Gregory Holt No tolerance for bad cop behavior
In the early and mid 1970s Stamford was a dirty city with organized crime flourishing in construction, garbage hauling, businesses, illegal gambling, drug distribution and all aspects of illegal activity. Mob bosses and soldiers were seen about the city fearing little or no attention. There were a few members of the Stamford Police Department acting illegally as mob associates, street enforcers, involved in the illicit drug trade, commercial burglaries and more.
The dirty members of the Stamford Police Department were weeded out and the department changed dramatically and significantly in 1978 when Capt. Joseph Ligi, as commanding officer, took leadership of the first in-house Stamford Police Academy along with his Executive Officer P.O./Sgt. John Perrotta and their dedicated cadre of instructors. They instilled the very highest levels of dedication, loyalty, steadfastness and honesty in the class of which I am a proud member. Over the years there have been members who were not a good fit for police service and some who were downright dishonest. They were gone from the department post haste.
Fast forward to 2019 when a representative of Eversource walked into the Central Hiring Office of the Stamford Police Department armed with an audit indicating that Eversource paid out $200,000 to members of the department who allegedly did not work the extra duty that was paid for and who allegedly filled out vouchers for work not assigned to them as well as work that was allegedly canceled the previous evening, allowing “assigned” members to get four hours for the cancellation (May 2 news story “Four Stamford police officers relieved of duty”).
A subsequent Internal Affairs Division investigation soon revealed the identity of those members involved; a sergeant and three police officers. While it became common knowledge that arrest warrant affidavits were sent to the court no action has been taken. Apparently the court asked that the investigation go back five years apparently to see if the actions were systemic and if others were involved.
Chief Jon Fontneau took swift action in the matter seeking terminations of those involved. The three police officers saw it was time to go and retired with their pensions. It took a while longer for the sergeant to see the light but finally he retired with his pension. He was described in a recent Advocate article as a “cop’s cop.” Well cop’s cops do not steal. I am surprised at two of the police officers involved as I have known their reputations and performance levels.
As stated, Chief Fontneau took swift action when the crimes came to light as he is as honest as the day is long. I have known State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo since he came to Geographical Area No. 1, the Stamford courthouse. He has been extremely hard-working, diligent and evenhanded rising through the ranks to become the leader of GA No. 1. There has been talk of an outside influence attempting to be exerted on Colangelo not to criminally charge those former members of the department who committed, at the least it would seem, conspiracy, forgery and larceny and theft of the public trust. I would hope that Colangelo would see that allowing the four, if guilty, to retire with their pensions and no criminality would not only send the wrong message to the rank and file of the Stamford Police Department but to the public as well.
Undoubtedly some of the public will use their broad brush to paint the entire police department as dishonest and with a “they got away with it again” sentiment. That must not be the case and Colangelo must show there is no difference between cops stealing cash and dope from a drug dealer, stealing from a home while there on a burglary call, stealing from an auto while searching it or stealing cash from a public utility. Theft, graft and corruption is a slippery slope and must be shown to not exist at any level, no matter how small or large, within a great police department.
The police department as a whole must indeed be “disgusted” by the revelation that some of their own may have been dirty and stole from their own. The members of Stamford’s police service need to be shown that such behavior must not and will not be tolerated in the department nor by the court that they deal with on a daily basis.
Gregory Holt, who lives in Columbus, Mont., is a retired Stamford police officer.