Concerned about alleged favoritism and the decision by one police commander to erase video and audio recorded by his dashboard camera, the state police union reached out to Gov. Dannel. P. Malloy for help Tuesday.
In a letter to Malloy, the Connecticut State Police Union’s executive committee expressed concern about the “credibility of the disciplinary process” surrounding the incident that involved Lt. Col. Robert Corona, a commanding officer in charge of state police field operations. Corona will be allowed to retire on Dec. 1 without facing disciplinary action.
But Malloy, who has had a rocky relationship with the state police union, said he wasn’t going to get involved.
“I don’t get involved in normal disciplinary proceedings,” Malloy said at an unrelated press conference Tuesday. “. . . I’m aware that [the union] sent the letter and that sort of thing, that they had some complaints about how it was handled. I can’t pretend to be an expert on that and I don’t generally get involved with departmental disciplinary hearings.”
Union leadership claims that in June 2012, Corona ordered an employee to delete the dash-cam video, which included audio of a meeting at headquarters. According to Connecticut State Police Union President Andrew Matthews, Corona forgot to shut off his wireless microphone following a motor vehicle stop and returned to headquarters for an executive staff meeting.
Matthews said Corona didn’t believe what was said during that meeting should be part of the public record, so he instructed someone to erase the tape. He said the only person in the state that has the power to determine how long a record should be retained is the state librarian.
Lt. J. Paul Vance, a spokesman for the state police, said the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office did a complete review of the situation and found “no criminal aspect to this whatsoever.” He said Commissioner Reuben Bradford requested the review because he wanted no appearance of anything inappropriate occurring.
“Anytime there’s any kind of allegation at the rank of lieutenant colonel and above it’s deemed appropriate to go outside the agency to have an investigation conducted,” Vance said.
While there was no criminal conduct found, Vance said it was deemed that there was an infraction of the state police’s rules and regulations. There was a review of “past practice” of the type of infraction and it was determined that appropriate range of discipline was 3 to 5 days suspension.
“The lieutenant colonel has opted to retire as a result of this allegation,” Vance said. “That discipline is held in abeyance.”
Vance stressed that it’s not uncommon if an individual is able to retire that they be allowed to retire before facing any discipline. If at some point they decide to return, then they would have to serve the discipline.
Vance added that what’s alleged to have been destroyed on the tape had no evidentiary value.
Then why erase it?
“It was of a personal nature,” Vance said.
But he said he was unable to characterize “personal nature” any further because he did not conduct the investigation and was not privy to that information. A spokesman for the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office said the results of the “fact finding” review was provided to the state police.
Matthews clarified that even though the audio recording was captured by Corona’s dash-cam he’s not alleging any “misconduct on the motor vehicle stop.” But he said a motor vehicle stop would be the only reason Corona turned on the dash-cam and microphone and forgot to shut them off when he got to headquarters.
“What we’re alleging is the fact that he, as a high ranking official in the state police, would give a directive to erase a public record,” Matthews said. “And we think that’s not appropriate.”
Matthews reminded reporters of a 2006 investigation of the Connecticut State Police by the New York State Police and then-Attorney General Richard Blumenthal which turned up acts of favoritism within the Connecticut State Police’s internal affairs department.
“Nearly seven years after that report was issued, it is apparent that disparate treatment concerning discipline still exists,” the police union wrote in their letter to Malloy.
At an afternoon press conference outside state police headquarters in Middletown, Matthews said he believes the governor has a great deal of integrity and would set aside his differences with the union to address the issue of leadership within the state police.
“If I were the governor I would start to think that maybe I didn’t appoint the right people,” Matthews said.