“It sent the wrong message.”
That's how the Hartford Police Union is describing Chief James Rovella’s participation in a protest Wednesday night against the tasing of 18-year-old Luis Anglero on Aug. 19.
“Walking with the protesters conveying anti-police sentiments and calling for the arrest of Det. Ware conveyed a message to the rank and file that politics will overshadow the facts,” said union president Sgt. Richard Holton.
Rovella described his intentions in a letter to the department.
“I am trying to diffuse any continued animosity towards the police," he wrote. "It is important to support their freedom of expression. It is equally important to explain the police’s side.”
The department maintains that Anglero was ignoring commands to leave the site of a disturbance at Garden Street and Albany Avenue, saying he was uncooperative and aggressive.
Anglero’s family, on the other hand, insists the teen was complying with police when the officer tased him.
“This is a tragedy and we need to view it as such,” said Rabbi Donna Berman, one of the protest organizers, who said she walked side by side with Rovella on Wednesday.
Though not sure of his motive when he arrived, by the end of the night, Berman was happy he came, she said.
“We really need to look each other in the eye and talk about things,” she said. “That is what he did and that is leadership.”
Rovella isn’t the only one the union is calling into question.
The union said in a statement that “a rush to judgment before all of the facts are known by anyone, especially by leaders in high positions of influence, is reckless and inflammatory.”
“It has become politically fashionable to criticize and prejudge a police officer’s decision,” said Sgt. Holton.
The union said it's standing behind the detective who tased Anglero and that he's handling the backlash as well as can be expected.
Others continue to call for the charges against Anglero to be dropped and for the detective to be taken off the street.
They say this story isn’t about to go away and that Rovella’s presence at the protest is the only hope they have of working toward a real resolution.