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Norwalk Police to release video of Duff visit

From left, Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik and Deputy Norwalk Police Chief Susan Zecca. (File photo – Paul Lanning)

NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik says security camera footage showing officers’ contentious interactions with State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) may be released Monday.

This  followed a statement issued Thursday by Deputy Norwalk Police Chief Susan Zecca, who said in an email that, “We do not plan to release the video for security reasons.”

Duff’s account of being “mistreated and spat at” during a visit to police headquarters to discuss Connecticut’s new police accountability bill has drawn statewide attention and inspired much controversy in Norwalk. NancyOnNorwalk has hoped to provide the public with video footage and filed a Freedom of Information request on Sept. 2.

NoN emailed Zecca and asked, “Are we going to get this video?”

On Friday, NancyOnNorwalk emailed Kulhawik, Deputy Corporation Counsel Jeffry Spahr and Zecca, and asked “Can you explain the ‘security’ reasons that justify not releasing the video? How does video showing the community room door from the street qualify as not being subject to release under FOI?”

“The specific cameras are not the issue.  We are not able as yet to download only the specific cameras.  Providing all camera views would jeopardize building security,” Kulhawik replied.

“We’re still working on pulling only the specific cameras of that area,” Kulhawik said.

He pointed out that NancyOnNorwalk was allowed to view the video on Sept. 2. “I showed it to a few council people that requested to see it as well,” he said.

Duff said an officer spat at him as he stood outside the headquarters community room and that “30 officers” came out the back entrance as he was in the visitor’s parking lot.

“As I was driving away, it looked as if they were going to surround my car,” Duff wrote. “Whether that was their intention or not, I don’t know, but it appeared to be another bullying and intimidation tactic. The message was vividly clear, ‘We are watching you.’”

Video from three surveillance cameras mounted outside Norwalk Police Headquarters confirms an officer gesticulated spitting toward the ground when he saw Duff standing outside the building. The officer opened the door, looked at Duff, then turned his head down and to the left and spat; it didn’t appear any saliva actually exited his mouth. The spit wasn’t aimed at Duff, who was about nine feet away.

About a dozen officers walked out to the visitors’ parking lot as Duff was getting into his car and driving away to demonstrate their displeasure. They never approached Duff’s car, and from the time he pulled out of a parking space to the time he drove past them and reached the lot’s exit on South Main St. amounted to about 14 seconds, based on the recordings’ timestamps.

In video from a camera aimed at the visitor lot, Sgt. Salvatore Calise can be seen directing the officers to get onto the sidewalk adjacent to the lot. Some officers were still entering the visitors’ lot by the time Duff had driven away.

The recordings do not contain audio.

Kulhawik said he wants to release the videos “but we also need to assure our building security is not compromised.”

He said, “I spoke to the Deputy Chief and I think we will be able to release the door view etc.  on Monday when we return to work and can download it.”

Common Council President Barbara Smyth (D-At Large) said she’s spoken to Duff about the incident, and listened to Duff’s and Kulhawik’s interviews on NPR.

“My understanding is that the Chief is conducting a full investigation of the incident,” she wrote Thursday. “In the meantime, I have made an appointment to view the video myself to obtain the best possible understanding of the intimidation tactics and spitting occurrence that were reported.  I will follow up with Chief Kulhawik afterward.”

She said, “Please know that the members of the Common Council take police accountability seriously.”

Story updates concluded at 7:06 p.m., with Kulhawik promise to release video.

Original story:

Norwalk Police decline to release video of Duff visit

NORWALK, Conn. — The Norwalk Police Department has declined to release security camera footage showing officers’ interactions with State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) on July 24.

Duff’s account of being “mistreated and spat at” during a visit to police headquarters to discuss Connecticut’s new police accountability bill has drawn statewide attention and inspired much controversy in Norwalk. NancyOnNorwalk had hoped to provide the public with video footage and filed a Freedom of Information request on Sept. 2.<!–more–>

Deputy Norwalk Police Chief Susan Zecca in a Thursday email said that, “We do not plan to release the video for security reasons.”

Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik, Deputy Corporation Counsel Jeffry Spahr and Zecca have not, at the time this article was published, replied to a followup email sent at 2:21 p.m. Mayor Harry Rilling and Norwalk Chief of Staff Laoise King have not replied to an email sent at 3:08 p.m.

Duff said an officer spat at him as he stood outside the headquarters community room and that “30 officers” came out the back entrance as he was in the visitor’s parking lot.

“As I was driving away, it looked as if they were going to surround my car,” Duff wrote. “Whether that was their intention or not, I don’t know, but it appeared to be another bullying and intimidation tactic. The message was vividly clear, ‘We are watching you.’”

NancyOnNorwalk viewed the video on Sept. 2.

Video from three surveillance cameras mounted outside Norwalk Police Headquarters confirms an officer gesticulated spitting toward the ground when he saw Duff standing outside the building. The officer opened the door, looked at Duff, then turned his head down and to the left and spat; it didn’t appear any saliva actually exited his mouth. The spit wasn’t aimed at Duff, who was about nine feet away.About a dozen officers walked out to the visitors’ parking lot as Duff was getting into his car and driving away to demonstrate their displeasure. They never approached Duff’s car, and from the time he pulled out of a parking space to the time he drove past them and reached the lot’s exit on South Main St. amounted to about 14 seconds, based on the recordings’ timestamps.In video from a camera aimed at the visitor lot, Sgt. Salvatore Calise can be seen directing the officers to get onto the sidewalk adjacent to the lot. Some officers were still entering the visitors’ lot by the time Duff had driven away.

The recordings do not contain audio.

This story may be updated.

12 comments

M Murray September 11, 2020 at 6:59 pm

Democrat Mayor. Democrat State Senator caught embellishing and giving misleading statements. Let’s wait until after the election to release the

Ron Morris September 11, 2020 at 7:38 pm

Former police Chief. Complaint about the police . Police caught embellishing and giving misleading statements. You cant change blue covering for blue.

M Murray September 11, 2020 at 9:31 pm

Ron, I can’t wait until it is released. I can’t wait until you have to admit that the officer did not spit at Duff. That his head was down when he made a spitting gesture, and that you don’t see any spittle coming from his mouth. I can’t wait until you have to admit it was a harmless gesture of disgust toward a politician who sold his soul pandering for votes.

Dominic R September 12, 2020 at 2:29 am

That’s exactly how gang members treat their rivals. Thank you to the 30 officers of the Norwalk Police Department for their respect to our fellow lawman, whether Republican or Democratic have some decency and Respect for our nation.

Jeffry Spahr September 12, 2020 at 8:11 am

The police department has acted correctly and is working with the media to respond to the FOI request in a prompt manner. To the extent that a request was made for all NPD security videos, this request was overly broad and was objected to. The FOI Act allows the NPD to withhold records that may compromise security (see CGS Sect 1-210(b)(19))(“ (b) Nothing in the Freedom of Information Act shall be construed to require disclosure of: ….(19) Records when there are reasonable grounds to believe disclosure may result in a safety risk, including the risk of harm to any person, any government-owned or leased institution or facility or any fixture or appurtenance and equipment attached to, or contained in, such institution or facility,”)

I advised that it would be acceptable to refuse to disclose all security camera videos since to do so would reveal what areas are covered by the cameras (and which are not). It is my understanding that the Department is working to release those clips that will not compromise security.

I think you will see then that the NPD is willing to work with the media within the framework of the Act

Baby shark September 12, 2020 at 9:04 am

How come nobody ever talks about the extra duty problem!!!! Traffic duty !!! 7 hours of cell phone footage of all top cops on there phone on the job not directing traffic!!!! Scam alerted

Non Partisan September 12, 2020 at 1:46 pm

I witnessed a police officer be spit on by a homeless man in nyc

The officer did nothing to deserve it and unfortunate did not take any action because of fear of loosing his job.

Stand up for our police. They are the only stop gap between us and criminals.

Spitting on the ground wasn’t appropriate, but I understand the disgust law enforcement hasn’t for our politicians. More disgusting is turning the incident into a political Side show. Shame on you Duff.

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