This story was updated Wednesday morning.
Commissioner James C. Rovella and Col. Stavros Mellekas are retiring as Connecticut’s top public safety officials, departing as the state police are facing staffing shortages, union unrest and a federal investigation into falsified traffic stops, sources told the CT Mirror.
Rovella, 65, a former homicide investigator and Hartford police chief, oversees the state police, homeland security and state crime lab and other divisions as commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.
Mellekas is the deputy commissioner and uniformed commander of the state police, the largest division within the emergency services agency.
Rovella met Tuesday with Gov. Ned Lamont, who intends to announce the departures Wednesday and name a successor to Rovella. The new commissioner will get to name the next state police commander.
The Lamont administration has had an up-and-down relationship with the state police and the Connecticut State Police Union, which represents the majority of troopers, initially over staffing shortages and then over the passage in 2020 of a police accountability law opposed by the union.
Relations markedly improved late last year with the ratification of a contract making the state police the best-paid officers in Connecticut and significantly raising starting pay, a move intended to boost lagging recruitment.
Recriminations over the ticketing scandal ended the brief period of labor peace.
Lamont had moved quickly as governor-elect in December 2018 to name a public safety team, picking Rovella as commissioner and announcing the choice of Mellekas as the uniformed commander of the state police. The timing indicated that the choice of Mellekas was not solely Rovella’s.
Rovella was a Hartford police officer and detective, then an inspector and chief inspector in the office of the Chief State’s Attorney before returning to HPD as its chief in 2012. He retired from the city department in 2018.
As commissioner, Rovella is the civilian overseer of a unionized state police force that takes pride in a paramilitary culture absent from municipal departments and whose rank-and-file members have cast no confidence votes three times since 2012.
In August, the union that represents most troopers announced a vote of no confidence in Rovella and Mellekas, complaining they had failed to defend the department against the fake-ticket allegations. They cast a similar vote in 2020 directed at Lamont, Rovella and a field commander, Lt. Col. John Eckersley.
A smaller union representing ranking members voted for a statement of no confidence in Rovella while supporting Mellekas.
A 79-page report released by state auditors earlier last summer alleged state troopers and constables may have eroded the accuracy of the state’s racial profiling system by submitting phony traffic tickets or not reporting traffic stops.
The report identified about 130 troopers who had more than 20% of their overall traffic stop records uncorroborated in any given year, combined with those who had more than eight unmatched records in any given year.
The Connecticut State Police Union complained that release of the audit was premature and further analysis already had exonerated 26 troopers, and it faulted Rovella for not defending the agency.