HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Connecticut State Police Union on Tuesday accused a high-ranking department official of improperly ordering the destruction of a dashboard camera video last year after a citizen complained about a traffic stop, but the agency disputed many of the union’s claims.
The union also criticized state police leaders, saying they are allowing Lt. Col. Robert Corona to retire Dec. 1 without facing punishment for the alleged misconduct even though the chief state’s attorney’s office found that Corona violated agency policy.
Corona is the second-highest-ranking member of state police and is in charge of field operations. He declined to speak with an Associated Press reporter when reached on his cellphone Tuesday.
A state police spokesman, Lt. J. Paul Vance, said there was no citizen complaint against Corona, and Corona didn’t order the destruction of any video.
Vance said Corona was found by the chief state’s attorney’s office to have committed a “minor infraction” of state police rules by ordering some video transferred from a computer server onto a compact disc. Vance said he did not know what was on that video or why Corona ordered the transfer, but he said the video did not have any evidentiary value and did not contain footage of a traffic stop by Corona.
State police leaders decided a three- to five-day suspension would be appropriate for Corona but aren’t imposing it, Vance said. Officials instead are allowing Corona to retire without any discipline on his record. He potentially would face the suspension if he ever returned to the state police in any capacity, Vance said.
“This is a minor infraction,” Vance said. “When they (state police leaders) looked historically at what’s been allowed in the past relative to a minor infraction, people have been allowed to retire and their discipline is held in abeyance.”
Also Tuesday, the union released a letter it sent to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Oct. 24 questioning Corona’sactions, the credibility of the state police disciplinary process and the integrity of agency leaders, including Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner Reuben Bradford and the state police commander, Col. Daniel Stebbins. The department oversees state police.
The letter said the union is “shocked by the blatant favoritism Commissioner Bradford and Col. Stebbins have shown for Lt. Col. Corona by delaying the disciplinary process and allowing him to continue serving as the commanding officer of field operations.”
The union added, “If these same allegations were made against our members, they would be immediately stripped of their duty weapon, badge, police powers, any supervisory authority … and they would be transferred to an administrative assignment pending the outcome of any investigation.”
The letter was signed by the union’s president, Sgt. Andrew Matthews, and other members of its executive committee. The governor’s office referred questions about the letter to state police Tuesday.
Union leaders said they learned in June of last year about a citizen complaint about a traffic stop conducted by Corona. The union alleged that when Corona found out about the complaint, he ordered a civilian employee to delete the dashboard camera video of the stop.
Union officials also noted that the state police internal affairs unit was heavily criticized in a 2006 investigative report by the state attorney general’s office and New York state police. The report found major, systemic flaws in the unit, including incomplete and inadequate investigations of state police personnel.
“It is clear from the handling of Lt. Col. Corona’s misconduct that the culture of favoritism that once permeated the state police’s disciplinary process has returned,” the union’s letter to the governor said.
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