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Investigation of CCSU Police Department brings personnel, policy changes

NEW BRITAIN -- An outside investigation into the way Central Connecticut State University handled a female campus police officer's allegations of sexual assault by a male officer has found multiple issues within the department.

The results of the investigation were released Friday by CCSU president Zulma Toro, and the report found the police chief knew about the 2016 allegation but didn't pursue an investigation after discussing the issue with the school's chief administrative officer, who oversees the department. He was placed on leave.

The investigation also found officers were hired despite a record of serious disciplinary action or disqualifying performance issues; the department has a "fraternity" type atmosphere; and required sexual harassment training wasn't taken seriously.

“I am deeply disturbed and saddened by the investigation findings,”  Toro said in a statement. “There is significant evidence that the sexual assault complaint by one of the department’s own officers was inappropriately handled when the incident was first reported in 2016. I am particularly troubled as to how the department’s chain of command did not, in a timely manner, conduct an investigation when the sexual assault was first reported.”

Among other findings the investigators reported:

  • Several police officers were hired by the CCSU Police Department even though background checks found evidence of significant discipline or other disqualifying performance issues in their past;
  • An informal environment exists within the department, including relaxed professional standards and a fraternity-like environment, including inappropriate behavior, banter, or horseplay;
  • Required sexual harassment prevention and other trainings are not taken seriously and serve as additional evidence that diversity and equity principles are not respected;
  • A pervasive use of inappropriate gender labels for women and perception that the work of females is subjected to harsher criticism;
  • Belief that expressing concern and/or opinion about the treatment of women in the department results in discrimination and retaliation; and
  • Concern that all shifts are not staffed with a ranking, supervisor officer.

The four-month investigation began in January 2018 and included a review of records and dozens of interviews with the department’s police officers and employees and several University administrators and staff.

“While we look deeper into the concerns brought to light by the investigation, today I made personnel changes to mitigate future issues. I want to assure our CCSU family and the public that the past environment, behaviors, and attitudes within the CCSU Police Department are not acceptable,” Toro said in the statement.

Bernard R. Sullivan, retired Commissioner of Public Safety and former Hartford Police Chief, has been hired to serve as CCSU’s Assistant to the President for Safety. In addition to overseeing the police department, Sullivan will be charged by Toro to identify and correct defective procedures, policies, and training, evaluate staffing levels and budgetary issues.

He also will determine what means are necessary to restore professionalism to the department while rebuilding trust among its employees, the CCSU community, and the public and take disciplinary action where appropriate.  This mission is not new to Sullivan. He was selected by former Governor William O’Neill in 1989 to take the helm of the Connecticut State Police when it was embroiled in controversy and worked to rebuild the force and restore its credibility.

Based on the report’s findings, Chief Administrative Officer Richard Bachoo, whose responsibilities include management of the police department, has been placed on administrative leave pending further investigation.

Toro also has changed how background checks of police department candidates are managed. The Office of Human Resources, not the police department, will supervise and evaluate the collection of background information.

Further, the Office of Diversity and Equity will undergo further review to ensure its investigations are conducted in a prompt, fair, and unbiased manner.

The full report can be viewed here.

Later Friday morning, Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Mark Ojakian released the following statement:

Today, Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) released a report that is the result of an internal investigation ordered by President Toro into the CCSU Campus Police Department. I, along with the Board of Regents for Higher Education, am deeply disturbed about the report’s findings and the alleged conduct by certain CCSU police officers and CCSU administrators.

Let me say plainly, we will not tolerate any staff engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior or failing to take swift and appropriate action when incidents are reported.

The initial investigation, which began late last year, the hiring of an outside law firm, and the decision to the put CCSU Police Department under special supervision were all initiated by President Toro who has responded quickly and decisively.

I also support bringing in Bernie Sullivan, former State Police Commissioner and former Hartford Police Chief to oversee the CCSU Police Department. I have known Bernie for years and fully trust his ability to restore professionalism to the Department and take any disciplinary action that may be appropriate.