(WTNH) — The Connecticut State Police Union released the results of their Vote of No Confidence Tuesday against Governor Ned Lamont, Commissioner James Rovella, and Lieutenant Colonel John Eckersley.
This was a symbolic vote to demonstrate that most troopers don’t feel supported by the Governor or his commissioner of public safety. The reasoning has much to do with the historic bill to reform policing in Connecticut but it also goes back to moves made by the governor before that bill was ever drafted.
Based on the vote, 97.3% of Troopers who voted say they do not have confidence in the leadership ability of the governor. 96.4% say they do not have confidence in the leadership ability of Commissioner Rovella. And 96.6% say they do not have confidence in the leadership ability of LTC Eckersley.
The Union reports, of their 850 Union members, 84.5% participated in the vote.
The Union says their reasons for their vote of no confidence against the governor include his signing of “Anti-Police Accountability Bill into law – putting the public and Troopers more at risk” and his issuance of Executive Order #8 with help from the commissioner “to politicize national events” and “specific only to CSP – Giving the appearance Troopers needed sanctions.”
Andrew Matthews from the CSP Union told News 8 Tuesday night, “The governor specifically, it was about his lack of leadership when it came to the Police Accountability Bill, there was just silence…We should’ve been up at the capital together. Defending and protecting our people. No, it was us! Silence from him, nothing! Never spoke, no written testimony! No verbal testimony, no testimony at all!”
Brian Foley of the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection representing Commissioner Rovella said, “Everyone that voted on that police accountability bill knows a police officer, has a family member who is a police officer, who has loved ones that are a police officer, and I don’t think they would do anything to put them in danger.”
In a federal hearing Tuesday, the State Police argued for an injunction against the part of the Police Accountability Bill that deals with disciplinary files. The current Union contract says those documents should remain sealed; the new law would make them public. No ruling from the judge, yet.
In a statement, the State Police said of the bill, “False allegations of misconduct against police officers should not be publicized. The state agreed with us when we entered into our collective bargaining agreement. We believe that the federal constitution protects our members from having the state renege on that agreement. We trust the judge will agree.”
The Union says the biggest problem is they feel like they are being painted with a big, broad, racist brush saying ‘all State Police are bad, all State Police are evil, all State Police are just out for themselves’.
Matthews added, “Our members are afraid that they will be the next person to be on the evening news, to be suspended administratively, suspended with no ability to take care of their family financially, terminated, arrested!… The good men and women in roles of leadership are afraid to stand up against that message and speak out against it saying ‘that is not true’ because they are more concerned that if you stand up and defend the good men and women who are protecting the public, that you are a racist.”
Foley says Commissioner Rovella knows the dangers of policing first-hand. He started out as a beat cop in Hartford where he was shot and stabbed during a domestic violence call.
Commissioner Rovella through his command staff made it perfectly clear Tuesday: change is very difficult. He’s trying to bring the community and the State Police together, have accountability for state police.
Foley said, “These are certainly challenging times around the country and times in which police supervision is incredibly important. One thing police unions don’t like is police supervision…The Police Accountability Bill is a reflection on police unions, more than it is on policing and Connecticut State Troopers and police officers in Connecticut. It’s a reflection of resistance to change for decades and decades.”
In a statement, the Union says the vote of no confidence sends a clear message to state leaders and their fellow Troopers.
These results have sent a clear and direct message. Our membership showed the courage to stand up for their Brothers and Sisters, future Troopers, their families, the success of the State Police Union, and the State Police.
Our membership put aside their personal interests for a much bigger cause – the future and greater good of all. Many others would not have had the strength to even take such a risk for fear of losing. The Union leadership is grateful to the membership for showing that we do not act as individuals; rather we act as a United group.– CSP Union
This is only the second time in the Union’s history their Board of Directors was forced to conduct a vote of no confidence. The union says the Board voted overwhelmingly to hold the vote.
In the press conference Tuesday afternoon, Foley claimed Troopers were pressured by the Union to vote ‘no confidence’. “Phone calls were made, we’re certain of that,” he said.
The Union added, “In order to survive and grow as an agency – the hard-working Troopers must have trust and confidence in their leadership. Troopers must know that they are supported by their Governor and Command Staff, and the Command Staff should acknowledge that they cannot be successful without the efforts of the membership. Management must understand that the best decisions they make will be those that seek out the knowledge and experience of those who understand our work best – the Troopers who are on the roads, at the crime scenes, and serving the public directly. When political appointees fail to make the safety of our members and the public their top priority, failed to preserve the history of the State Police, or make decisions based on preserving their own position, then we cannot in good conscience support them.”
News 8 reached out to the governor’s office to find their take on this. They said they have no comment on it at this time.
“This changes nothing; this doesn’t affect how Troopers operate or the great work that they do…or public safety… This is political posturing by Union leadership… This is nothing new,” Foley assured reporters and the public.
READ: Reasons for Vote of No Confidence against Gov. Lamont, Commissioner Rovella, and LTC. Eckersley: