Members of the state police union overwhelming voted they had “no confidence” in Gov. Ned Lamont, state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella and a lieutenant colonel who was recently placed in charge of field operations.
More than 90% of the 707 union members whose votes were counted said they had no confidence in the leadership skills of Gov. Ned Lamont, according to the results. Nearly 85% of the 850 members of the Connecticut State Police Union returned their ballots for the vote, according to Andrew Matthews, a former trooper who is now the union’s executive director and the organization’s staff counsel.
Rovella, a former Hartford police detective and highly regarded investigator with the Chief State’s Attorney’s Office who was chosen by Lamont in early 2019 to head DESPP received 681 votes in favor of “no confidence.”
Lamont’s office had no comment.
Brian Foley, Rovella’s executive assistant, held a press conference to say the vote won’t change troopers jobs.
Foley said as a Hartford officer he was instructed by the union to vote no confidence in Hartford’s chief.
“I did that, I went out of there and went out onto the streets and did my job,” Foley said. “My job didn’t change at all.”
Foley contended that the union called all the members and pressured them to vote no confidence, otherwise their “careers would be hell.”
Lt. Colonel John Eckersley who was recently transferred to the Office of Field Operations which requires direct work with troopers received 682 votes in favor of “no confidence.” Eckersley was transferred out of the position just as the ballots for the vote of no confidence were sent out, Matthews said.
“These results sent a clear and direct message,” said union President John Castiline. “Our membership showed the courage to stand up for their brothers and sisters, future troopers, their families, the success of the State Police Union and the State Police.”
The union has been at odds with Rovella over new promotion practices members said were “subjective” and violated state merit laws and the commissioner’s recent decision to back a portion of the new police accountability law that requires the agency to release internal affairs reports even if the allegations were deemed to be “unfounded.”
Both issues sparked lawsuits. A judge sided with the union and struck down the new promotion protocol on Aug. 7. A different judge did not grant the union a temporary injunction barring the release of internal affairs reports until a full hearing on the case can be heard.
Foley contended that the vote was directly related to the police accountability bill.
The action, which was the second vote of no confidence in the union’s history, comes at a time when Lamont has been dealing with the impact of the coronavirus on the state and advocates have been calling for greater police accountability following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in late May.
Lamont supported the new police accountability law which was passed by the legislature in late July that requires more training for police, the creation of an independent office to investigate the use of deadly police force and more avenues to terminate officers accused of wrongdoing.
The union fought against the law, staging a “Back the Blue” protest as it was being debated in the state Senate.
“In order to survive and grow as an agency – the hard working troopers must have confidence in their leadership,” Castiline said. “Troopers must know they are supported by their governor and command staff and the command staff should acknowledge that they cannot be successful without the efforts of the membership.”