NORWALK, Conn. — There’s more video of the July 24 interaction between State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) and Norwalk Police officers.
Lt. David O’Connor, police union president, released the video Monday. It was taken by an officer attending the meeting, who had not initially been invited. O’Connor said he was releasing it to support his contention that the interaction was civil. It captures the tone of the exchanges between Duff and the officers.
Video at end of story
Duff did not reply to an email giving him a link to the video and asking for comment.
Duff has said that he arrived at police headquarters to mee with union leadership, officers in the hallway greeted him by saying, “What the f**k is he doing here?”
This is not in the video. O’Connor explained that the union’s executive board began its meeting before Duff arrived. Then Duff joined them.
Duff claims that officers “stormed” the room where he was to meet union leaders. About eight officers arrived wanting to attend and were permitted to, O’Connor said. One of those officers used his iPhone to capture the video provided.
The 15-minute video starts after Duff arrived and ends before the meeting concludes. It shows Duff being questioned by an officer about the police accountability bill, and Duff explaining elements of the qualified immunity clauses and changes that had developed in different versions.
The conversation is calm, although an officer interrupts the primary speaker at about three minutes in, interjecting in a hot tone that the bill was being crafted for “purely emotional” reasons.
The officer questioning Duff asked for a reason the bill crafted in the first place. Duff said the Judiciary Committee originally crafted it. The officer asked Duff why he supported it.
“Because of the fact that we have come together in what I think is a bill that is a decent compromise of all the issues that were out there,” Duff replied.
The officer asked for the issues.
“All the issues that are out there from the standpoint of the issues that people brought to us as they felt that it was necessary to put into a police accountability bill,” Duff replied.
“I feel like we’re lacking empirical proof, empirical evidence that shows … that there’s a reason to enact legislation,” the officer replied. “There’s no empirical evidence that shows that there’s an epidemic of willful wanton illegal behavior going on in Connecticut. We have a couple of outlying incidents in the far corners of the country.”
Connecticut has reduced officer and suspect injuries and Norwalk Police “have adopted body cams willingly and they’re acting in our favor, more so than not,” the officer continued. “We’ve taken on new training over the past 10 years. We’ve done everything the public’s asked of us, and now we’re being handed this. We’re stripped of a level of immunity seemingly for no reason.”
“I’m not sure why anybody would be worried about any of this, any of these sections,” Duff replied. Every part except the qualified immunity is bipartisan, he said, and “as long as somebody is not doing something illegal, willful or malicious, and that doesn’t violate (somebody’s) basic constitutional rights, they’re fine. So I believe that was a fair compromise on a section that was important to a number of people in the legislature.”
The officer continued to argue against the legislation, asserting that “judicial activists will hold our livelihood in jeopardy unnecessarily.”
“This is just a real kick in the nuts, when we’ve been doing everything we can over the past 10 years since Ferguson is trying to do the right thing,” the officer said. “And have been really successful doing the right thing we’ve lowered every type of liability there can be across the board. And we’re performing better in more complex circumstances in the divided environment.”
He continued, “And then we get this, in Connecticut, where we are, you probably know, the tip of the spear with this stuff. We’re not in the Midwest, we’re not the south, we’re not the Southwest, we’re doing a better job here. crime has been lower. Violent crime is like non existent in Norwalk now. We’re the sixth largest municipality in the state, to get this is, you know, guys want to leave the job now. And the guys like really are invested in this type of work. So it’s really disheartening that you support this.”
Duff has said he was “spat at.” The security camera video released by the Norwalk Police Department last week shows Officer Mike Silva opening a side door and near where Duff is standing, and at least making a spitting motion toward the concrete.
Other camera angles show Silva walking out into the parking lot as if he were leaving, about two minutes earlier, spotting Duff’s car and then walking back into the building. Then he comes out the side and looks at Duff before making the spitting gesture.
Duff’s account of this was that Silva “looked at me in a menacing manner, and spit at me.” He describes “about twenty officers” behind Silva. It’s difficult to see officers behind Silva in the video, as there are reflections on the glass.
The video, which does not contain audio, shows Sgt. Sal Calise opening the door just after Silva’s action and talking to Duff.
“I opened the door and said ‘Bob, whatever you guys are doing over here, I don’t care, just take it by your car, because you’re inciting these guys and they’re going to say something stupid,’” Calise explained recently.
Calise said Duff pointed at him and said, “So you’re throwing me out.”
Calise said he responded, “I’m not throwing you out. I’m just asking you to take it to your car, because these guys are upset and they’re going to say something stupid.”
Duff’s account is that he was “dumbfounded” by Calise’ remarks, and then as he was being escorted to his car, “roughly thirty officers came out from the back of the police station to the public parking lot where my car was located… it looked as if they were going to surround my car.”
The video shows 12 officers come out, and Calise motion for them to stay on the sidewalk.
Calise said recently that another officer “made a gesture” in Duff’s direction. He remained behind in the visitor parking lot and made the move towards Duff’s disappearing car.
Video shows a string of officers parading back into the building, then one coming along behind them.
“The description of events as relayed by officers differs a bit from Sen Duff’s account, but regardless, it is clear that the behavior of some was not acceptable as everyone deserves to be treated respectfully,” Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik said recently. “I can appreciate that Sen Duff felt disrespected by some members of the department when he visited the union meeting that Friday.”
Lt. Tom Roncinske has taken over the investigation. Although disciplinary measures are usually not publicized, the public will be informed of the disciplinary measures taken in this case, Kulhawik said.
Story copy edited at 2:44 p.m.; Correction, 8:30 p.m.: Chief Thomas Kulhawik said disciplinary measures will be made public.