Hartford community leaders and elected officials are calling for change in the police department amid an investigation into a video that allegedly shows a Hartford police sergeant making comments about being “trigger happy” to a group of young men last week.
“We don’t want to wait until he does shoot someone. We think that he was very inappropriate and it’s time for him to be terminated,” said Pastor Ronald Holmes of the Greater Hartford Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.
The officer in the video, who the Hartford Police Department has identified as Sgt. Steve Barone, can be heard saying “If anybody wants to fight or run, I am a little trigger happy guys, Not gonna lie. And I get paid a ton of money in overtime if I have to shoot somebody. Don’t do anything stupid.”
Barone has been placed on administrative leave and an internal investigation is underway.
“It’s very troubling… disgusting to be quite honest,” said Hartford City Council President Gwendolyn Thames.
Police Chief David Rosado wrote an open letter to the community on Aug. 14 saying he understands the distress the city feels after seeing the video.
"As someone born and raised in Hartford, I share that sense of distress," Rosado said. "As a department, we take great pride in the relationship of mutual respect we've worked to foster between the department and the community we serve."
Mayor Luke Bronin called Barone’s conduct “completely unacceptable” and praised the police department for its transparency and for placing Barone on leave. But leaders called a meeting Monday to say what’s in that video speaks to larger problems on the force, and they want more training for officers, more cops who actually live in the city, and more discipline for Barone.
“We can not actually mend, I don’t believe, ties, with our community with the police department until the police department looks like and resembles the city of Hartford,” said Hartford City Council member TJ Clarke.
“I know that his actions do not mirror the entire department… however we need to make sure he’s held accountable,” said Eliezer Mercado, a community leader and member of Know Thy Neighbor Initiative.
Council members stopped short of calling for Barone’s termination while the internal investigation continues, but they made it clear this officer’s conduct should be an example of how not to behave.
“At no time is it ever, ever acceptable for anybody to tell anyone of our children that they’re trigger happy. That’s not acceptable ever,” said council member rJo Winch.
It is not the first time Barone has been placed on leave by the department. He was one of several officers suspended for his conduct following a June 2016 pursuit that ended in West Hartford. Barone was cited for "intentional and willful failure to comply with any lawful orders, procedures, directives or regulations" in connection with an excessive force case. The encounter was recorded on a police dashcam.
On the issue of residency on the police force, a spokesman for the city said state law prohibits placing a residency requirement on unionized public employees, but did say preference is given to police applications who live in Hartford.
Barone previously told NBC Connecticut by text that he'll comment when there is a resolution to the incident.