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South Norwalk residents: Norwalk Police need to approach youth in more friendly way

South Norwalk Mayor's Night Out 042914 125
A woman, who declined to be identified, tells Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling that she is appalled Tuesday at the latest Mayor’s Night Out, held in Norwalk Police headquarters.

NORWALK, Conn. – Talk of dangerous traffic conditions, affordable housing and the need to maintain Norwalk’s diversity gave way Tuesday night to concerns about Norwalk Police officers, with the department’s young blood being given a poor review by South Norwalk residents at the latest Mayor’s Night Out.

“We’re hearing this a lot, our young African-American men are being stopped and frisked and our young African-Americans overall are being stopped unfairly,” Councilwoman Phaedrel “Faye” Bowman (D-District B) said at a turning point in the evening’s mood.

The event, held in the community room at Norwalk Police headquarters, attracted about 20 citizens, with four of the department heads present fielding questions. Topics included a “dangerous curb” on Taylor Avenue, the “big buildings” going up on West Avenue and in SoNo, parking and gentrification, and concerns about “stop and frisk” and the way Norwalk Police approach teenagers.

In a first, Mayor Harry Rilling shut down ever-passionate frequent commenter John Mosby, going so far as to ask Deputy Norwalk Police Chief David Wrinn to escort Mosby from the room when he ignored Rilling’s repeated requests to “wrap it up.” That drew complaints later from Bowman and an audience member, and Mosby spoke twice after that, more calmly than the first time.

Marcus Hargrave first broached the police issue, saying that his teenaged son was told he was jay walking, and given the option to get a ticket or be frisked.

“I just don’t understand how your police officers can do that,” he said, before going on to ask why police cruisers don’t have video cameras.

Wrinn said that had been tried to get cameras five years ago, but it was a “major expenditure” and “extremely difficult” to keep up with the technology financially.

“The technology wasn’t there to keep them running without having to put a lot of time and expenditures to actually pull the video, store the video and do things like that. Just the upkeep of damaged cameras, things like that. We found now that the technology has been dramatically improved,” he said.

The department is now testing video cameras that are worn on the body, he said. An officer takes the camera off at the end of his or her shift, and puts the camera into a charger, which downloads the videos, he said.

South Norwalk activist John Mosby points at Norwalk Superintendent Manny Rivera Tuesday in South Norwalk.
South Norwalk activist John Mosby points at Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Manny Rivera Tuesday in South Norwalk.

Mosby, a retired union leader who has recently been speaking at Board of Education meetings, delivered racial complaints similar to those he has been airing in recent months. Blacks are being forced out of Norwalk, he said, beginning with the sentiment of “I am very disappointed the way the community being shut out of here in the city of Norwalk. I am shocked to death.”

He went on to mention Norwalk Housing Authority Deputy Director Candace Mayer’s recent announcement that public housing flat rents are going up dramatically and said, in reference to Norwalk Schools Superintendent Manny Rivera’s announced intention to open a school in South Norwalk, “You want to pack the blacks down here again.”

“Doctor, I want to help you but you all don’t want to listen. .. You ain’t fooling nobody,” Mosby said.

He had been talking for five minutes at that point, his voice growing louder and more passionate. Rilling interrupted.

“Can I ask you to wrap it up? I’d like you to be a little bit more civil and to talk without accusing,” Rilling said.

The mayor kept repeating, “Wrap it up,” as Mosby excitedly said, “You don’t want to hear the truth, Chief. You’ve been ignoring us, too, and running around here. That ain’t what we voted for. Even Mayor Moccia was much better than you are because he would listen a little better. Whether you like it or not and that’s the truth.”

The “Wrap it up” not working, Rilling turned to Wrinn and said “Would you escort him out?”

Mosby stopped talking and Rilling told Wrinn to sit back down.

That prompted comment from Bowman half an hour later.

“I’ve seen just as colorful conversations coming from other individuals and I didn’t see them asked to be escorted out,” she said. “So I just want everyone in this room to look at this because our people are being treated unfairly.”

A recording of the “colorful conversation” is attached below.

Bowman mentioned recently retired police officers, who dealt with her when she was a teenager, and said they would have handled recent situations much better than those wearing the badges in their place. Diversity training is needed, she said.

The latest Mayor’s Night Out proceeds Tuesday at Norwalk Police headquarters.

“We like the new chief, he is a nice guy, but we’ve been telling him we feel there is a problem,” she said. “… There is a marked difference between officers who grew up in Norwalk and those who come from outside of Norwalk. The ones who grew up in Norwalk, they basically grew up with diversity training, but these other ones, we don’t like how they are treating residents of South Norwalk and we are pretty sure it is happening in other districts.”

