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.