BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WTNH) — The fallout continues over the FBI arrest of former Bridgeport Police Chief AJ Perez last week with some city council members saying the department is in turmoil and struggling with low morale. Those same council members say Acting Chief Rebeca Garcia is not qualified to lead the force.
The city council held a press conference outside police headquarters Wednesday.
Rebeca Garcia is the first woman ever to lead the Bridgeport Police Department. She’s a city native who has dedicated her life to serving and protecting. Those facts are not in dispute—it’s the way she got the job of top cop that has some members of city council crying foul less than a week into her administration.
“The Bridgeport police department needs and deserves a highly-qualified permanent chief of police to lead the organization through an unprecedented time of turbulence to stabilize the agency [and] to restore the reputation and credibility of the Bridgeport Police Department within the community and throughout the state,” said Councilwoman Maria Pereira at the press conference Wednesday.
Last week, now former Chief AJ Perez was forced to resign amid federal charges he and city personnel director David Dunn rigged a supposedly independent national search for top cop so Perez would win.
Councilwoman Pereira says under the city charter, Mayor Joe Ganim must choose one of the remaining finalists from that search—a list she says is valid until next month and does not include Garcia.
Pereira asked, “How can Mayor Ganim justify appointing an acting chief of police when taxpayers funded a national chief of police search which resulted in eight qualified candidates at a cost of $17,000.”
Pereira says Garcia also does not have the five years of command experience required to be chief. Former State Legislator Chris Caruso says if the mayor tries to run out the clock, he’ll file for a court injunction.
“If he decides to flaunt the law then he’ll be looking at an action in court,” Caruso said.
When asked about the controversy, Garcia said only this: “I have a good commitment to be transparent, work with the department, work with the community. As long as I am in place, that’s what I’m going to say.”
Top names on the list include a former New Haven assistant chief and current Bridgeport police Captain Roderick Porter.
The mayor’s office says Garcia has the required command experience. The president of the city council says they support the mayor, but they will continue their search for a permanent chief.