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Rilling ‘incredibly disappointed;’ two new Norwalk Police officers resign

Norwalk Police Commissioner Fran Collier-Clemons swears in Officer Mario Pecirep this week. The photo was posted to the Norwalk Police Department’s Facebook page and has been removed. (Norwalk Police Department)

NORWALK, Conn. – Two newly sworn-in Norwalk Police officers resigned Friday after just a day on the job, following a community firestorm that highlighted background information the Norwalk Police Commission was unaware of.

“Our city is about to be shook by our new Norwalk Police Department Hire,” Communidades Sin Fronteras-CT posted Friday on Facebook.

Both new hires were transfers from the Bridgeport Police Department.

Officer Mario Pericep is connected to 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. Jayson Negron resisted arrest and Boulay reportedly feared for his life, as Negron backed the car up with Boulay feeling he was going to be dragged underneath, the accounts say.

Boulay was cleared by Waterbury State’s Attorney Maureen Platt of criminal charges, according to the Connecticut Post. Negron’s death was “murder” in the eyes of a woman leaving a social media post this week in reaction to Pericep’s hiring here.

A Friday Facebook post.

Pericep was driver of the patrol car.

Also under fire was Officer Chealsey Ortiz, as a defendant in a lawsuit alleging excessive force nearly three years ago. The suit against four Bridgeport Police officers was filed by plaintiff Lisa Moragne in September and reported by the Post last week after a lawyer filed an amended complaint last week.

Norwalk Police announced their hiring Thursday in a Facebook post, that also featured Officer Samantha Bardos being sworn in. Reaction was swift and Mayor Harry Rilling issued a statement Friday morning on the City of Norwalk Facebook and Twitter pages:

“I am incredibly disappointed that allegations against recently hired Norwalk Police Officers were not disclosed to myself, other members of the Police Commission, or Chief Kulhawik by the Bridgeport Police Department. These are serious allegations, and specific details were not available to us before we recommended these hires. I read the reports today, and immediately called the Chief to express my anger and disappointment, and I recommended that these offers of employment be immediately rescinded. We will be calling a special Police Commission meeting early next week to rectify this situation.”

 

On Friday afternoon, a new statement was posted.

“Officer Pecirep and Officer Ortiz have resigned. They will not be Norwalk Police Officers. I thank the community for bringing this situation to our attention on social media, sending emails, and making phone calls. We heard you,” said Rilling, former Norwalk Police Chief. “I have ordered Chief Kulhawik to review the hiring process and policies to determine what was missed in the vetting of these officers and to deliver his findings to the Police Commission at our next meeting. I want residents to know that while we do a lot of things right, we got this one wrong. I pledge that we will do better in the future.”

 

Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik released this statement:

“Thorough background checks were conducted on both.  The lawsuit would not have come up as my understanding was it was only recently public.

“In the other officers case, he had been cleared and therefore there were no obvious red flags. However, in retrospect, we should have done our due diligence to verify all aspects of the incident and highlight that in the report so that we were all well aware and complete information could be provided to the Police Commission for the evaluation of the candidate.  Unfortunately, that was not the case and the Commission based their decision on the information that was provided to them.

“This was compounded by the fact that due to COVID the meeting was virtual so they did not have normal access to the complete file.

“We have begun a review of our process to determine the specific failures and to prevent a similar occurrence in the future. The Mayor has ordered that the results of this review be provided to the Commission at the next scheduled meeting.

“Mayor Rilling had planned to call a Special Meeting to recommend rescinding the job offers, but it will not be necessary as the two have resigned earlier this afternoon.”

 

A Norwalk Police press release, issued Friday evening, said Pecirep and Ortiz had undergone comprehensive background checks were to include “any criminal history, a review of previous employers, interviews with neighbors and families, visits to their homes, a review of social media as well as credit and driving histories. In addition, medical screens were completed, including drug screens, psychological testing and polygraph exams.”

“Pecirep was cleared of an officer-involved shooting incident, in which he was a witness, and no obvious red flags were raised,” it said. “Additionally, the background investigation of Probationary Officer Ortiz did not reveal a pending lawsuit.”