Rilling said there is a complaint process. Wrinn referred to the recent program of having new officers walk a beat for three weeks before beginning patrols.

A woman, who declined to be identified, stood up.

“I just really came to observe, I came with some other people,” she said. “But what I have observed has been appalling. While Mr. Mosby was speaking I saw you, Mr. Mayor, talking and laughing. … We are all people. What is it we need to know about each other? People are people. Diversity training? For what? If somebody is not doing anything wrong, why are they being stopped? So to me this is 2014, that kind of thing should have ended long ago so yes, I am appalled.”

Martha Dumas asked how many hours new officers are on the foot patrols.

Wrinn said they work their full shift, sometimes at night, sometimes in the day. Also, more experienced officers are told to leave their cars and walk around trouble spots for 15 to 30 minutes.

“I’ve seen some rookies that are kind of rough,” Dumas said. “But my whole take is you tend to be more, I guess, not so offended when someone of their color approach them. When you have a rookie approach you that is not of your color and the way he approaches you, they don’t know what to do. Because right then and there, because they have seen so much happen, even on South Main, they tend to run or they tend to speak and the officer don’t want them to speak.”

There are good youths in Norwalk, she said.

“Maybe just try to have some more friendly officers in some of those areas might also help,” she said.

Sherwood Taylor said the recently retired officers, including Officer Carleton Giles, had the respect of the community.

“I have spoken to other officers who have retired,” he said. “I won’t go into names and they have clearly said that these officers, ‘It’s not the same, Sherwood. It’s not the same as when we were out there. Their temperament is different. The way they handle people.’ They have even said that there’s a lack of communication with the younger guys, within the department, within the building. In some cases they can even see how — imagine them on the streets if they can’t get along with their brothers in blue within the building. So there are some issues and I don’t mean to disrespect anyone or stir up any trouble or anything, but there is a generational. Some of it a matter of these guys are from out of town but some of these guys, I hate to say, they are a hot head.”

Hargrave, who had opened the conversation with the first complaint about police, said his 16-year-old son won’t walk to the movie theater.

“He feels like he’s going to get harassed by the police,” he said.

“I’m sorry you feel that way,” Wrinn said. He expressed hope that the problem could be worked out in a conversation that had already been planned for later this week.

Rilling said, “Hopefully once we talk to him and talk to you, get a feel for what did go wrong and how we can correct it, he will feel a little more comfortable with coming down and talking to the officers, and so forth.”

The next Mayor’s Night Out will be held in Rowayton, Rilling said. After that, there will be one in Silvermine, and then the process will start over again, he said.

Correction, 6:51 p.m., Hargrove changed to Hargrave

South Norwalk Mayor's Night Out 042914 089
Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling, right, tells John Mosby to “Wrap it up” Tuesday at the Norwalk Police station.

Comments

17 responses to “South Norwalk residents: Norwalk Police need to approach youth in more friendly way”

  1. Oldtimer

    This complaint, about younger officers not knowing how to talk to young people, never stops. Of course, we have to make some allowance for how accurately the encounter with an officer was described by the young man when he spoke to his parents. Teen age boys have a tendency to try to make themselves look good in every story they tell. (don’t we all ? ) How often does anyone stopped by the police admit they were speeding, or ran a light, when they tell friends about being stopped ? Somehow, it is always the cop’s fault.

  2. the donut hole

    If only the parents would care more about their children before they get to the point to attract police attention. Maybe telling them to pull up their pants and stop wasting money they don’t have on tattoos would be a start.

  3. EveT

    Once again Mr. Mosby rants without proposing any constructive solutions. The mayor was entirely right to ask him to wrap it up. And for Mosby to say that Moccia used to listen better than Rilling does — I don’t think so.

