proper behavior? Was this policeman following regulations? Is this representative of all Norwalk cops? Of course not! This man, however, is a veteran of the force (in the top 10 earners that was recently published) who instead of listening and conversing became combative, and who was not following regulations. Fortunately, there was a witness present. Last, it took this policeman eight minutes to admit that it was wrong to spit at someone.

As for Mayor Rilling, he stated: “Now that the investigation is complete, we can move forward and put this behind us.” Behind us why, Mayor? So similar incidents can happen again? In addition, the investigation, in the view of many, is not “complete” precisely because it was internal. The Mayor also, besides using the pandemic as a scapegoat, said: “I will be reviewing the reports over the next couple of days.” It’s been 24 days and we’ve heard nothing from Mr. Rilling concerning the reports. This is not unusual. This past May the mayor made a big deal over holding a Zoom event, announcing there that he would be establishing a commission on racism and police practices. Mr. Rilling told those attending to email him if we were interested in participating. Representing The Race & Social Justice Coalition at St. Paul’s, I emailed him the next day, asking for a “seat at the table” of the commission. The following day the Mayor’s administrator replied to me that we would have that seat. We have not been contacted since, a period of nine months. The mayor’s office did announce, months after the May Zoom call, that a consultant would be hired to advise on the formation of the commission and the issues it should address. Our group, and others which have been promised a seat at the table, have not been contacted either by the consultant or the Mayor’s office. Nowhere on the City’s website is this Commission listed. I guess we’ll just “put this behind us.”

The Mayor frequently shows up for meetings, leaving early before the Q&A session begins, or saying he was so busy that he didn’t have the time to review the material. I attended a meeting on fair housing in 2019 where Mr. Rilling came to the microphone, said all of the politically correct things – for that group – and announced that he hadn’t had time to review a 15-minute video which we were all sent a week before the meeting. He then said he had another meeting and left before the video and Q&A, the part where the public can hold our elected officials accountable, and where many planned to ask questions of the mayor.

Norwalk needs a Police Civilian Review Board if for no other reason than to show that we are not Minneapolis, Kenosha, or Ferguson. And the Mayor needs to establish the Commission which he himself proposed.

 

Bob Giolitto

8 comments

Scott Vetare February 25, 2021 at 7:24 am

Obviously you are just out to make trouble. Why would you have to video a conversation about something you don’t have the facts of? Duff was not spat on or at! The officer spat on the ground in distaste of Duffs’ presence and disgusting bill he got passed. The officer spat 10 feet from Duff. Duff lied and the video shows it!
If there ever is a civilian review board then I hope the board is required to take classes on proper policing. This is not something you just think you know, police work is a very intense job these people take on. God bless them!

M. Murray February 25, 2021 at 8:47 am

To start with, the officer should have corrected you and said that Duff was neither spat “on” nor “at”. The officer spat directly at the ground. But to your point of a “Civilian Review Board”, I believe the citizens of Norwalk were given that opportunity several years ago with a charter revision referendum that was voted down by the public. That is always an option, but we currently have a Police Commission that is made up of the Mayor and two other civilians who oversee the police department and conduct trial boards for serious discipline issues. The biggest concern with most Civilian Review Boards is they lack any serious mandatory minimum training standards. They are not required to go through any police training, ride alongside, firearms training, self defense training, shoot-don’t shoot training, simulations training, or anything else that would place them in scenarios that would place them in situations where they have to make split second life or death decisions. They need to be repeatedly exposed to these situations in trainings annually so they can make accurate judgements on officers’ decisions based on real world reaction times and experiences and not television, slow motion replays.

John O'Neill February 25, 2021 at 9:12 am

IF Bob Giolitto is named to this Review Board, I demand to be named to the Review Board. His framed actions/remarks certainly do not demonstrate a neutral standpoint. Quite frankly, anyone who walks around videoing people is Orwellian.
Speaking of video cameras Bob Duff looked pretty damn relaxed on that beautiful summer day last July. Anyone who thinks he was spit on or spit at does NOT deserve a seat on the Police Review Board. If those with pre-conceived notions get their seat on the review board we need to make sure moderate fair-minded people are sitting right next to them.

DrewT February 25, 2021 at 9:12 am

This is ridiculous. We have video evidence that proves Bob Duff LIED period! The police did a full and complete investigation. If you read the findings instead of making your own decisions about the incident you will see that everyone involved was interviewed and the proper coo urea if actions taken if needed. And for the record the policeman in question NEVER Spit at Duff. He spit wait for it…On the floor. And we already have a police commission & Internal Affairs that investigate these incidents. And what are we waiting for now is Bob Duff to formally apologize for the incident and comments about the Chief or he should RESIGN Immediately!

David Muccigrosso February 25, 2021 at 11:44 am

Sadly, all the supposed Democrats around here prefer to argue over pointless stuff like Barbis’ emails, instead of real progressive priorities.

Someone With A Brain February 25, 2021 at 1:19 pm

This is the most hilariously backwards way of thinking. Bob, if you truly believe that the police departments investigation of its officers didn’t dig up the facts of the confrontation with Bob Duff I really feel sorry for you. The video that was released contradicts Bob Duff’s story in its entirety. At best you could argue that Bob Duff was exaggerating but if that is going to be the foundation for your argument than I suggest you also rally in support of a politician review board for the exact same reasons you cite as needing one for the police.

Lying and exaggerating are not the proper ways to get something you want simply because there is no real justification for it.

Just to hammer the point home a bit more here I myself am I registered Democrat and I supported Bob Duff after his initial claims. That said, when I saw the video I was absolutely appalled at how Bob Duff described his side of the story because the video contradicts nearly everything that he so eloquently said.

I suggest that people wake up and stop blindly supporting candidates based on whether or not they have a “D” or an “R” next to their name and instead vote on the substance of the individual. If you cared about the state of CT and the city of Norwalk you would choose to not support someone who, as a stated above, at best exaggerated an incident solely for his own benefit knowing that it was the easy way out because of the social sentiment at the time.

Bob Duff lost my vote and he should loose anyone who has a brain’s vote as well.

BAS February 25, 2021 at 1:52 pm

Author- did you file any sort of complaint or anything with the NPD when this (above mentioned) incident happened?

Mike O'Reilly February 25, 2021 at 9:35 pm

I interrupt this discussion to remind everyone a free press really isn’t free. It cost money ,talent and resources to bring forth all these stories that are so important to all of us.

Nancy on Norwalk has been a great news source for all of us no matter which side of the fence you sit on. Some say it is biased. Maybe but Everyone has a voice here.

Can you imagine living in a small city like ours and getting minimal if any news on the board of Ed, Common Council and local news. That is what it is like in many small cities around the country. We are so lucky to have Nancy. Please Pull out your Credit card and donate to keeping your voice heard

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