Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin has announced the discipline for Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody in response to his involvement in an accident in his department-issued car on the highway in Chester in May.
A report from the City of Hartford said Thody was driving his department-issued vehicle on Route 154 in Chester on May 31, when he was involved in a single-vehicle accident scraping against a guardrail, according to the summary of an investigative report sent by Hartford Police Assistant Chief Rafael Medina to Hartford Police Chief Operating Officer Thea Montanez.
According to the 911 call recording made public by state police on July 7, another car witnessed Thody driving erratically and called 911 to report that he believed the driver was intoxicated.
Bronin has said that while he had concerns about the incident, it did not mean he had lost confidence in Thody as police chief. Others, including city council member Josh Michtom, have questioned whether Thody properly reported the incident, raising concerns about transparency and accountability.
Bronin announced Monday that Thody will be required to reimburse the city for the cost of the repairs to the vehicle, which totaled $3,324.66. A letter of reprimand will also go in his file.
"I don't believe that this is a case that rises anywhere near the level of a suspension or removal of a police chief. I have confidence in the police chief, I think he is doing a good job, and I retained confidence in him," Bronin told NBC Connecticut in an interview Monday night.
In the letter, Bronin said while he had not lost confidence in Thody's ability to lead the police department, he did have concerns that the response to the situation did not meet certain standards.
Bronin wrote that Thody acknowledged that he was driving distractedly during the incident and while state law exempts police officers from distracted driving laws, Thody still has an obligation to ensure the safety of others and to protect the vehicle.
Bronin noted that Thody did report the incident to his direct supervisor. He also pointed out that there was no damage to the guard rail or other property, so there was no legal obligation to inform State Police, which was one point of contention in how Thody handled the situation. However, city policy regarding take-home vehicles requires drivers to contact local or state police immediately given any kind of collision.
Bronin also highlighted the fact that Thody was responding to protests in Hartford when the incident occurred, but also pointed out that the reporting was not as detailed nor as high-priority as it could have been. The letter states that on the day of the incident, Thody had been in contact with several officials and protest organizers and had anticipated responding to the city that day, and that his focus would have been elsewhere.
"Accordingly, because you promptly notified your direct supervisor and because I have no reason to believe that the incident was the result of anything other than distracted driving at a time when you were actively responding to city responsibilities, this incident does not cause me to lose confidence in you and your leadership of the Hartford Police Department," Bronin wrote.
Bronin said that while the Hartford Police Department and the state investigations are complete, the Internal Audit Commission may investigate further, and he would review any of those findings.
“If we know our employee is doing a reckless thing if he does it again between now and the end of the investigation we were on notice and took no action. And I think that puts us in a bad position in terms of getting sued," Michtom said.
Monday night the City Council voted to postpone a decision on whether to suspend the chief as they wait for the results of an independent investigation. That could come as soon as Wednesday.
Thody offered the following statement to NBC Connecticut Monday night:
“I accept Mayor Bronin’s discipline, and I am committed to focusing on moving forward and serving our community to the best of my ability. I reported and documented this incident the day it happened, but should have paid more attention to the reporting process that followed. I am very sorry for the confusion that this caused. Hartford was seeing large, daily protests while still in a pandemic. In the last few months, we have operated far from business as usual. I take full responsibility and I want our community and city leaders to be assured that these mistakes would not have happened under normal circumstances."