The East Haven Police Department needs a system to identify and treat officers who are at risk of being disciplined for repeated misbehavior, according to a just-released report by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). An early-intervention system was one of 40 recommendations made in its 120-page operational audit.
Friday afternoon Craig Frazier from PERF summarized the report at a press conference outside Town Hall. He was flanked by Mayor April Capone, Police Commission Chair Fred Brow and acting Police Chief Gaetano Nappi. While Frazier rattled off the various problem areas, he noted that some have either been taken care of since PERF embarked on the review last summer or are in the works.
“Since we first started this report, changes have already been in progress,” said Frazier.
The audit identified policies and procedures that need updating and stronger enforcement, such as use of force, officers involved in shootings, pursuits, citizen complaints, racial profiling and internal investigations. PERF recommended rewriting the department‘s mission statement and having officers wear the same uniform; currently, cops can choose from three per their labor contract.
Frazier also said that the police chief situation needs to be resolved; the chief was put on leave 11 months ago. Later on, Mayor Capone was asked if on-leave Police Chief Leonard Gallo would be returning to work. Capone said it was a "personnel issue."
The PERF report cost $85,000.
“It’s a monumental task,” Commissioner Brow said after the press conference. “I think in the last 10 months, I’ve addressed a lot of issues.”
He said 99 percent of the policies and procedures cited in the PERF review have already been revised and updated.
Nappi took over last April when Chief Gallo was put on administrative leave in light of the Department of Justice’s investigation of the department into alleged racial profiling and police brutality. Shortly after Nappi took the helm, the DOJ’s preliminary civil report -- which cites many of the same deficiencies as in PERF‘s -- arrived and Nappi said he began implementing some of the suggestions, like revamping the complaints-against-cops process by making forms available at Town Hall, Hagaman Library and online. Beforehand, they could only be found at the police station. Nappi also added forms printed in Spanish.
Capone said shortly after she first took office in November 2007, she contemplated bringing in PERF, but held off until last April when the DOJ’s civil report was released. (The feds are also conducting a criminal probe of the department and 20-some-odd officers have been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury; reportedly that testimony was being heard this week as well as in February.)
Chief Gallo said he had asked the mayor starting in 2007 to conduct a similar study but using the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) instead, which he said would have cost about an eighth of what PERF charged. He said he was denied.
“She told me that the Board of Police Commissioners were going to change the policies and procedures. She was determined even then,” Gallo said in a phone interview.
He said he had also asked Capone for money to increase training and personnel and was turned down.
“This (PERF review) is nothing more than a bunch of smoke and mirrors,” said Gallo. “(Capone) could have done this years ago. All of this could have been accomplished for free with a little support. From day number one, she was trying to fire me.”
Capone said what Gallo had requested was not for the same thing PERF provided.
“(CALEA) is a certificate. That’s a completely different animal,” said Capone. “I told him to go forward with it.” But she said he didn’t.
“If he said he could have it done for free, then obviously it wasn’t a budget issue,” Capone said.
Brow said Gallo’s CELEA request never came before his commission.
“CALEA is viewed as just a guideline and PERF is for police departments that need a closer look,” said Brow.
Capone concluded the press conference saying the town will continue to work with PERF for a couple of months while changes are put into effect.