State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff (D-25) released a statement Friday evening:

“This incident and other recent incidents at the Norwalk Police Department are why I have fought for increased police accountability and reform at the state level. Certain towns and cities have proven over and over they are unable or incapable of holding bad cops accountable. Police officers that have violated the public’s trust should be properly punished and not rehired the next town over. I am reviewing the action by the Norwalk Police Department to see if any state laws are violated or if more state regulations are needed to ensure we have police departments that are prioritizing public safety.”

 

The NPD press release said the department “continues to remain diligent in addressing any faults, to remain transparent about our practices, and to invite feedback and critique. We are grateful for our relationship with our community and will continue to hone our practices and directives, and use all hurdles as stepping stones as we strive to provide excellent police service.”

24 comments

nora king June 4, 2021 at 5:15 pm

Harry is sleeping through these past two years. What does everyone expect? Time for new leadership.

Shari Brennan June 4, 2021 at 5:20 pm

And when her son was shot, the police did not go to house to tell her.They told her on the phone!

M Murray June 4, 2021 at 6:01 pm

Wasn’t Officer Pericep cleared of any wrongdoing by the Chief State’s Attorney’s office after a thorough investigation? Wasn’t this investigation completed after a thorough review of facts and circumstances based on evidence and rule of law that determined that this was a justifiable use of force?

John O'Neill June 4, 2021 at 6:03 pm

I’m perplexed…The legislators in Hartford are toasting each other (Probably more than a few toasts based on reports this week)on their Clean Slate program..BUT I guess that doesn’t apply to a police officer who’s actually been cleared in the shooting of a misguided teen who must’ve put a car into reverse instead of drive..
Maybe there’s more to this..
If there’s not more to the story than above it makes me reflect on our current social status: Criminals are innocent whether they’ve been found guilty or not..Cops are guilty whether they’ve been cleared or not..Just think about that for a second.
If I’m one of those cops I find a good lawyer and sue the city of Norwalk. I hear Dennis Bradley from Bridgeport is a good lawyer and has some free time these days. Maybe he’ll take the case..

Scott Vetare June 4, 2021 at 6:42 pm

I’m ashamed of the way Norwalk did their background checks on these 2 officers! Who ever did the checks should be fired! Who actually does the hiring? Personnel dept must have something to do with it. Whoever it is needs to be fired!

Taxpayer June 4, 2021 at 6:43 pm

Got two wrong not one. Where was Harry during the Duff fiasco he never said if he supported the police accountability laws. Police have to give him endorsement soon. It’s disappointing he’s placing blame on Bridgeport PD

Registered Independent June 4, 2021 at 7:50 pm

Bob Duff is a complete and total disgrace and his opinion should matter as much as someone living in China. He is the epitome of everything wrong with politics. His actions at the Norwalk Police Dept last year showed his true colors and what is astonishing is that people are stupid enough to continue to back him.

Let’s look at the facts. These two cops were involved in a situation that clearly went downhill quickly. Regardless of what anyone wants to say and grandstand about the only thing that matters is that these officers were both CLEARED by the states attorney after investigations. Are we honestly living in a society where we are going to continue to punish people, especially people who offer to put their lives on the line every single day, while ignoring the fact that the they were cleared? It’s mind boggling. Whats even worse is when you have people that won’t stand up for good honest people when they know they should.

If I was given the choice to support a police officer who was put into a horrific situation through no fault of his own or a teenager who MADE THE CHOICE to engage in a criminal act I would choose the police officer 10/10 times. Stop making this about racism and police brutality. It’s about individual decision making and consequences. Sure, stealing a car shouldn’t be a death sentence and I don’t think anyone would argue that. But you know one sure fire way to avoid being put in that situation where death might be the end result? Don’t make the decision to steal the car. It’s just that simple.

When did people loose the ability to think critically on their own? Instead all anyone cares about these days is being critical of one another while knowing absolutely nothing about the other person. Both of these officers deserve the right to be hired again. If the states attorney investigation said otherwise than that is a completely different story.

