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Norwalk Police union leader blasts City for sending two new officers away

From left,Chealsey Ortiz, Mario Pericep and Samantha Bardos at Thursday’s Norwalk Police swearing in ceremony. (Norwalk Police)

NORWALK, Conn. – The fast exit Friday of two newly-hired Norwalk Police officers has made Norwalk citizens less safe, according to Lt. David O’Connor, president of Police Union Local 1727.

The “unfair” resignations of Mario Pericep and Chealsey Ortiz just one day after they were sworn in is deeply distressing, O’Connor said Monday. Pericip and Ortiz had no choice but to resign after Mayor Harry Rilling objected, announcing that he and the Police Commission hadn’t been informed of their backgrounds, because if a police officer gets fired in Connecticut, they automatically lose their certification, he explained.

“The people who are really losing here are the citizens,” O’Connor said, calling Pericep and Ortiz community-oriented, smart, analytic thinkers who would have done well in Norwalk.

Both wanted to get out of Bridgeport, a “tough” place to be a police officer, but “the likes of Bob Duff are pandering for votes, are making them out to be criminals,” O’Connor said.

“I was not the only person in our community disappointed and outraged by the police department’s hiring of these two individuals. Following the Norwalk community speaking out against these hires, the two individuals have resigned from the Norwalk Police Department,” Duff, State Senate Majority Leader (D-25), said in a Monday email blast.

Pericep was involved in the 2017 death of a 15-year-old Bridgeport resident, according to reports; Pericep’s partner, James Boulay, shot the teen while the pair were investigating a stolen car report.

Pericep testified that he was still in the police cruiser when Boulay shot Jayson Negron. The teen backed the stolen SUV into the cruiser as the gunshots rang out.

Boulay was cleared by Waterbury State’s Attorney Maureen Platt of criminal charges, according to the Connecticut Post.

Ortiz is named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by a Bridgeport woman who alleges excessive force nearly three years ago. The original complaint, filed in September, listed Jane Doe and three John Does as the Bridgeport officers being sued. An amended complaint was filed May 26, listing her as one of the defendants.

“They’re being punished for doing nothing wrong,” O’Connor said Monday.

Duff released a statement Friday saying, “Police officers that have violated the public’s trust should be properly punished and not rehired the next town over.”

O’Connor said Monday that during the interview process with Norwalk Police, Pericep had been “completely open and honest about everything that happened. If you are cleared why can’t you move on and go about your business, why are you found guilty in the court of public opinion?”

Ortiz didn’t know about the lawsuit and she was named after the background check, O’Connor said.

A video posted by Hearst Media shows Ortiz putting cuffs on the plaintiff, Lisa Moragne, after another officer took her to the floor. O’Connor said Ortiz was “on the periphery” of the arrest.

Bridgeport filed a motion to dismiss the suit Monday, alleging that Moragne has failed to plausibly plead sufficient facts to support her claims.

When a citizen is arrested, they get multiple bites at the apple, O’Connor said. As a juvenile there are multiple programs. Accelerated rehabilitation can wipe away a police record.

But, “If you’re in the police department, if the politicians don’t like the appearance, they can continue to do you great harm,” he said. “They can get rid of you if you’re on probation at any time for any reason because the public put pressure on the political machine in Norwalk.”

If a felon applied for a job with the City, “‘they’ would be screaming at the top of their lungs to give them a job. But this police officer who has done nothing wrong” is out after a day, O’Connor said.

As probationary officers, Ortiz and Pericep could be dismissed “for any reason,” he said. So they had to resign to protect their State certifications.

Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik has said that hiring officers from other departments saves much time as the officers are already trained. O’Connor said Monday that it shaves the process from a year down to two weeks. “All they have to do is go through an orientation.” But, “I think this is going to make this much harder to get some people from other communities, I think we have really damaged our reputation.”

Plus, much of policing is discretionary, he said. When a call comes in, officers have to respond and do it according to what the law requires. But stopping a suspicious vehicle is discretionary, and “You can look the other way.”

He asked how much different life would be for Ortiz and Boulay if they hadn’t stopped that stolen car. “They wouldn’t be doing their job, but they wouldn’t be fearful of people picketing outside their home and they wouldn’t be fearful of people depriving them of the opportunity to get a job.”

Crime is “ticking up,” he said. “We’ve turned a corner; lawlessness has become acceptable. Because of things like this, cops be more reluctant to get involved because the ramifications of getting involved.”

Norwalk Police officers are “really upset about how this was handled,” O’Connor said. “If this is the amount of support they get from Norwalk, what will happen when if something goes wrong? Will they throw us away as far as they threw these officers? They felt management would have their back but they don’t feel that way now. It is so obvious that they will do what they have to do for the sake of expediency.”

Rilling said Monday that the Norwalk Police Commission “totally supports our officers and would never compromise their safety.”

He said, “There were many unanswered questions in relation to these two individuals. When we are dealing with public safety, decisions must be made that are extremely critical. Decisions must be made that are sometimes difficult but are in the best interest of our citizens and our community.”

