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New London — The city police officer involved in the shooting of an unarmed man last August was fired Thursday by Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio.
Officer Thomas Northup was dismissed for unauthorized use of force and unauthorized use of deadly force in the Aug. 24 shooting of Curtis Cunningham, who was paralyzed in the shooting and has since filed a federal lawsuit against the city.
An internal review by the New London Police Department found that Northup violated general orders for use of force and use of deadly force when he discharged his weapon, Finizio said.
"The unauthorized use of deadly force against an unarmed suspect cannot, and will not, be tolerated in the New London Police Department," the mayor said.
The police union immediately filed a grievance with the state Board of Mediation and Arbitration over the firing.
"Of course Officer Northup was fired,'' said Richard Gudis, attorney for the police union. "What would you expect from a mayor who has shown his complete disregard for the police department by publicly stating the cops are only interested in 'cracking skulls?'
"His attitude and actions are part of a pattern and practice of apathy regarding the rank and file of the police department."
Todd Lynch, police union president, said "we're hopeful the proper result will be reached" when the facts of the case are presented to an impartial panel.
Northup was one of the responding officers when Cunningham allegedly stole an ice truck and crashed it at the intersection of Bank Street and Jefferson Avenue. Northup allegedly fired five times at Cunningham, who was standing in the cab of the overturned truck.
Northup was hired Jan. 25, 2008, but was injured in October of the same year during routine military training and was out of work until Sept. 8, 2010, according to the city's personnel records. He then went through police academy retraining from October 2010 to March 2011. The shooting occurred five months later.
Northup has no commendations, awards or disciplinary actions in his personnel file, according to the mayor's office.
New London State's Attorney Michael L. Regan said state police, at his request, investigated the shooting and filed a report with his office. Regan said he is reviewing it to determine whether Northup should be prosecuted for violating any state laws.
After a meeting with the mayor in January, Gudis said, Finizio listed 10 steps that would be taken to improve morale. "To date the mayor has not fulfilled this promise,'' he said. "The only thing he has done is coddled a chief of police who, in her own words on the day Officer Northup was involved in the shooting, publicly stated she could not effectively lead the New London Police Department.''
The night of the Aug. 24 shooting, Ackley was at a City Council meeting where she announced her intent to retire because of interference and meddling in the department by then-City Councilor Michael Buscetto, who was running for mayor. When Finizio was elected mayor, Ackley opted to remain chief per a confidential agreement she had signed with the former city manager.
"The chief has consistently maintained a position that all of her problems within the police department were the result of outside political interference, as well as police union actions,'' Gudis said. " ... Ackley's management troubles are the result of self-inflicted wounds rather than the acts of the New London police union or any of the rank and file."
Ackley and the police union have been at odds since she took over the department in July 2009. She is being sued by Lynch, the police union president, who has alleged that she used her influence to manipulate the election. He also alleges that he was punished for speaking out against the chief.
Finizio, meanwhile, has praised Ackley for instituting community policing policies and getting the department accredited nationally.