Registered Independent June 4, 2021 at 7:58 pm

To be explicitly clear here so that words are not twisted in anyway, Jayson Negron’s death was no doubt a total tragedy and I am not making light of it in any way shape or form. I am simply saying what is obvious. Had he not made the decision to steal a car, then not comply with officers when he was caught, his actions completely dictated the outcome. Those are just facts that cannot be argued.

piberman June 4, 2021 at 9:11 pm

Looks like “Defunding the Police” and “Political Correctness” lies in our future, How many other potential new candidates in CT with experience are disqualified because they used force when required ?

George June 4, 2021 at 11:23 pm

So now police officers just shouldn’t do their jobs? If these officers were not found guilty then guess what, they aren’t guilty. Stop trying to make it hard for police officers to exist, we need them.

Bryan Meek June 5, 2021 at 12:00 am

The new hires should have never been hired, in my opinion.

Not that they were not fully qualified for the job, which they must have been????. But for the fact that Mayor Rilling supports policies (like his ringmaster Duff) that discriminate against law enforcement professionals, this is not surprising at all. An overdue library book would have been sufficient grounds for Mayor Rilling to take notice, but tragic, controversial, major points seems to have escaped him.

I know..covid…covid….covid……everyone gets paid full freight regardless of whether or not they are working their tails off (like several departments) or if they are deciding which pair of slippers to wear that day (like most of the executive departments…awesome for morale!). Who could expect the mayor to do some basic background checks as the final arbiter of these new hires when he’s too busy figuring out where to park besides City Hall?

Whatever the outcome here, I smell lawsuit number xyz here for wrongful termination and this is more blood in the water for Norwalk, sadly.

What’s our legal exposure bill up to now? I’m seriously asking given the total lack of transparency. Besides the millions we are going to lose from the reval fights, It has to be over $10 million just for bogus keystone cops stuff.

Ron Morris June 5, 2021 at 12:03 am

Yet another disaster at the Norwalk Police Department. Are the 2 cops that were drinking on duty in the parking lot of the police station still getting paid?

CRISSY M SPALLONE June 5, 2021 at 3:18 am

You have to love the people of privilege who feel a 15 year old stupid choice was the reason for his death. First and foremost,since when are police allowed to be judge, jury and executioner. If that boy was guilty of a crime, he should have been punished not put to death. And all the people saying “oh they were cleared” did you not see the woman write that this officer handcuffed this boy after he was shot and did NOTHING to tend to him medically? Him being cleared of that is your prime example of everything in the news about systemic racism. And anyone getting on Bob Duff, any person who has an issue with a bad cop being held accountable for his/her actions, especially pertaining to race.. You clearly are part of this systemic problem go look in a mirror and face facts

Tysen Canevari June 5, 2021 at 6:16 am

Isnt it funny that Harry says he is angered over this situation. Well Mr Mayor are you angered at the two cops that were drinking and playing in a hotel while on duty? They havent been fired yet? What are we waiting for? I am surprised you even commented. Usually we hear from your over priced assistant!

steve June 5, 2021 at 7:01 am

It looks like the officers resigned, so no “blood in the water”. Not sure why Bob Duff’s name even came up here- but haters will hate- and clearly for some there’s always a reason to gratuitously slam him. Meanwhile he wins election after election-with sizable margins. He’s the AOC of Norwalk Republicans. As for the current situation- wow, ham handed. Agree as well, that the incident involving the two cops sleeping and drinking in a motel room demands some follow up.

Sharon Dressler June 5, 2021 at 9:48 am

I agree, if i have read and understood the article, the 2 officers were cleared of the charges. So we are going to hold it over them for life. They shouldn’t have resigned. It is a reality about the boy who died, but he should have obeyed the officer and he shouldn’t have stolen a car. Should he be killed because of it. No but if you are going to break the law and not listen to a police officer, that’s a chance you are willing to take. I have no idea if any involve are as far as race and it doesn’t matter the skin color, laws are for all people.

