NORWALK, Conn. – Below are comments from Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik from the Unity Rally held Tuesday night at Norwalk City Hall.
I come here to remind everyone that we stand ready to continue working together to assure that justice is served fairly and equally. We need to continue to support each other as we are all seeking the same goals. We need to continue to take the time to listen and understand each other. One’s belief does not have to be exclusive of another's. We need to appreciate each other’s point of view. Saying black lives matter does not have to mean that blue lives don't.
Similarly, supporting law enforcement does not have to mean that you don’t support fairness and justice for all or appreciate the concerns over those that have died in encounters with police. We need to stop pointing fingers. It should not be a case of us versus them. It is a case of we!
I agree with Chief Ed Flynn of the Milwaukee Police Department who noted that officers demonstrate by their actions that black lives matter as do all lives every time they put their own lives on the line each time they take an illegal gun off the street or put a major drug dealer in jail. I know my officers do this day after day. Are things perfect? No. Are we perfect? Of course not. But we work hard every day to do the best for everyone. We take steps in our recruitment, our hiring, our training, our equipment and our policies and procedures to put the best police force on the streets of Norwalk each day.
I take pride in the quality of the officers here in Connecticut and especially here in Norwalk. We have strived to listen and appreciate the concerns of the community and gear our training and practices to improve on our response to these concerns. We have implemented our body camera program to better assure transparency. We have instituted Fair and Impartial Policing and have trained our officers in this important concept. We have established a variety of community outreach programs including the Public Safety Cadets, DARE Camp, The Youth Justice Academy at Pathways, Police and The Youth Program, Coffee with a Cop and many more. Myself and Deputy Chief Zecca sit on the board for Norwalk PAL as treasurer and president and work to raise thousands of dollars to support these and other youth programs throughout the city.
As an internationally accredited police department, we abide by strict standards often far exceeding what is mandated by law. Examples include assuring that we carefully review each use of force by officers at several levels and document and track each to assure they are within policy and the within the law. We monitor the actions of our officers and utilize an early warning system to determine in those rare instances when an officer may be experiencing personal issues that may negatively impact their performance and provide assistance to them and/or their families. We recruit and hire a diverse workforce, which resembles the community served. Since I have been chief, we have hired 33 new officers, 19 of which have been women or minorities.
Finally, we have trained all our supervisors in the concept of Procedural Justice to not only look at whether an officer’s action was legal, but whether it was also served the greater good of everyone involved. Just because you can do something, does not always mean that you should. Sometimes there is a better way to handle a situation. We continue to stay on the forefront of 21st Century Policing practices including training in dealing with the mentally ill as well as in de-escalation techniques to avoid using force where possible. How to better serve the community is always on the forefront in everything we do. Our new mission statement reflects this philosophy. We will continue to work with all segments of the community to build stronger relationships. There is more work to be done.
I ask that there not be a rush to judgment when a controversial incident does occur, and further, that the Norwalk Police be judged on our own merit and not by what may occur elsewhere. What happens in another city in another state should not reflect on the profession as a whole. There are different standards for recruitment and training, different laws and differing policies and procedures employed in each agency.
I can assure you that we will continue to work to make life in the city of Norwalk safer both the residents and our officers, but we cannot do it alone. There are larger social issues that also must be addressed, and it is not only for the police to address them. I am proud to work in a community that has and will continue to have an open dialogue. Working in partnership is the only way we can truly succeed.
— Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik
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