A Facebook post from Justice for Jayson makes further allegations about Pericep. After Pericep and Ortiz resigned, the page said, “This is what community power looks like.”

Ortiz and Pericep “have families, they own property, they have bills. They don’t have a job,” O’Connor said. “They’ll go back to Bridgeport, but the financial opportunities are clearly better in Norwalk. They have to go to the Civil Service Commission to get their jobs back. Something doesn’t go right in the script for Bob Duff he gets to make up stories.”

Everything about Pericep and Ortiz was in the packets supplied to the Police Commission, he said. Their hiring was not expedient: “There is nobody on this planet who was in more of a straight shooter and less likely to shave an edge or cut a corner than Tom Kulhawik,” O’Connor said. “He’s a by-the-book guy. They were hired because they were quality officers…. It’s so unfair to treat somebody like that, offer them a job and then pull them out for the rug out from under them.”

Footage of Lisa Moragne’s arrest by Bridgeport Police in 2018, obtained by Hearst Media. Moragne alleges excessive force, naming Officer Chealsey Ortiz as one of the defendants in a lawsuit.

24 comments

NorwalkDown June 8, 2021 at 6:20 am

All these people that pick on cops should go out and try the job for a day since they all think it is so easy

M Murray June 8, 2021 at 6:35 am

Gotta love videotape, don’t you. Name one thing the female officer you forced to resign did wrong here, Looks to me like she was not cooperating being handcuffed. And the female officer only assisted in handcuffing and helping her stand up. Once again Duff puts his foot in his mouth and the video proves him wrong. Keep up the lies for votes Bob. Keep bashing the police because it is the “in thing “ to do right now. It goes in cycles. Once some of the “second chance felons” commit some heinous crimes because it has become politically correct not to hold criminals accountable and victims’ rights and justice are no longer important, the soft on crime politicians will feel the blowback.

Cathy Travers June 8, 2021 at 7:11 am

Good to get the full and complete story and not just the one a politician puts out there. The state and Bridgeport should have held the current mayor of that city to the same standards that these two were held. Gannon was imprisoned for extortion racketeering conspiracy bribery mail fraud and false tax returns ..yet he was allowed to run for mayor and got elected ..policy and are tephlon and officers are always condemned immediately.

Sharon Dressler June 8, 2021 at 7:11 am

The union is right, they were not convicted of any thing, the attacking the police has to stop. They are here to protect us.

John O'Neill June 8, 2021 at 7:27 am

Bob Duff is no friend of Norwalk Police….He’s again looking to score political points at the expense of Norwalk PD. I’d like to see any emails/phone logs from Duff or Rilling associated with this latest chapter. Assuming there’s a FOI request already in motion ?

We are two months away from anniversary of the Duff spitting incident. It might be worthwhile to hold a vigil on Monroe Street to commemorate the event..Maybe those who blindly supported him without seeing the video will have the decency to show up and apologize. But then again it’s about scoring political points not necessarily doing the right thing. Sad, very sad.

john flynn June 8, 2021 at 7:52 am

Lets not single Offices Officers doing their job, however tageted drivebys won’t stop as long as Senator Murphy uses gun violence as a steppingstone. The Violence trend from Meadow Garens on Sunday to Colonial Village demonstartes people are no longer phased by shootings. Selling handguns is income. Where was Senator Murphy’s comment on the Meadow Gardens shooting?

David McCarthy June 8, 2021 at 7:53 am

This woke action let’s you know what’s coming. The political pandering that takes precedence over leadership has been obvious for years. Now you can be fired just for proximity to an event and the lack of even the slightest sign of due process should be frightening to us all. Or I should say to you all. I was smart enough to leave.

Scott Vetare June 8, 2021 at 7:55 am

Something smells rotten here. Lt. O’Connor is spot on with his statements. I sure do hope these 2 officers make out ok. It’s a sad day in America when you’re cleared of charges but certain groups make noise and certain people cave in to them! God bless the blue!

Priscilla Feral June 8, 2021 at 10:06 am

David O’Connor sounds angry and defensive, and that’s not shocking coming from the president of the Police Union, but assailing State Senator Bob Duff and Mayor Harry Rilling falls flat. What the Police Union needs to know is that citizens want police quality officers who de-escalate potentially violent episodes and slow down incidents that can become haywire through escalation. That’s a new calling requiring training, and the Police Union doesn’t get to defame Senator Duff because police are held accountable for troubling actions while working in Bridgeport.

Former Norwalker June 8, 2021 at 10:52 am

It’s people like Duff and Rilling that helped us make the decision to flee Norwalk. Our families had lived there for generations.
Meanwhile, it’s sad how Bob Duff’s lie about the police was caught on film yet there were no consequences for him. I don’t know how someone can be so blatantly dishonest and keep their job.

Brant Kelley June 8, 2021 at 12:13 pm

Every time politicians get involved with actions involving police departments there are problems. They should stick to trying to benefit their constituents rather than trying to run the police department.

