Police chief urging retirements to free up space for new officers — (The Connecticut Post)

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The Connecticut Post

AARON LEO aleo@ctpost.com

Article Launched:10/21/2006 04:48:53 AM EDT

BRIDGEPORT  Police Chief Bryan T. Norwood wants to force four city police supervisors and an officer to retire on disability pensions.

“We are here because of the languishing of this particular process,” he said at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners.

A sixth member of the force, Officer Terrance Lambert, was also listed in the chief’s request, but Lambert’s lawyer said Lambert plans to retire on his own and had recently filed papers to do that.

The six have been out of work for an extended period of time, said Norwood, who became chief in April.

Others on the list include Lt. Glen Prentice, Sgts. Christine Burns, Bobby Davidson and Bruce Belco, and Officer John Rostowski.

The retirements will save the Police Department money because pensions are less than a full salary, and will open up jobs that eventually can be filled by new hires, said Lt. James Viadero, police spokesman. There is a sergeant’s hiring list, but no one has replaced the sergeants on disability in the interim.

“We will do the best that we can,” board Chairman Thomas L. Kanasky Jr. told the chief about his proposal.

New officers won’t be hired until at least late 2007, Kanasky estimated.

Harry Elliott, a lawyer for Bridgeport Police Union Local 1159, asked the board to allow the most time possible to discuss the chief’s request with the officers in question.

The board will review the retirement requests at a special meeting in December, Kanasky said.

He noted Friday the department has lost four to eight officers per year over the past three years because of disability retirements and resignations.

He said the city needs to hire more officers at once rather than in small increments, as it has been doing.

“It behooves us to get ahead of the ball,” he said.

Meanwhile, Burns was the only one on the list who attended Tuesday’s meeting besides Lambert’s lawyer.

She said she has not returned to work since a 17-hour standoff on Jan. 18-19, 2004, during which her boyfriend, fellow Sgt. Michael Dominguez, barricaded himself in the Trumbull home they and their young daughter shared. The confrontation ended when Dominguez, who suffered depression and took Paxil to treat it, fatally shot himself.

Burns has said she suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from the incident.