HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Connecticut state troopers overwhelmingly voted no confidence in the leadership of top state police leaders on allegations that management decisions are jeopardizing the safety of troopers and the public.
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The symbolic action appeared to have little effect, and Gov. Dan Malloy remained steadfast in support of the public safety officials.
Ballots counted Tuesday showed that troopers, sergeants and master sergeants voted 752-42 in favor of no confidence against Reuben Bradford, the commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, and 760-34 in favor of no confidence against Col. Danny Stebbins, the state police commander.
The leadership of the Connecticut State Police Union faulted Bradford and Stebbins for staffing level decisions and consolidations of dispatching centers. Ballots were sent to more than 1,000 union members and were due back Monday. The union brought in officials with the National Troopers Coalition to tally the votes Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, the commissioner and colonel have ignored the union membership, refused to communicate with the union leadership,” said union President Andrew Matthews. “Their lack of leadership and disrespectful attitude towards our membership has been demonstrated by the implementation of arbitrary policies which endanger public safety and trooper safety—”
Matthews said the dispatch consolidations have already resulted in some 911 calls going unanswered in northwestern Connecticut and will lead to some barracks being closed at times. He said troopers will have to drive to other barracks that are open to drop off prisoners, which reduces patrol and response times.
Bradford and Stebbins deny the union allegations but said they respected the union leaders’ right to express their opinions. They said dispatch center consolidations statewide will save money, increase efficiency and eventually lead to 55 troopers being freed up to return to the roads.
“There’s been a lot of misinformation,” Stebbins said Tuesday about the consolidation. He blamed the controversy on people being opposed to change.
Asked how he would mend fences after a no confidence vote, Bradford said, “My job and Dan’s job is to run the agency from day to day. It’s not to mend fences. I didn’t tear down any fences. Again, we’ll continue to do our jobs.”
Malloy said Bradford and Stebbins are “doing an absolutely outstanding job and they have my confidence.”
“Lowering cost and having more troopers doing their core assignment is the goal, so the goal is to make the state safer,” Malloy said. “And I think you’d be hard-pressed to argue, any one of you, that putting 55 additional troopers, at a minimum, back on the road doesn’t make the state safer and, by the way, save the state money.”
Earlier this year, state police consolidated the dispatch centers of barracks in Litchfield, Southbury and Canaan in northwestern Connecticut into one center in Litchfield. Each center had one dispatcher and one trooper around the clock. Now, the Litchfield center has three dispatchers and one trooper around the clock, resulting in a decrease of two troopers answering the phones per shift, Matthews said.
Similar consolidations are planned for eastern and central Connecticut.
While cities and larger towns have their own police departments, swaths of rural areas in the state rely on state police troopers for public safety. Town officials in northwestern Connecticut have complained about resident troopers being gone for hours while transporting prisoners, The Register Citizen in Torrington recently reported.
State police officials say they’re considering making arrangements with state Judicial Branch marshals or correctional officers to transport prisoners to take the burden off troopers.
The consolidation plan for eastern Connecticut involves creating one dispatch center to handle calls for barracks in Danielson, Montville, Colchester and Tolland. The site of the dispatch center has yet to be determined. Matthews said that consolidation would result in similar problems.
The union also claims that inadequate staffing levels have made for more dangerous conditions for troopers and the public for years. At the governor’s request, the legislature this year eliminated the 1,248-trooper minimum staffing level that was set after a woman was murdered in Chaplin in 1998 while calling 911. The nearest trooper was 18 minutes away.
Malloy’s aides have said the minimum staffing level was arbitrary, and a new review will be done to determine what an adequate staffing level will be.
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