NPD has more sworn officers; Union President explains challenges
NORWALK, Conn. – The Norwalk Police Department is “still under the gun” for manpower, said Lt. David O’Connor, police union president. Progress is being made, but it’s an uphill battle.
According to Norwalk Police Deputy Chief James Walsh, NPD has 170 sworn officers now, up from 166 in November, when it was described as “having some serious staffing issues.” The department is authorized for 181 officers. One officer is on administrative leave and eight are out on workmen’s compensation, compared to 11 officers on workmen’s compensation and three officers now on light duty on Oct. 31.
While that sounds like improvement, there’s an uptick in retirements and resignations. Seven of the sworn officers are in the academy and won’t be available for independent patrol duty for at least a year.
Unless there are “lateral transfers” – experienced police officers coming from other departments – the numbers increase won’t be enough to relieve the burden that’s driving some officers to resign: the demand for manpower that’s beginning about now and will last into September, O’Connor said.
Walsh said the department is “screening several lateral transfer officers for immediate hire pending successful background investigations.” There’s also a potential “three comparative officers from out of state,” pending approval from the Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POST).
“Some of the laterals are applying but not taking the job when push comes to shove, and we don’t know exactly why that is. I don’t know; I have no idea why,” O’Connor said.
It could be that they found a better opportunity, saw something about NPD that they didn’t like, or just decided to stay where they are. Or, Norwalk’s geographic location in the “corner” of the state might be the issue, or maybe they got offered more money elsewhere.
Another problem: “A lot of people” will exit next year “because their retirement plan kicks in and they must leave,” O’Connor said.
“I think that we’re in a tough spot,” O’Connor said. “A couple of years from now we may be able to dig ourselves out of the hole, but right now we’re in a tough spot.”
Three Rs: resignation, recruitment, retirement
Walsh agreed that progress is being made.
“We have reserved five seats for the June Academy. We are vigorously conducting several background investigations to fill those seats with officers pending successful completion of our background process,” Walsh said.
In December, Walsh said the department hoped to fill six academy seats. Two officers were hired.
The City isn’t lowering its standards to get more officers in the department, O’Connor said.
Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik provided this sworn officer personnel information:
- 2022: Four resignations and three retirements so far
- 2021: 13 resignations and five retirements
- 2020: No resignations and five retirements
- 2019: No resignations and two retirements
- 2018: No resignations and two retirements
So where have all the officers gone?
“Some resigned or retired due to personal reasons. One left to join the FBI and one left to take a police job in Florida,” Kulhawik said. “Most left the profession entirely.”
Kulhawik said COVID, mandatory overtime due to staff shortages, and the added scrutiny and liability brought about by the Accountability Act may be among the reasons for officers leaving.
Four recent resignations were due to disciplinary issues; POST has decertified four Connecticut officers this year and three were from Norwalk. The department hasn’t had any officers decertified since at least 2007.
Former Norwalk Police Officer Taranjit Singh “used his badge to pressure multiple young women into sharing their phone numbers,” according to The Hour. Officers Michael DiMeglio and Sarah Laudano were also decertified; the pair resigned recently due to their arrests after being caught in a hotel together while on duty.
Edgar Gonzalez resigned in June due to NPD suspicions, a news release said. He was charged with forgery and computer crime in February after allegedly filing false reports while serving Norwalk.
O’Connor said two officers who had desk jobs retired rather than go on patrol due to manpower shortages.
“These are things that are going to happen no matter what,” O’Connor said. “People are going to leave no matter what. It’s just the reason why they’re leaving in such large numbers.”
Kulhawik said, “I think it is a combination of factors that caused this including COVID, the Accountability Bill and other things that were perceived negative for law enforcement. With staffing shortages and more shifts needing to be covered by ordering officers to stay, this may also have played a part.”
“It’s getting harder and harder to find people, because as the job becomes more complex, people are less willing to get involved in, let’s call it ‘the social work aspect’ of it,” O’Connor said.
