Police Commissioner Resigns With A Splash

SEYMOUR, CT &#8211 Citing mismanagement in the police department and a restructuring plan by Police Chief Michael Metzler which he calls “appalling,” Police Commissioner John Popik has decided to step down.

“This restructuring was the deciding factor for my resignation,” said Popik, who was elected to the Board of Police Commissioners in November 2011. “Over the last couple of years, I have viewed what I perceive as mismanagement due to decisions being made based on personal agendas, political favors and vendettas, affecting crucial components of police operations including discipline and promotions. I feel it is not ethical for me to be part of this process.”

Popik, administrative captain for the Stratford Police Department with 27 years in law enforcement, said he has supervised or commanded every major division within his department, qualifying him to weigh in on Metzler’s plan.

The board approved the plan at its Feb. 10 meeting, with Popik the only member voting against it. The police union must vote on the plan, which union President Sgt. John D’Antona had said appears to be a win-win.

But Popik disagrees.

“In short, the chief’s plan of restructuring is appalling,” Popik said. “The plan gives pay raises to individuals by way of job title changes without a commensurate change of duties. Additionally, these ‘promotions’ come without a legitimate testing process, a probationary period or a performance-based contract. Even more troubling is that the restructuring did absolutely nothing to address the department’s two major problems, which are the number of officers absent from police duties and overtime expense issues.”

Metzler said the plan is geared to improve efficiency, increase accountability and enhance the chain of command, while saving about $71,000.

“The pros of this enhances the chain of command; gives us middle management which we did not have; puts us in line with similar (police) departments of our size; gives us more accountability and more efficiency of delegation of duties,” Metzler had said.

Under the plan, three of the department’s six sergeants would get promoted to patrol commanders; the captain, lieutenant and detective sergeant positions would be eliminated, and replaced with a deputy police chief and an inspector. The department hasn’t had a captain for nearly three years. Lt. Paul Satkowski, the second in command, would become deputy chief and Det. Sgt. Joe DeNigris would become inspector.

Metzler said the plan eliminates “sergeant shopping,” a problem that occurs when there are two sergeants on one shift, and if an officer doesn’t like something one of the sergeants says, he goes to the other sergeant, “playing one off the other.” That game, Metzler said, ends with the commander in place, and what he says goes.

Popik said sergeant shopping “is a simple disciplinary issue” that can be fixed without a total restructuring, and “could ultimately create a new problem where upward communication is severely filtered or non-existent due to perceived rank disparity.”

Popik believes the plan “will eventually cause wage compression and expansion at the highest ranks, so instead of “bolstering” supervision, the plan will “bolster” the payroll and a certain future retirement benefit, which perhaps is the true goal of this restructuring plan. The BOPC “rubber-stamping” this plan is yet another example of gross mismanagement and dereliction of elected duties.”

Popik’s four-year term was to expire November 2015.

First Selectman Kurt Miller, who supports the plan, as does Board Chairwoman Lucy McConologue, were not available for comment Tuesday.

From The New Haven Register

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