A Hartford police officer was penalized for racist remarks on an open radio transmission. 12-year-veteran of the force, Sgt. Steve Kessler, is accused of referring to a group of minority men as “gorillas in the mist.”
The statement came out over a radio transmission when Kessler and another officer were patrolling Hartford’s North End back on May 7. According to the internal investigation obtained by Fox Connecticut investigative reporter, Beau Berman, the other officer asked Kessler a question.
“Look at all those guys over there, under the Temple of God, Miracle, see them?”
Kessler responded with, “Yup, like I said, it is like, it’s like part two of a filming of Gorillas in the Mist.”
Hartford Police launched the internal investigation and slapped Kessler with a code of conduct violation. They also transferred him to a desk job.
“He was a sergeant assigned to a community service position which meant he had to be out in the public quite a bit. We felt that that wasn’t a good assignment for him anymore. We transferred him to an inside position. And I administered a 10 day work suspension for him which is the maximum allowable under the code of conduct,” Police Chief James Rovella said.
According to police documents, Kessler accepted the penalty and apologized for the comment. Rovella said he may be allowed back to his community service position after concluding his penalty.
Scott Esdaile, President of the Connecticut arm of the NAACP, questioned whether that should happen.
“From the community’s perspective, we have a zero tolerance for this type of behavior. So, once again if the allegations are true, we don’t want him coming back to the North End of Hartford. Nor, do we want him back in a uniform in the city of Hartford,” Esdaile said.
Kessler sent us a statement saying the following:
In the dozen years I have spent as a Hartford police officer, I have been privileged to work for a wonderful and diverse community of all races creeds and colors and I believe I have established a strong record of mutual respect. I deeply regret my statement, and I accept and will not appeal the discipline administered by the Department. My statement does not represent me, my twelve year career, nor my dedication to this City’s future. I will move forward and continue to work with my fellow officers to serve all of the people of our great city.