M Murray June 5, 2021 at 1:14 pm

But Democrats insisted that the bill would help people to be productive members of society and ensure their sentences actually end, so they aren’t punished for their crimes for the rest of their lives. And they pointed out that, in order to benefit from the relief, individuals would have to remain conviction-free for seven years to have their misdemeanors erased, and 10 years for felonies, after the person’s most recent conviction.

Here’s Bob Duff on the Clean Slate Bill he supported and that passed effectively erasing criminal records of convicted felons and preventing employers from finding out that convicted felons applying for their jobs have records. Yet he is against Officers being hired who were investigated and shown to have used justified force and cleared of any wrongdoing. A little bit of a hypocrite? Forcing businesses to hire convicted felons by erasing their past, but preventing Cities from hiring police officers who were cleared of any wrongdoing because of pandering for votes???? “This bill simply is about whether or not we believe somebody that who has paid the price through incarceration and has led a life afterwards without crime again, that they deserve to have a second chance to be able to get on with their lives and be productive members of society,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff of Norwalk. “This bill is about a clean slate and providing people with an opportunity to move forward with their lives.”

Scott Vetare June 5, 2021 at 5:15 pm

I take back my comment about who was doing the background checks. I apologize to them. I was ignorant to the facts that weren’t disclosed by the news. Whoever complained about these 2 officers are using our politicians as puppets. Time to vote new people in. I hope these 2 officers can get back on in Bridgeport.

Bryan Meek June 5, 2021 at 7:17 pm

Bob Duff’s war on police is making our cities less safe, if you ask any one who actually cares about law enforcement you would have a clue about this. If you knew anything about litigation and the backwards laws this state has, you’d know full well these officers can file law suit tomorrow and walk away with 6 figures easily because the city will settle. My bet is it costs us a cool million after legal expenses and the eventual settlement.

Bryan Meek June 5, 2021 at 7:20 pm

Resigning only prevents them from collecting meager unemployment benefits. They can claim anything they want, including duress to resign and the courts will split the baby with taxpayers on the hook for yet another boneheaded decision to forego doing a basic google search on new hires with a license to carry firearms. I bet it took me longer to get a pistol permit than the vetting process here and last I checked on google I’m not involved in any law enforcement fatalities.

M Murray June 6, 2021 at 9:13 am

Believe half of what you see and none of what you read. There is no way the information on excessive force complaints and the justified shooting was missed in the background check. Detectives would have had that information from their simple internet checks, basic background questioning and Bridgeport personnel files. These things had to have been known before the hire, but they were offered employment because they were cleared and as our justice such, should be considered innocent until proven guilty. Should these personnel files be subject to freedom of information, I am sure NON could find out what was in the background check before they were offered employment.

Norwalker June 7, 2021 at 9:15 am

Both incidents happened several years ago. Officer Pecirep was a rookie and doing his job as taught. Not only was Officer Pecirep cleared of any wrongdoing, he recently worked directly with the community in Bridgeport, with BLM and NAACP, and was widely accepted. He was a community policing officer. Officer Ortiz’s complaint is so frivolous, watch it go away. The Mayor let a few dissatisfied friends and family of a juvenile felon dictate his actions. This is no different than giving in to terrorist demands. The people of Norwalk should be be concerned where his priorities are. Norwalk lost two fine officers, and a wrong was done to two good people.

What am I missing? June 7, 2021 at 11:48 am

Officer Mario Pericep’s partner, JAMES BOULAY, shot the teen. While the pair were investigating a stolen car report, the suspect resisted arrest, backed the car up, and JAMES BOULAY, reportedly fearing for his life, shot the suspect. Why would that influence the hiring of Mario Pericep or cause anyone to be angered that he was hired?

Not cool June 7, 2021 at 11:46 pm

This should be a red flag for current members of service for the NPD. The administration does not have your back and will Play political games with officers. This is very disappointing. Those cops deserve better. Good for them for resigning from a place that doesn’t have their back. As long as you are caught in a hotel room your good though right!

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