I am not sure why anyone with a choice in the matter would choose to serve as a police officer in the City of Hartford. It’s not that the city faces major financial and social difficulties – some folks call it Little Chicago for a reason, its streets run with the blood of shooting victims; it flirts with financial bankruptcy. No, the city is now in the thrall of a toxic form of virtue signaling: posturing as righteous is now more important than effectiveness, and hypocrisy has become a way of life.
Consider the case of the so-called “dead pool” among Hartford police officers and court personnel. Insiders engaged in dark, gallows humor, placing a wager on where the first shooting of 2021 might take place. An outraged community responded by claiming racism; isn’t this putting a dollar value on black heads?
Huh? Did someone spike the water in the city with stupid pills?
Never let logic or common sense stand in the way of self-righteousness.
Gun violence in the city is surging. There have been more shootings this year than in any year in the past five years. While homicides are down, at least 16, as of late November, were a result of gun related violence. The people of Hartford are dispirited and frightened. The mayor, Luke Bronin, recently told The Hartford Courant that all the violence might be pandemic-related.
It might also be that police officers are now afraid to do their jobs, reducing their presence on the streets to a bare minimum and responding to calls only when they have to. A summer of civil unrest nationwide yielded calls to “defund” the police. Don’t send a cruiser, send a social worker, or some such.
I’m guessing word has trickled down to the street. The “man” is now on the lam: let’s bring the state of nature back to the state capitol.
Like all police departments in mid-size to large cities, Hartford has a detective bureau. More experienced officers earn the privilege of serving in that bureau. They are assigned the task of solving more serious crimes, crimes like gun violence and murder. The so-called “dead pool” originated from a member of the detective bureau.
Once word of the “dead pool” hit the streets, Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody was quick to respond. He removed the head of the bureau, reassigning him to a less visible and responsible position. He also announced the intention to demote and suspend for four months the creator of the “dead pool.” That’s not enough for the unctuous members of Hartford’s City council, a majority passed a resolution calling for firing the detective.
Even The Hartford Courant, a newspaper spinning headlong into a death spiral, editorialized that the detective should be fired, this not long after calling any Trump voter a racist in another editorial. The editors of the paper need to learn to color with something other than blue crayon. (I take the paper’s descent into gibberish personally; I wrote editorials for the paper a lifetime ago.)
Anyone who has worked in the criminal courts or on the streets learns to cope with the sights and sounds of gratuitous violence; some folks do so with the same dark humor that creates a “dead pool.” It’s the same close acquaintanceship with the morbid that leads folk to rubberneck at the scene of an accident.
Placing bets on where the next homicide will be reported in the city is no act of racism. It is not even particularly insensitive. I suspect Hartford is like most cities, and engages in data-driven predictive policing, the use of objective data to forecast where the violence is likely to occur. The use of this tool helps “defunded” police departments make more intelligent use of scarce resources. Is that racist, too? When everything is racist, the accusation loses all meaning.
But intelligence appears to matter less in Hartford than does unctuousness. Transforming the “dead pool” into a racial grievance reduces to farce this summer’s call for racial justice. There is zero evidence to suggest that the detective creating the pool is a racist. None. I’ve spoken to several folks about him and he is regarded by all familiar with his work as an exemplary cop.
My dictionary defines a toady as a sycophant, someone who is obsequious to those in power. It’s no mystery that the Hartford police chief’s name lends itself so easily to transformation from Thody to Toady. Chief Toady is so busy pandering to irresponsible and fatuous claims of racism that he is destroying the morale of the Hartford Police Department and putting at risk all residents of city beset by gun violence.
Whatever your politics, you most likely agree that a minimal function of government is keeping people safe from violence at the hands of fellow citizens. The men and women called upon to do that work place themselves and their psychological well-being at risk. The “dead pool” is dark humor. No more. No less.
Perhaps the members of the Hartford Police Department should take a vote. How many of them have confidence in the chief? I suspect the number is low, lower than those who have lost confidence in a detective who was at most insensitive. But perhaps Hartford prefers chaos: I vote it the Connecticut city most likely to fail.