Hartford Community Holds Conversation With City Police Department

On Tuesday night, nearly 200 people entered Faith Congregational Church in Hartford to start a conversation.

"Too many in this community feel the police are not on their side. The whole community has to work to change that perception," said Reverend Stephen Camp with Faith Congregational Church.

"Every time (police officers) go to a call, every time they make a stop, they try to be perfect in every aspect, and we don't always get it right," said Hartford Police Chief James Rovella.

Hartford's mayor, police chief, local clergy and community leaders spoke to residents and listened to concerns and suggestions.

With tensions rising across the country between police departments and communities, Reverend Stephen Camp felt it was important to address the violence, saying it's a concern facing every community.

"We have work to do. We're not exempt from what we see in other places. There is work to be done to make sure the police department has the kind of relationship with the community that is meaningful, that is not at odds with the community," said Rev. Camp.

Middletown Police Captain Gary Wallace also attended the meeting to hear the conversation and maybe bring some ideas discussed Tuesday night back to his department.

"What we really want to do deep down inside is talk about why it's happening and then together come up with solutions," said Middletown Police Captain Gary Wallace.

Hartford Resident Michael Harris brought his two children to the meeting, saying it's important for him to have his kids active in the community. He said he feels like Connecticut is insulated from troubling developments nationally.

"In Connecticut I think it's a beacon of light here. You don't really hear about police brutality and things escalating like you do across the country," said Harris.

Even so, Harris said he has had experience with police harassment in the state.

"I went to high school and I worked in West Hartford. And just driving to work every day, I'd get pulled over. They'd said stuff like a car, like this, was stolen, and it went on and on until my mom went screaming to the chief of police there and shut it down," said Harris.

Harris said he's also had the conversation regarding police interaction with his own 15-year-old son who's in high school.

"it's a source of stress for African American parents in general to have a teenage son. It's something that's constantly on your mind," said Harris. "I've had to have that discussion. It pains me. That's why I'm here."

Harris said he's seen community policing in the Blue Hills area and said one-on-one relationships like that help.

"I think more interactions between police and community, walking the beat like in the old days, riding bikes, talking to people, that to me is how you make a difference," said Harris.

the Tuesday night meeting, Police Chief Rovella also asked for help from the community. He said he needs police recruits from Hartford, he needs residents to report crimes, and he needs everyone to look after their neighbors.

Rev. Camp said it's important that Tuesday night's meeting be the start of many conversations for positive change because a difference can be made when everyone comes together.

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