Like Kulhawik, he cited the Accountability Bill as a factor.
“It used to be people wanted this job. Now very few want this job,” O’Connor said, referencing body cameras and cameras in the car, subjecting police officers to having “their every move and utterance scrutinized” while they are dealing with upset people, sometimes folks who are mentally ill or psychotic.
While “I understand the community wants to see what we’re doing,” it “gets to the point that the Big Brother is watching,” and, “It’s a circular argument,” O’Connor said. “We’re having a hard time getting people in because of police accountability. So the people who are being worked harder and more time is being taken from them.”
A young policewoman, a single mother, recently had to choose between attending her son’s first T-ball game and following an order to come into work, O’Connor said. She chose motherhood and is facing “significant disciplinary time.”
O’Connor said, “We’re not in the military, where this is your job, live it 24 hours a day. We all have families. We all have home life… You can’t expect that anyone is going to spend five months out of the year completely consumed by work to the to the abandonment of everything else. It just not possible.”
But, he said, “I don’t think we’re different than any other police department… certainly in Connecticut, but probably from coast to coast are having the exact same issues we’re having. It’s just it’s the times we’re in.”
Tony P May 2, 2022 at 9:00 am
Must be exhausting having to be accountable – much like every other profession that exists. And when you look at the highest paid City employees, invariably, they are police officers. Headlines like “6 Active and former NPD officers have been arrested in the last 2 years” in The Hour on 4/30/22 probably don’t help.
Brock d'Avignon May 2, 2022 at 9:13 am
Well perhaps they can arrest the crooked judges in the area, and the Stamford PD with the exception of two new hires.
Piberman May 2, 2022 at 10:24 am
Lets do the numbers. Norwalk’s police per 1000 at 1.98 is similar to Danbury’s 1.73 and Stamford’s 2.16 (2019 figures). But lower than surrounding wealthy towns: Wilton 2.33, Westport 2.32, Greenwich 2.41. For CT as a whole the figure is 2.07 unchanged from 2.14 in 2010.
Largest concentrations of Police Officers are in our 3 largest cities: Hartford 3.45 per 1000, New Haven 3.23 per1000 and Bridgeport 2.69. The big change in CT police enrollments over the past decade has been in State Police.Their numbers have declined from 2.13 in 2010 to 1.76 per 1,000 while the CT population (and economy) have stagnated.
CT’s police officers average $75,590 or 11th highest in the nation. Even though CT has the nation’s highest per capita income. California has the highest police officer salaries at $107,440. Mississippi $37,210.
CT Police Officers average pay of $75,590 compares to average school teacher salaries of about $80,000 for 180 days work.
CT ranks 5th nationally in lowest crime below Maine, New Hampshire, Idaho and New Jersey (US News).
Jason May 2, 2022 at 4:30 pm
A nice looking group! They appear smart, confident, and diverse. I trust that Norwalk has done their research. So tired of all the negativity. We are a good but imperfect city, like any large community – with the potential to become even better! Welcome aboard!
M Murray May 3, 2022 at 6:30 am
The FBI considers anyone who has been arrested on a felony charge to have a criminal record, even if the arrest did not lead to a conviction. The FBI only counts those with a misdemeanor if a state agency asks the bureau to keep it on file.
So by the FBI’s standard, 73.5 million people in the United States had a criminal record as of June 30.
The Census Bureau lists the adult population in the United States at 249.4 million. That means the FBI considers about 29.5 percent of adults to have a criminal record.
David Muccigrosso May 3, 2022 at 7:39 am
I wonder if it has anything to do with the entry-level salary being uncompetitive, not to mention those bloated overtime salaries sucking up all the opportunity.
I bet if we capped total salaries at a modest $150k, we’d probably have enough left over to get our entry-level salary up from the $69k that Indeed reports, to something more attractive and regionally competitive like $85k.