  4. Casey Smith

    “Blacks are being forced out of Norwalk” Mosby said.
    .
    “[Mosby]went on to mention Norwalk Housing Authority Deputy Director Candace Mayer’s recent announcement that public housing flat rents are going up dramatically.”
    .
    Let’s be very clear about this. The article that NON published on April 25th stated the following:
    .
    “Rents for some Norwalk public housing households is expected to more than double in an “onerous” rent hike mandated by the federal government, Norwalk Housing Authority commissioners said Wednesday.
    .
    The rents mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will be instituted at different times for the 70 households affected, NHA Deputy Director Candace Mayer said.”
    .
    Careful reading of those two paragraphs, Mr. Mosby, would reveal the phrases “MANDATED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT” and MANDATED BY THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT (HUD)”
    .
    This change is not from the City or the State. It’s from D.C. and that means that whatever happens here in Norwalk will be happening all across Fairfield County, all across Connecticut, New England, the Eastern Seaboard and the entire nation. And it will cut across all racial and ethnic lines. Anyone who lives in any kind of HUD funded development will be facing this, not just blacks in Norwalk.
    .
    [Mosby]”said, in reference to Norwalk Schools Superintendent Manny Rivera’s announced intention to open a school in South Norwalk, “You want to pack the blacks down here again.”
    .
    Hold on just a second here. Weren’t you the same person who was furious that there weren’t enough black staff in the BOE and said the black staff were only secretaries a few weeks ago? In my mind, that was a colossal insult to NHS Principal Reginald Roberts and Briggs HS Principal Dr. Allen, but I digress.
    .
    And didn’t you also decry the recent changes at Briggs because it was a “black school” being taken over by others? Well, if you have a neighborhood school in South Norwalk, maybe that will satisfy your demands.
    .
    And finally, you talk about respect all the time. I’ve heard you speak numerous times at various meetings and it always devolves into you yelling at the Committee or Board members. What kind of respect is that? What kind of respect is it when someone politely asks you to wrap up your remarks and you rant on? Exactly what do you hope to accomplish by doing this?

  5. J.J.

    Mr. Mosby may not be en eloquent speaker and may not present his feelings and those of other Norwalkers, north, south, east and west, in such a way that is politically correct but Mr. Mosby does make valid points about how people feel. And peoples feelings are what they are. If NPD is hiring improperly trained and/or evaluated young hot dogs from out of town and folks are being harassed, or at the very least feel they are being harassed than that IS a public relations concern and should be duly addressed by the chief and city leaders. Speaking of the chief, seem to recall, in regards to the cameras, it wasn’t a cost or maintenance issue, it was push back from the union that prevented dash cams from being installed in all patrol vehicles. Lapel cams are great step in the right direction for accountability and that needs to be implemented and deployed post haste. How do they work? In a patrol car some dash cam systems roll when the key is in the ignition key is in the on position, others only when emergency beacons are lighted up. How do the lapel cams work? By the officer pressing a switch? Or do they record from the time they are put on till they are removed at shift ends? Irregardless, the community has been screaming for cams for years, for accountability and not just for officers reoersenting NPD out there but also for folks that are not behaving with dignity and treating officers with disrespect. Granted, many officers encounter rude and intoxicated people and that may slight the officers after a period of time to just treat everyone as foes and criminals, the them vs us mentality and that is where training is critical to avoid community backlash and expensive lawsuits. Some street illiterate younger officers […] are a liability to the city and the community. When someone files a civil rights complaint and/or a lawsuit there is plenty of data to enter for evidence. The job entails deescalating situations and keeping the peace not manipulating the situations so as to escalate situations as an excuse to go with force, whereas some basic diplomacy skills can calm things down and present a better face for the NPD, as a whole. One hot dog, god complex infected rookie abusing the power of authority can erase years of community policing efforts. One under trained or improperly evaluated officer often can and does paint an entire dept, as out of touch bar bouncers. That’s not the job. Many dismiss Mr. Mosby as over the top but he does represent the feelings and impressions by many and if the communities feelings and impressions continues to be ignored, somewhere down the road there will be repercussions and than, Mr. Mosby can have the pleasure he surely does not seek to say, “I told you.” Leaders say file a complaint and it will be looked into, well, who is going to go in to NPD and file a complaint knowing full well the repercussions of increased harassment. Cops investigating brother cops? Yeah, that works so well in the community. Cameras and civilian review boards are not a new issues. Time and time again these issues have been ignored or swept under that ever larger carpet, with significant lumps in it now. Cams, in patrol vehicles and lapel cams have dramatically improved accountability in departments nationwide that are committed to increasing accountability and professionalism, reducing complaints both frivolous and valid. Time for NPD to “walk the talk,” and follow through rather than to continue with the token lip service and denigrating anyone that raises valid concerns, if NPD leadership is really focused on being a truly professional law enforcement organization as they so often claim to be. It is not in anyone interest to experience community unrest and even a blind man can see, without some significant action from the dept to hold themselves accountable and conduct themselves professionally out there and treat folks with respect not always suspicion, than unrest is where this is headed. Out of towners have commented that NPD looks like Fort Apache and it does. Have they finished installing all the bullet proof glass yet? If they don’t change their public relations strategy it may be wise to move desks away from windows facing the war zone, that they are essentially creating. Is that what our community needs? More violence, more isolation, more scandals? These regular community meetings with leaders is to be commended and applauded but if you ask for input, than get feedback on what you don’t want to hear or address for whatever reasons and dismiss it or attack the messenger, doesn’t that defeat the purpose to have these meetings to establish a rapport with citizens?

