NORWALK, Conn. – There were no tears, just a hopeful acceptance – the Rev. Nellie Mann ended her tenure as Norwalk Police chaplain Monday, the result of what she called “one silly mistake.”
After offending police officers with a public statement questioning whether the department was doing racial profiling, Mann handed over a letter of resignation to the Norwalk Police Commission 10 months after what was originally characterized as a three-month suspension to allow time for healing.
The ill will stemmed from a newspaper story, based on police emergency radio scanner reports, that quoted a police officer as saying he was surrounded by a large group of “Bloods and Crips” at Calf Pasture Beach on May 28. Mann, who was offended that a large group of Norwalk youth was described as being gang members, said she got an email from another pastor, demanding an apology from the police department. She forwarded it to The Hour. The sentiments were attributed solely to her.
“I made a silly mistake,” she said.
The coverage of the controversy overshadowed the primary issue, she said – lack of police presence at the beach.
“Unfortunately, on Memorial Day weekend, he has to be by himself,” she said. “He could have been trampled by all those people. That’s something that could be looked at into even more.”
Mann was accompanied to the meeting by Common Councilman David Watts (D-District A). She didn’t say much as she handed in her resignation, effective at midnight.
“Every police officer has been special to me,” she said.
Mayor Richard Moccia left the door open, to an extent.
“I think as time goes by, hopefully things get healed,” he said. “ … Certainly there is going to be opportunity in the future, maybe different work, different commission, the mayor, for Rev. Mann to serve the community. We had some differences. We don’t want to lose her passionate commitment to the community.”
Mann has been a police chaplain – a volunteer position – for two years. Chief Thomas Kulhawik said the department has had one chaplain since her suspension, the Rev. Robert Beinke of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church. The Rev. Chris Holm had also been a chaplain, but resigned.
Kulhawik said there are several people interested in being a police department chaplain.
Mann said she will still work with the Police Explorers, a youth group working with police, and on the oral board that screens recruits.
It’s been a “long haul” since the controversy began, Mann said. “It was hard,” she said. “I’ve never been rejected before – I learned something. Being rejected is something that will stay with you because you know how it feels, you know the struggle to bring yourself back up.”
She said she was grateful for her time as police chaplain, and thanked the people who stood by her: the Rev. Jeffery Ingraham, the Rev. Lindsay Curtis, the Rev. Kenneth Dubose, Rev. Marjorie Lawrence and Watts.
“I did a lot of praying,” she said. “God just lifted me, he brought me out of the valley. Now I can fly, with or without them, I can fly. I’m good. My tears are gone now.”