If you’re concerned about officer and community safety, then we should lead by example and pay for quality. Attracting better candidates and giving them better training makes Norwalk less likely to have an ugly police killing, with all the attendant protests, backlashes, and lawsuits. Replacing a clearly incompetent old guard will also help minimize this risk.
Tysen Canevari May 3, 2022 at 5:26 pm
I am sure that the accountability law might hinder some people from wanting to pursue the job as a policeman but how about the town you must work in acting as a hinderance? The job might be more desireable if a position was open in Darien or New Canaan. I understand the pension benefits are better and the amount of serious crime you encounter is certainly less. If you look at the police log of New Canaan they might arrest 4 people a week. In Norwalk, they arrest 4-6 a day! I understand that the overtime potential is huge here in Norwalk but remember you physically have to be out there on the street to make that overtime. It is a lot of time to put in. There should be some sort of cap on the amount of hours you can do in a week though. You need to be accountable for the 40 hour shift you owe the public before you put in another 50 on the side. With the size of our town increasing we certainly need many more police and fireman on the payroll. We all know the census in Norwalk is way off. Its the few bad apples that give the police a bad name and the so called quotas that must be achieved to fill the positions. Give some extra points to the people born and raised here in Norwalk which might entice more to apply. That would require city hall thinking outside the box! Not that hard.
Niz May 3, 2022 at 10:10 pm
First responders deserve damn good pay! We have NO IDEA what they see and have to live with. Process that folks! I know a man that is a pathologist & my God we are oblivious to the horrific cruelties people are capable of. Crimes to babies, children, elderly, women… men too is so very tragic.
As accountability is a must! in hand with that consistent psychiatric care, proper R&R is also ESSENTIAL.
They get scared too, they are human beings too.
I do not excuse killing an unarmed civilian, or abusing a perk, yet I can see how fear, uncertainty and hostility can happen.
DrewT May 4, 2022 at 10:05 am
@tonyp It would be refreshing if you actually read the Anti Police Bill like myself a number of times and you would understand how contradictory it is. Further, how would like to have a job where any given day you kiss your family good bye, roll up on a call a perp pulls a gun and just fires and kills you. I bet you would be signing up for it! And you know if you fire back and kill the perp of course after they fired at you, you get investigated by the newly created position of the IG and brought up on charges and your career gets destroyed. So before you jump on the Anti Police bandwagon put yourself in their shoes. Further, what business is it if yours what they make?! Do you have any idea how much OT or extra work these officers do?! Is it really any of your business?! Their jobs are to protect and serve and they do a great job at it given all the nonsense going on in Cities in CT. And as for the officers that were arrested do you know all the facts? Did the media actually report all the information? Did the prosecutors have a press conference and give their information on why THEY decided to arrest an officer and the department didn’t press charges?! Are there bad apples in EVERY profession of course! And this people get let go from their jobs should they be found guilty. They have had a number of incidents and shouldn’t of happened and the hood officers know that. But we don’t cast a net in everyone because of a few. Maybe, stop and talk to an officer on patrol and get to know them. Maybe one will tell you while eating at the beach some pink flipped their tray from their hands with their meal on it because they hated cops. And what would you have done in that incident? What did the officer do unfortunately stood there and accepted it and moved on. Personally I would have thrown them in cuffs for assault. But that’s me and I’m not a cop. But this is what people
Like yourself and your whole leftist nuts in the Democratic Party like Bob Duff wanted and now have. So for now we are lucky here or we are fortunate that as short staffed the department is they are keeping our City safe! But the summer is upon us and if you been watching and listening to what’s going on in Democratic run cities you should be on your guard. The cops in Norwalk do a great job and will continue to do so. But as I said above maybe go talk to a few officers and get to know them. And you will understand all they want to do at the end of their shift is go home to their families safe and unharmed. But just put yourself in their shoes and when you answer a domestic incident where a family member is holding other hostage with a gun how would you react. OH and that same person already shot off 3 rounds towards the cops that barley missed their 3 year old child who’s crying their eyes out. BTW, that’s a true story.
BACK THE BLUE!💙