    This comment was edited to remove a name that would have created a potentially libelous situation.

  6. Tom Keegan

    your link to the video is not working

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Tom Keegan

      That confused me, too, when I edited the story, but — it is not a video. The photo i a still. The bar at the top controls the audio tape from the meeting. Click the arrow on the left and it will play.

  7. Casey Smith

    @JJ –
    “Mr. Mosby may not be en eloquent speaker and may not present his feelings and those of other Norwalkers, north, south, east and west, in such a way that is politically correct…”
    .
    Kindly explain when common decency, politeness and civility became politically correct.

  8. Bill

    Why do these African American “leaders” blame cops and not their own kids? It always amazes me that they blame a highly trained professional instead of an uneducated 16 year-old who wears his pants at his ankles. I know whose judgment I trust.

  9. lightning

    @ Bill. Maybe in some of your comments you should stop referring to people as “these A frician American, ” makes you sound racist and A frician Americans will be defensive just by your first sentence. Also HIGHLY TRAINED PROFESSIONAL COMMIT CRIMES TOO! Yes the youth need to pull their pants up and leave that prison fashion in the prison, but just like every police officers aren’t harassing the youth, all police officers aren’t living up to their oath. Now I know who’s judgement I would not trust. BILL’S

  10. Hi Norwalk

    Are all black and brown kids sagging their pants to their ankles? Are all these kids uneducated and delinquents? Unfortunately, it’s a reality in this city and this country that young men of color get harassed by law enforcement for their skin color or how they look. They attract attention from police for just being. And what about police brutality or police misconduct? Those highly trained professionals could never do that, right? Let’s just blame the adolescent-youth, particularly black and brown ones.

  11. Mr Norwalk Ct

    Norwalk needs a civilian review board to investigate police misconduct. A civilian review board is the norm in a professional police department. The idea of blue investigating blue is comical at best. If you look at the history of the outcomes of you will find that blue never not even once finds that blue acted inappropriate.

  12. the donut hole

    Talk like this is what reduces police involvement that brings safety to the neighborhoods. They want it both ways. They want respect which isn’t earned and they want protection from themselves. Police yourselves if that’s how you feel. The results are telling.

  13. Oldtimer

    A large part of the problem between the police and the community that nobody wants to talk about is the change in how officers are assigned. A generation or so ago, all new officers were required to WALK regular posts until they had enough seniority to bid driving assignments. Most assignments, walking or driving, were in the same neighborhood for months at a time and the number of calls was a lot less. An effect of this system was that cops developed personal relationships in a neighborhood and residents got to know the cops. As a cost cutting measure this system was abandoned many years ago as the calls increased and the number of PATROL officers shrank a bit. The cost of running the police dept. was controlled, no more officers were hired, and the practice of having resident volunteers (auxiliaries) work with the patrol officers was eliminated. The QUALITY of the service at the level of patrol officers dealing with residents has suffered and the residents have a legitimate complaint. Like a lot of us, they miss the “good old days” when they knew the neighborhood officers and the officers knew them.

  14. norwaacke

    What does “the community” feel about an attempt to create “a recreational facility” near the new Police building, say, Ryan PArk, where a “Police Athletic League” model could be utilized in order to begin an organized Baseball, Softball, LaCrosse (as in Westport), Soccer, or any outdoor activity to “get in touch” with the youth of South Norwalk? Especially in light of the fact that there is no longer a YMCA in this city.

  15. RU4REAL

    It’s funny sometimes when ignorance is truly bliss. The Sunday Opinion in this mornings paper discussed national news catching headlines about the Sterling/Bundy racist comments.
    The writer also spoke of the closet racists running around our country disguised as personnel directors, managers, police and so forth.
    We need to take a hard look at our own backyard, in particular our former personnel director comes to mind, fire/police and public works departments also come to mind.
    The common denominator has to be the people at the top of the departments, these are the same people that bring complaints to human resources in the first place, or have the power to make the decisions themselves, in turn allowing the closet to stay open instead of closing the door on racism for good around here.
    Leadership reflects attitude folks and sometimes change is good!

  16. Jumila

    Is a School being built in South Norwalk?

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