Stuart Garrelick June 8, 2021 at 12:14 pm

So there’s one side, the other side, and then there’s the TRUTH.
I read the Rilling/Duff side.
I read the O’Conner side.
And I watched the video a number of times.
Who knows what the full story is. If as O’Conner says it was all in the packet given to the police commission, and if whoever runs the hiring interview process did their due diligence then it certainly appears the “forced” resignations were wrong. But that is assuming all due diligence was a fact in the evaluations- psychological evaluations, prior department evaluations, history of complaints, etc. all should have been considered. Were they? As usual we will probably never know.

Top Cat June 8, 2021 at 2:17 pm

The bottom line is that NPD needs a change in leadership; things have spun way out of control, and the buck stops at the top.

Lets look at some recent history:

1) “Two cops (DiMeglio and Laudano) were arrested Jan. 4, 2021 and charged with second degree larceny and reckless endangerment. Laudano was also charged with risk of injury to a child.
Police say they were drinking while on duty Oct. 9, 2020 and pretending to respond to calls that were assigned to them. They were found in a hotel room…”
– N.O.N., 1.27.21.

2) NPD opposition to the reasonable police accountability rules which have been implemented in Connecticut and across the United States.
Those who may be concerned about civil lawsuits can obtain their own professional liability insurance, just like many other professionals routinely do, to protect themselves.(i.e. attorneys, healthcare workers, etc.)

3) And now, this debacle of inadequate vetting of two hirees.
I’m sure there are plenty of great cops with no red flags in their file in the applicant pool; why not look at them?

How about more officers who actually reside in Norwalk, the city they serve?
(“About 25% of officers currently live in Norwalk but that fluctuates.”
– Chief Kulhawik., N.O.N., 1.27.21.)

You can do better than that.

Monica A Nathan June 8, 2021 at 3:45 pm

I was born in Norwalk.
My military service and post-retirement career took me away.
Any thoughts I had about returning to my birthplace gone.
😿🇺🇸

Rahoul Dupervil June 8, 2021 at 6:51 pm

From hat I heard from the senator I can voice my opinion from there. If these 2 officers were not good for Bridgeport How could we trust them to do Good in Norwalk.

Ron Morris June 8, 2021 at 7:05 pm

These comments by the police union just goes to prove that the unions are the main problem with the police. Thankfully Ct passed laws to control out of control cops.

Bryan Meek June 8, 2021 at 7:35 pm

So the resignations were under duress. I’m going to up my initial assessment from $1 million to $4 million this will cost the city in a wrongful termination suit. Again, what is our legal bill up to? How does that compare to similarly sized cities? Once again taxpayers get to foot the bill for the incompetence from the top of the house, who seem is more interested in his political oppositions $50 donations from retired grandmothers than running a $300 million city.

Tysen Canevari June 8, 2021 at 9:26 pm

Now the NPD can really see how our Mayor only cares about himself and his donations from developers (90 percent by the way). Evidently the police should give more. I realize that these out of town cops save us training time but we need to hire more Norwalk people with relations to the community. Norwalk is headed the wrong way.

Norwalk Resident June 9, 2021 at 8:55 am

Have you all seen the video of 15 year old Jayson Negron dying face down on the pavement while handcuffed? You can simply Google it. He was just a child and not a single officer helped him stop the bleeding or took off his handcuffs.The lack of aid and compassion towards this child is a liability.

Norwalker June 9, 2021 at 8:57 am

So according to the Mayor, Bob Duff and all their supporters in this post, when someone is accused of a crime, or served their sentence, they should forever be discriminated against if a few people on social media threaten protest or political opposition before an election. This is clearly political pandering and no one is safe. These two officers were rookies when their involved in the reported incidents happened and they’ve been fine officers and citizens since then. They were cleared of wrong doing. They were not fired from the jobs. Yet they are still being punished. People think because what they read the police department didn’t vet these officers, well they couldn’t be more wrong.

John Lysobey June 9, 2021 at 3:59 pm

I knew and worked for Kulhawlik and would again. Found him to be a good leader in a difficult job and above board. I trust his judgement. When someone has an axe to grind – like Duff – his opinion should be looked at twice. He has never hidden his feelings about cops. Or about his love affair with himself. ( my opinion ). If he wanted to follow the law why not follow the part where the young officer was cleared. The answer is simple. It wasn’t about right and wrong it was imposing his will , getting even after he was shown as wrong the last time and keeping his name in the papers As a result of Duffs own actions and interpretation of what happened then Duff should be fired. So many complaints have been aired about him. The 2 Officers should have been supported and again because of Duff Notwalk loses.

CityBiz June 9, 2021 at 9:54 pm

Wow two officers that were cleared of wrong doing.. will the violators ever get blamed.
I recall on this forum the fire department hiring someone that had a felony record but city leadership wanted that individual hired. Know this admin he’s probably a firefighter now

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