HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Mayor Luke Bronin has released his discipline for Hartford’s chief of police Monday afternoon after the chief hit a guardrail in his city-issued SUV six weeks ago.
The Hartford city council met Monday evening to discuss police accountability in general but said they will wait for the findings of the Internal Audit Commission before weighing in on the incident that occurred over Memorial Day weekend.
Mayor Bronin said in a letter Monday, his discipline for Chief Jason Thody is a fine amounting to $3,324.66 – the price of the vehicle repair – and a letter of written reprimand to be placed permanently in Thody’s personnel file. The mayor emphasized that he still has confidence in Thody’s leadership and does not believe the incident deserves suspension or removal.
The mayor’s letter to Thody reads in part, “Because you promptly notified your direct supervisor, and because I have no reason to believe that the incident was the result of anything other than distracted driving at a time when you were actively responding to city responsibilities, this incident does not cause me to lose confidence in you and in your leadership of the Hartford Police Department.”
In explaining his disciplinary action, Bronin included the following details that the Mayor says do not meet the standards the city expects from its employees:
- First, while the Middlesex State’s Attorney confirmed to the Mayor’s office that Chief Thody had no obligation to call the State police given there was no damage to State property, city policy requires vehicle operators “contact the local or State police immediately” to report any collision.
- Second, Chief Thody has acknowledged driving distractedly and speeding. While State law exempts law enforcement officers from distracted driving laws, Mayor Bronin said Chief Thody had an obligation to take greater care while driving.
- Third, while Chief Thody documented and reported the incident to his supervisor that same day, Mayor Bronin said neither Chief Thody nor his staff placed a sufficiently high priority on ensuring that the subsequent reporting was as detailed or clear as it should have been.
“While he was dealing with many more pressing priorities, Chief Thody should have placed a higher priority on ensuring the paperwork submitted following this incident was clear and detailed,” said Mayor Bronin. “In addition, distracted driving is dangerous and the Chief had an obligation to take greater care to ensure the safety of others on the road and protection of the city vehicle.”
Bronin added, “I think it’s appropriate that Chief Thody pay the full cost of the repairs and receive a formal reprimand that remains in his file, but in my view, this incident does not come close to warranting his removal or suspension as chief. I have confidence in our chief, and I will not ask him to resign over a minor vehicle incident that he promptly reported to his direct supervisor. What I do want him to do is to pay the full cost of the damage, take this warning and reprimand seriously – and then focus one hundred percent on the all-consuming, all-important job that he has to do, at this incredibly challenging moment for our country and our community.”
City Council President, Maly D. Rosado said in a statement Monday afternoon, “City Council takes police accountability very seriously. We remain steadfast in our commitment to increasing HPD transparency while strengthening systems that provide essential oversight. The independent Internal Audit Commission will be meeting this week to further discuss this matter. I will withhold comment on the issue until I have an opportunity to fully review their findings.”
The City Council met Monday night to discuss police accountability in general.
They voted down a resolution to suspend the chief, but some say they want to return to the resolution once the internal investigation into the crash is complete.
Some city council members also said in the meeting Monday evening the mayor’s discipline was not enough.
One council member said, “If we don’t do our due diligence as our role as the chief’s employer, I think we leave ourselves open to more liability.”
Internal Audit Commission is set to meet Wednesday afternoon at City Hall.
Chief Jason Thody says he was in Haddam and rushing back to Hartford to deal with Black Lives Matter protests on May 31, 2020. During the incident, he says he was looking at his phone at the time. The guy driving behind him had a different take.
Thody was in his city-issued SUV driving on Route 154 near the Haddam-Chester line when he swerved out of his lane and sideswiped a guardrail. The man driving behind him called 911. He could tell it was a law enforcement vehicle, and he told four different dispatchers that he thought the driver was drunk.
Thody says he was sober but distracted by his phone as he was planning how to react to the upcoming protests expected outside police headquarters that day. Thody released a statement outlining that the guardrail was not damaged.
He documented the damage to the SUV and had his staff file the proper paperwork: “While I don’t regret prioritizing my swift return to Hartford in response to the protests that day, I very much regret allowing myself to become distracted and not driving more carefully. I take full responsibility for my decisions, and I will accept whatever discipline the mayor deems appropriate.”