They’re sworn to protect and serve but some troubling questions are mounting against a Hartford Police Officer.
Fox CT first reported on Hartford Police Sgt. Eric Smith two weeks ago.
He’s the subject of an internal affairs investigation after admitting to Windsor Police that he fired a bullet into his neighbor’s home in Windsor, though he did not initially report the incident.
That bullet was discovered inside the home of his neighbor and on the bed of a 12-year-old girl.
Fox CT did some digging into Sgt. Smith’s past, and it wasn’t pretty.
Fox CT obtained records from the Hartford Police and Smith’s previous employer, the Farmington Police Department.
“If you look at all of those things, it definitely causes you some concern,” says Hartford Attorney James Bergenn, referring to what we found in Smith’s files.
In an internal memo from the former Farmington police chief to the former town manager, the chief said Smith “engaged in outrageous activity” that “was not only unprofessional but may constitute sexual harassment.”
The chief described a 1992 incident when Smith was off duty. The report said Smith pulled up to a female driver in Hartford. When his attempt to engage the woman in conversation failed, he followed her “through Hartford and into West Hartford,” according the memo.
After what was described as “a lengthy chase,” Smith “used his badge in an attempt to stop the car”.
Smith then reportedly accessed a police computer and used the NCIC system to look up the woman’s vehicle registration and find her home address.
He then mailed a love letter to her address, according to the memo.
The woman filed a complaint with Farmington Police.
In his letter to the town manager, the chief called Smith’s actions “harassment.”
We showed the documents to Attorney James Bergenn.
“To give chase to some woman through multiple towns and then try to contact her privately, that is criminal,” he said.
Apparently the former Farmington police chief agreed, as he recommended Smith’s termination from the force.
Smith agreed to resign.
He then took a job with a TJ Maxx store as a loss prevention security guard, but he was fired.
Smith lost that job after he reportedly detained two women without just cause.
The firing was listed in his Hartford Police Department personnel file.
Then, three years after leaving the Farmington Police Department, he was hired in Hartford, where he has been disciplined seven times since 1999, including oral and written reprimands and suspension.
In 2000, Smith was arrested and charged with sexual assault while on duty, but after a jury trial, he was acquitted.
Beau Berman: “The Hartford Police Department: Were you aware of the Farmington incident?”
Lt. Brian Foley: “Again … that was a long time ago.”
Hartford Police Chief James Rovella was not available for comment, but Hartford Police Lt. Brian Foley explained that the department uses a “progressive discipline” system, ranging from counseling to verbal warnings to termination, depending on the offense and severity.
“We have HR rules again, and union considerations, and the state and federal labor decisions that have been made to consider in doing that, and we just can’t fire somebody inappropriately or discipline them inappropriately just because it sounds bad,” said Lt. Foley.
Bergenn says the case for dismissal or discipline is far from clear cut, because, except for the sexual assault charges that were dismissed, Smith’s most egregious behavior happened before he was hired in Hartford.
“The 2000 (sexual assault accusation) is not clear whether it was a valid or not valid charge, so it puts management in a very difficult position if for the last dozen years, we’ve got nothing of that sort,” said Bergenn.
Sgt. Smith hasn’t returned any of the repeated phone calls from Fox CT requesting comment.