What is community policing if not trusting the police to communicate about issues of public safety in a transparent and open dialogue with the community? As a councilman representing Hamden’s Fifth District, anything less than that is unacceptable, especially now.
Over the past three weeks, we’ve had at least three shootings in the Fifth and one person killed. Last week, there was also a fatality in the Third District. All of these shootings have happened in our community, often a couple of streets over from my home. As a district representative for the past three years, I’ve had to fight with three police chiefs to get someone from the Hamden Police Department to reach out to me in the aftermath of a serious incident. Yet again the Department did not reach out to me following any of the recent shootings. I found out about a recent home invasion in my district by scanning news reports.
Over the past three weeks, I’ve reached out to the Community Policing Unit, asking to talk about these situations and get a better understanding of the new scope of their work since the new hires we’ve added. I finally got a response by text from a Community Policing Unit sergeant informing me that the chief told them to hold off on answering my calls until the recent Hamden Town Council Meeting. But at the meeting, none of my questions were answered.
I’ve suggested that we have an ordinance that would require the Police and Fire Departments to call the Hamden Town Council representative of the affected district in the event of any arson, shooting, stabbing, fatality, robbery, rape, and structure fire. Sadly, such a thing has to be made law because it is not considered to be an obvious matter of protocol. If we are truly about public safety, this would be a step in the right direction.
Two weeks ago, when there was a shooting at Vilona Park, I called a detective and had a great conversation on what could be done to prevent another situation like this. We talked about better lighting design for the park, emergency buttons, potential cameras (although I’m always wary of how that will be used), community involvement, and police interventions.
Lastly, there has been community outcry and protest concerning the Hamden Police Department’s lack of transparency in extending a conditional offer of hire and interview to James Boulay, the officer that shot and killed Jayson Negron in Bridgeport in 2017. This is the same officer with four active civil cases concerning his conduct. Community members were concerned for days about rumors of this officer being hired, making numerous calls to the Hamden Police Chief John Sullivan. But still to this day, Chief Sullivan has given no formal explanation of what the process is to hire an officer. This is baffling, to say the least.
What does community policing look like to you? This is the question I’ll be asking in a community forum on Friday June 18 at 6 p.m. Please email JustinForCT@gmail.com for the Zoom Link.