Spada, judge and public safety commissioner, dies at 85

Arthur Spada

HARTFORD  — Arthur Spada, a former Connecticut judge and state public safety commissioner praised for rooting out police corruption and criticized for personally pulling over speeding drivers, has died. He was 85.

Spada died Thursday of undisclosed causes, according to the D’Esopo Funeral Chapel in Wethersfield.

The Hartford native worked as an attorney for 20 years before being nominated as a Superior Court judge in 1977 by Democratic Gov. Ella Grasso.

In the 1990s, Spada investigated police corruption as a one-person grand jury. The probe led to the indictments of five Hartford officers, two New Britain officers and a state trooper. Several officers were convicted, two were acquitted and two others had charges erased from their records as part of a probation program.

In 2000, Republican Gov. John Rowland named Spada as the state public safety commissioner, succeeding prominent forensic scientist Henry Lee.

Soon after, Spada came under fire for personally stopping speeding motorists in his state-issued car despite no formal police training, and was asked by Rowland to stop.

After Rowland resigned in 2004 amid a corruption probe that would send him to prison, Spada and other agency commissioners stepped down at the request of Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell as she set up her cabinet.

Spada said at the time that public safety commissioners need to be insulated from politics.

“You’ve got to give the commissioner the authority to proceed to run this department without looking over his shoulder constantly, as he’s attacked by the unions, assailed by the legislature and undermined by officers in his department who are looking to be promoted,” Spada told The Associated Press.

Calling hours are set for Wednesday at D’Esopo Funeral Chapel. The funeral will be held Thursday in West Hartford.