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“Trigger happy” Hartford police officer files grievance against firing
Stephen Barone, a Hartford police officer who was fired after being caught on video telling a group of young men that he felt “trigger happy,” has filed a grievance against his termination.
The City of Hartford confirmed the grievance has been filed but there has not yet been a hearing.
The release of the video in which Barone told a group of young people that if they wanted to fight or run he was feeling “a little trigger happy” touched off a media firestorm that ultimately resulted in Barone’s termination from the department.
Barone had been previously disciplined for turning off his body camera during a chase that resulted in a fellow officer kicking a man who was handcuffed on the ground and for failing to call off a chase on Interstate 91, according to the Hartford Courant.
It is unclear if the Hartford Police Union is representing Barone in the grievance or if he has retained his own legal representation. Requests for comment to the Hartford Police Union were not returned.
According the Hartford Police Union contract, any grievance that involves termination will automatically begin at the third step of the grievance process, which involves presenting the grievance to the Chief of Police and Director of Human Resources.
Then, if the union is not satisfied with the decision by the Chief of Police and Human Resources, the union submits the grievance for arbitration and files a notice of appeal with the State Board of Mediation and Arbitration. The appeal can also be sent to the American Arbitration Association, according to the contract.
However, police terminations are notoriously difficult to uphold.
The City of Hartford is currently fighting a court battle to vacate a decision by an arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association to reinstate officer Robert Lanza, who used racial slurs during his arrest for drunk driving in 2018.
The union argued that Lanza had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from his involvement in a prior shooting and that he was a decorated officer with a clean disciplinary history.
In her decision, arbitrator Elizabeth Neumeier said the City of Hartford was not able to establish just cause for the termination.
Several police officers over the years in different municipalities have had their terminations appealed and overturned although Hartford was able to uphold the termination of Kamil Stachowicz in 2015.
Grievance arbitration can be lengthy and expensive for municipalities and sometimes arbiters award the grievant with back-pay.
Word of the grievance filing comes as the Hartford City Council voted to create a new police accountability panel to study and make reform recommendations for the capital city’s police force, although the panel will reportedly have little authority over changing police procedures.
The city has come under increasing pressure from city residents to address issues in the police department.
Yesterday a crowd gathered outside Hartford City Hall and took a knee to protest police brutality. There have been numerous marches in Hartford and other towns and cities in Connecticut following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
That same night, the Hartford City Council voted to decrease the police department’s budget by 4 percent and reallocate the $2 million to other departments, including the Department of Public Works and the Department of Children, Families, Youth and Recreation.
The City of Hartford did not offer any comment on Barone’s grievance filing.
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