On May 6, 2007 Ruben Perez apparently parked his car illegally behind 17 East Elliott Street in Hartford. According to the initial police report, Perez was not a resident of 17 East Elliott Street and lacked the proper parking permit. Whitey's Towing had a contract with the property owner to tow illegally parked cars. The Whitey's Towing driver, Slade Secore was in the process of towing Perez's car. After a verbal dispute with Perez, Slade Secore was assaulted by several people that were with Perez.
Another Whitey's Towing driver, Richard Hoegeman, had gone to East Elliott Street to assist Slade Secore when he was being assaulted. Hoegeman positively identified Ruben Perez as one of Secore's attackers.
As it turned out, Slade Secore is the brother of Hartford Police Officer Matthew Secore. One of the police officer's involved in the initial assault complaint called Officer Secore to tell him that his brother had been seriously assaulted and was being transported to Hartford Hospital by ambulance.
Officer Matthew Secore went to the Trauma Unit at Hartford Hospital and observed his brother severely beaten and his face bloodied. At one point while waiting for x-rays and cat scans, Matthew Secore spent the time washing dried blood off his brothers face. I have seen a few pictures of Slade Secore taken a couple days after the beating, and they were bad. I can only imagine how I would have reacted if that were a family member of mine, and Officer Secore's actions seem tame compared to what I would want to do to the attacker of any family member of mine.
After viewing his brother at Hartford Hospital and facing information that Slade potentially could lose sight in one eye, Officer Secore went to Hartford Police Headquarters to find out more info. Probably not the wisest decision in his current mindset, but again totally understandable by anyone that cares about their family members.
And as much as Matthew Secore was honest right from the start about his actions, the truth is that the entire system broke down and failed both Ruben Perez and Matthew Secore that night. Upon arriving at the booking area, a secure area at HPD seperated from the common areas of the building by heavy steel secure doors that require being "buzzed" in. Officer Secore was admitted into the secure area.
Even though, according to the IAD report, Secore was described as being "upset", "agitated" and "not happy", he was nonetheless "buzzed" into the secure area and allowed to confront Ruben Perez. The sergeant in charge of the area at the time was suspended and eventually retired.
Secore didn't lie about or dispute his actions that night. He admitted to exchanging words with Perez and at one point Perez made a derogatory comment about Slade Secore, saying to Officer Secore "F**k your brother" . Officer Secore grabbed Ruben Perez by the collar of his shirt and punched him once. Realizing he made a real mistake, he backed away and left the area.
Although Officer Secore told the truth from the start, other police officers apparently did not. According to the IAD report, officers gave contradictory information and seemed to only tell the truth after being confronted with the facts.
On June 9, 2007 Officer Secore was terminated from the Hartford Police Department.
One of the facts that complicated this matter is the fact that Ruben Perez is the nephew of Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez.
One of the first questions that arose was how the panel for Officer Secore's disciplinary hearing was selected. Typically, 3 Captain's are selected to conduct a disciplinary hearing with one of the three chosen by the officer involved, in Secore's case 3 Assistant Chiefs were used to make up the panel. Apparently this was the first time Assistant Chiefs were used to decide an officer's fate. And according to testimony before the state Labor Board no one had ever heard of the Chiefs conducting a disciplinary hearing in the history of the department.
Another issue I find interesting is the statement of Ruben Perez in the IAD report. It is posted below with the entire IAD report. Although statements are supposed to be made freely and in the words of the person making the statement. Read the statement and make your own decision as to whether or not Perez was coached in what to say.
The first sentence alone, what 23 year old talks like this? "I was on East Elliott Street Hartford Connecticut attending a party with friends and family members. I parked my car in the rear parking lot of the property. I'm uncertain of the exact address" hmmmm, just makes me wonder.
Not that the wording changes the facts, but it just raises red flags in my mind as to how legitimate the investigation was or who might have influenced its final outcome.
In addition, according to the Union brief filed with the Labor Board in support of Secore's position, more questions than answers are raised as to how decisions were made and was the punishment appropriate.
Two similar incidents were brought up during Secore's hearing. One was the case of Officer James Jenkins. Officer Jenkins apparently pulled an individual out of his vehicle on a city street. Jenkins apparently threw the individual down in the middle of Walnut Street and according to at least two seperate witnesses who stated they saw Officer Jenkins punch the individual at least three or four times, and one witness stated that Jenkins punched the man with both fists four or five times and then witnessed Officer Jenkins spit in the man's face.
Jenkin's received only a 90 day suspension for his actions, which on their face value appear much more severe than Secore's actions.
The second incident occurred in 1999 and involved an Officer Peterson, who was initially charged with use of excessive force. Officer Peterson shot a fleeing "misdemeanant", an individaul who had committed a misdemeanor, which is "clearly excessive use of force" according to the Labor Board decision. Officer Peterson received a "short" suspension. As a side note, according to sources, Peterson's version of the occurences changed a couple times during questioning. Officer Peterson has since been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.
At the time of the Secore incident , there were no video recordings in place. Since then 32 cameras have been installed and are recorded constantly. The only truthful record of what happened that night is the version provided by Secore himself since he chose to be honest from the start.
That truthfulness that led to his termination, also figured heavily in the Labor Boards decision to re-instate him. Secore's honesty and integrity figured strongly in the Board's decision. Also, in light of the Jenkins incident and the Peterson incident, the Labor Board decided that Secore's punishment was too severe in comparison to past Department practices.
The Labor Board ruled that Secore was to be re-instated, with all back pay and benefits, less a 90 day suspension. As of today, that has not happened and the City, under John Rose, is appealing the decision in court.
According to several lawyers I have spoke with, that may be another effort in futility by Mr. Rose, and a further waste of the taxpayers money. According to the attorneys, both sides agree going in to arbitration to abide by the boards eventual decision. In this case, Hartford isn't living up to their portion of the agreement and is now choosing to fight the decision since it didn't come out in their favor.
Also, from what I've been told, the only way to overturn an arbitration decision is if "wrongdoing" can be proven on the part of the hearing officers. Just disagreeing with their decision is not grounds to overturn. But typical with John Rose, it's not his money so fight on for the inevitable loss.
And I agree with the Labor Board's ruling that this is a difficult decision, but the Board made the right call. This incident was not a pattern of abusive behavior by a rogue cop, unlike the videotaped beating recenetly by two other officer's in booking.
Secore did not have numerous IAD complaints against him, unlike Officer Lee and Officer Campbell. By reading previous postings here on this blog, you can see that Officer Secore was respected and interacted well with the community
Officer Secore responded poorly to an incident that involved a family member of his who was severely beaten. Poor decision, poor timing and a very poor choice of location. But after seeing the pictures of Slade Secore after his beating, I envisioned a family member of mine beaten and left like that. I have to honestly say that Officer Secore only punching him once and backing off is a lot better than what I would have done if I saw a relative like that and had the opportunity to confront the assailant.
I just wouldn't have done it in the police lock-up.
VIEW THE SECORE DOCUMENTS BELOW, OR AT LEAST THOSE I COULD GET WITHOUT JOHN ROSE'S HELP
Secore Arbitration Award
Secore Union Brief for Labor Board
Secore IAD Part 1
Secore IAD Part 2
Secore IAD Part 3
Secore IAD Part 4
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