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City police chief criticized in open letter from union

By Karin Crompton

Publication: The Day

Published September 10. 2011 4:00AM
Ad placed in Day says Ackley has been negative influence

New London - The city's police union published an "open letter" via a paid ad in today's Day, lashing out at police Chief Margaret Ackley for what the union describes as "a managerial crisis."

The union's nine-member executive board voted unanimously to place the ad, according to union President Darrin O'Mara and Vice President Todd Lynch.

In the letter, the union states that the police department "has been in a managerial crisis since Margaret Ackley assumed command ..."

"Ackley's actions and lack of executive level management skills and judgment have negatively affected police operations, employee morale and public safety for quite some time," it adds.

The letter states that the majority of the members of the department are troubled that the public "is not seeing the negative effects Ackley has created inside of the Police department."

It criticizes Ackley for her appearance at a City Council meeting on Aug. 24, during which she alleged interference in her running of the police department. That same day, city officers shot a man who had allegedly stolen a truck from a liquor store. Ackley did not arrive at the scene until after the council meeting, O'Mara, Lynch and other officers said.

The two events that day prompted the executive committee to draft the letter, O'Mara and Lynch said.

"I think she served up the why," Lynch said Friday in response to a question about what prompted the letter. "She has now put our agency on the front page of the paper for what I think is either political or her own selfish goals. And in doing so, she has mentioned subordinates, which are our rank-and-file union members, that have been involved in the 'undermining of her authority.'"

Lynch and O'Mara said Ackley has never addressed the alleged problems within the department that she has denounced publicly. At the council meeting, Ackley accused Councilor Michael Buscetto III of discrimination, harassment and trying to undermine her authority with some members of the police department.

"We've not only not been told what are the actions of the subordinates, we haven't even been told who the subordinates are," Lynch said. "And as the chief of police, you're in charge - she always talks transparency and professionalism. Well, if someone's not being professional under your command, not only haven't they been investigated, they haven't been notified. We have to read about it in (the) paper."

Ackley did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

The police union has endorsed Buscetto as a candidate for mayor, and O'Mara and Lynch said the timing of the letter has nothing to do with Tuesday's Democratic primary election in which voters will decide between Buscetto, the endorsed candidate, and challenger Daryl Justin Finizio.

The two said the executive committee met after the shooting and the council meeting and decided to write the letter, then had to draft it, edit it and review it repeatedly before publishing it.

The letter appears two days after Ackley announced that the police department was one of 30 agencies statewide to receive a Tier One accreditation from the state's Police Officer Standards and Training Council.

A statement issued by the police department said Ackley, who was appointed chief in 2009, has made professional standards and the uniformity of services provided to the public a priority. The policy development, procedural changes and additions to staffing required to achieve accreditation has taken more than 18 months to accomplish.

Reaccreditation would occur within three years.

Lynch and O'Mara said the chief has made it a point to appear often in public and to make the rounds with politicians but has not extended the same effort within her own department. As an example, they said, Ackley spent the night mixing with the public at the recent Food Stroll, but failed to stop in at an Elks dinner held the same night in which the police department was honoring its Officer of the Year, whom they said Ackley herself had chosen.

"I don't think a lot of the public knew they were being billed for it," Lynch said, referring to overtime pay, which has been a sticking point for some in Ackley's departure contract.

The letter also stated that if Ackley can't lead the department effectively, as she told the council, she should be removed as chief immediately.

"She had a pretty good ride for a while; she was the prom queen for a while," Lynch said. "But it seems to me the first time that she faced or was confronted with some adversity as the chief of police, rather than stand and fight, she tucked her tail between her legs, threatened to quit and threatened to sue. That says a lot about a leader.

"I would hope our leader would stand and fight. Because we face adversity every day on the streets … (and) we can't threaten to sue and quit. We have to face it head on and take care of it."

k.crompton@theday.com

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