The consolidation of the state police troop dispatch centers was the last straw for the Connecticut State Police Union, which is preparing to take a “no confidence” vote against Public Safety Commissioner Reuben Bradford and state police Col. Danny Stebbins.
Connecticut State Police Union President Andrew Matthews said Tuesday that consolidating the state police dispatch centers and reducing the number of staff available to answer the phones, including calls from troopers on the road, could impact public safety and trooper safety.
He said all of this including the mergers and proposed mergers of specific troops was done by Bradford and Stebbins without any input from the union’s 1,026 members.
“We’re not properly staffed” on patrol or in the dispatch centers, Matthews said.
But Gov. Dannel P. Malloy defended the decisions being made by Bradford and Stebbins, who he appointed in January 2010. He said he had full confidence in the two.
“I understand that when you reorganize, when you go to multiple dispatch centers to very few and perhaps ultimately one, that ruffles feathers,” Malloy said following his monthly commissioner‘s meeting.
“I understand that when you get people out from behind a desk where they’re worked for years that ruffles feathers,” he said. ‘I understand when you civilianize certain functions that don‘t require a sworn officer to perform that ruffles feathers, but you know that‘s what we need to do.”
He said he was a prosecutor in New York City when it had 7 million people and they had one dispatch center. He said Connecticut is a state of 3.5 million people and not only are there multiple dispatch centers for the state police, but multiple dispatch centers for local fire and police services.
“That is one area where we absolutely should look to create efficiencies,” Malloy said.
The state police have consolidated Troops A in Soutbury, B in Canaan, and L in Litchfield, and the dispatch functions at those troops. It also consolidated Troop H in Hartford with Troop W, which was located at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks.
Matthews said the “no confidence” vote will be done by secret ballot, which will be mailed to the homes of the troopers.
Malloy’s administration and the Connecticut State Police Union have been at odds since last summer when the union failed to ratify the $1.6 billion state employee concession package and Malloy followed through on his promise to lay off 56 troopers.
The union took the state to court to enforce the minimum staffing level. A Superior Court judge sided with the union.
“It is difficult to read this provision as anything other than an acknowledgment that the minimum staffing requirement of 1,248 troopers is mandatory. If it was not, it would have been unnecessary to suspend the statute for a three year period,” Judge James Graham concluded.
In order to nullify the court’s ruling, the Malloy proposed a bill to eliminate a statutory requirement that the state maintain a staff of at least 1,248 state troopers. But it was never called for a vote before the legislative session adjourned. However, it’s likely it will be revived when the General Assembly reconvenes for a special session to implement the budget.
Meanwhile, the Connecticut Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in the lawsuit. Judge Graham denied the state’s motion to dismiss, but the Malloy administration insists the staffing level is not mandatory.
“There are direct budgetary implications with respect to the police, as you well know, it’s about $18 million,” Malloy said Tuesday.
The state would need to hire about 170 troopers in order to comply with the statute.