New Bridgeport police chief promises community involvement

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A months-long national police chief search has ended with former Captain Roderick Porter hired to lead the Bridgeport Police Department.

“I don’t take it for granted and I don’t take it lightly,” Porter said at a press conference Thursday where Mayor Joe Ganim announced his choice to much applause.

Once he is sworn in on Dec. 1, Porter said he will get to work making sure neighborhoods across the city get the police services they need.

“We can’t be successful in how we police the city of Bridgeport if we don’t seriously engage the community in a spirit of collaboration,” Porter said of his plans.

The 30-year-old veteran, who recently retired, was one of three finalists for the job following a search by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Nineteen candidates were narrowed down to Porter, acting chief Rebecca Garcia and captain Lonnie Blackwell.

Ganim told the crowd that all three were “outstanding cops”, and that it was a tough call. He also praised Porter’s commitment to outreach in the community.

“I asked him to do with me together, to go out in the neighborhoods and to rebuild the bond and the confidence of the inhabitants as he also does with the department”, declared Ganim.

The mayor’s choice for the post of leader comes after his last, in 2018, ended in scandal. Porter was also a finalist in that search, but Ganim went with his friend, then acting boss AJ Perez. In 2020, Perez was arrested on federal charges of cheating to get the job. He then pleaded guilty and spent less than a year in prison. For this police raid, the IACP was brought in and the community had their say. The three finalists participated in public forums and a Q&A with the city council.

“It took me a while to get here, but I’m here now, and I’m going to do my best,” Porter promised.

He has spent the past few months working as a substitute teacher in Bridgeport, which he says has shown him the importance of investing in the city’s children. Community members told News 12 that it was essential to reduce crime and improve the quality of life there.

“I think the big problem is youth crime,” said city council member Mary McBride Lee. “I think it’s going to mean a lot to our kids because most of them look like him and they’re from the same place he was.”

Harry Bell, who worked as a caretaker in the school system, echoed this. “Especially in towns like this, we need leaders who are a bit like the kids in our town.” Bell said he hopes Porter can bridge the gap between young people and the police.

The department is currently down to about 100 officers. Porter said that during recruiting he plans to realign some things to ensure the current workforce is used as efficiently as possible. He said some people will have to take on more responsibility.

“We need to focus not on ourselves as individual officers, but on what we provide and what we can do for our community,” Porter stressed.

Ganim thanked Garcia for her leadership over the past two years and said, “She didn’t ask for the job but didn’t shy away from the challenge. She will continue to serve as Acting Chief throughout the month. He said he didn’t know if she would stay with the department afterwards but hoped she would. Garcia was not at the announcement, but Blackwell, the other finalist, was. He received a round of applause from the crowd.

The Greater Bridgeport National Association for the Advancement of Colored People released the following statement in response to Porter’s appointment as the new leader:

The Greater Bridgeport National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (GBNAACP) fully supports Mayor Ganim’s decision to hire retired Captain Roderick Porter as the new Chief of Police.

Reverend D Stanley Lord, Chairman of GBNAACP, quotes that Bridgeport Police, city leaders and all its residents are best served by selecting the best candidate in the field of eligible officials for Roderick Porter, a 30-year veteran . , and now the city of Bridgeport’s top law enforcement official.

“We believe this has been a fair process for the City of Bridgeport and the protection, service and future of all of its diverse ratepayers, families and businesses,” Lord said. “He is fully committed and responsible for ensuring that the quality of and respect for human life is his top priority.”

The GBNAACP has expressed continuing concerns about the hiring and retention actions of the city and its police department. Lord said these issues have been at the forefront of decisions made most often without considering the true complexion of this community. “For the racial and gender makeup of the city, we missed seeing key law enforcement leaders who resemble and represent the true demographics of the city; what Bridgeport looks like.

The GBNAACP has long cited that the Bridgeport Police Department – with its uniformed officers, undercover teams, investigators and administrative team – is responsible for keeping the peace, meeting our needs and supporting security and laws fairly and without bias. Reverend Lord added that too often people here didn’t feel that was true. “We will maintain Captain Porter at this commitment as his service progresses,” he said. “We look forward to supporting him in fulfilling a mission that supports these goals for greater diversity, inclusion and equity for the community and teams of law enforcement professionals he leads. from now on. We wish him all the best in doing so.

The GBNAACP is looking forward and upward now that this selection process is complete, we look forward to a progressive position and wide scope of engagement with Captain Porter at the helm.

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