HARTFORD – Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin is calling it a “new era” for the city’s fire department as new leadership takes over.
On Friday night, the city’s new fire chief and two assistant chiefs were officially sworn in.
Fire Chief Reginald “Reggie” Freeman has been on the job since February 1 and he hasn’t wasted any time. He says he’s already met with firefighters in all 17 companies at all 12 stations to get feedback.
“We've actually been able to make some initial changes to how we operate, give them some more tools, give them some more resources in order for them to do their job effectively,” said Chief Freeman.
Mayor Bronin appointed the new chief before he was sworn in himself, and says a stronger fire department is a priority for his administration.
“I think a lot of people understand it was time for a new level of accountability and Chief Freeman is going to bring that,” said Bronin. “I think he sets a clear tone that we’re going to keep our standards high.”
Freeman was hired following a number of incidents in the department over the past few years. That’s including the death of firefighter Kevin Bell in October 2014, the violations and fines that followed, and the Bell family’s wrongful death suit. On top of that, there have been several other issues with firefighters both on and off duty.
Freeman said, “We will be looking at and adopting a progressive discipline model. Everyone is going to know what that model is and what the rules are as far as we're concerned as a command staff, and everyone will be held accountable to those standards.”
Assistant Fire Chief of Support Services Frank Costello and Assistant Chief of Emergency Services Darren Hudson were also sworn in Friday. There were also 23 other firefighters who received promotions.