The leadership of the state police union, critical of the treatment of troopers including Matthew Spina, who was recorded berating a driver in an profanity-laced tirade, have approved a vote of no confidence in high-ranking leadership, according to a letter obtained by the Courant.
The message, sent on official letter head on July 14, specifically names Lt. Col. John Eckersley, head of field operations, but does not detail issues with other command staff. Union officials said high-ranking members of the command staff do not demonstrate the characteristics or leadership skills needed to run the state police.
“This difficult decision was made after careful consideration and recognition that members of our command staff, especially LTC. John Eckersley, have been running the agency in a manner that is detrimental to the morale and safety of our troopers,” the union writes in a letter titled “No Leadership ... No Confidence.‘'
The letter points to the treatment of Spina, who was punished after a widely viewed video captured him yelling obscenities at a driver who apparently questioned the trooper for speeding on I-95 in May.
Spina filed a grievance in relation to the punishment, records show.
Spina was initially taken off the road shortly after the video of the traffic stop was posted, but records of a grievance filed with the state police show that he was later suspended.
The executive director of the union, Andrew Matthews, a former trooper, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The letter details that union leadership and troopers were led to believe that when James Rovella was appointed commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, which includes the state police, they would be given a “seat at the table” and were led to believe troopers would be treated with “dignity and respect.”
“Ultimately, the recent treatment and actions taken against [Spina] is the ultimate example of a serious failure of our leadership and is evidence the statement of ‘we have your back’ is artificial and insincere,” the union letter read.
Command staff including Eckersley, the two other lieutenant colonels and the colonels are appointed to their positions.
The letter further details how political appointees chose their own “political survival” instead of what is right for troopers.
Union leadership said they have been dismissed when speaking about potential safety risks and consequences for troopers brought on by a nationwide movement critical of police.
“As a result of these actions and others, the union leadership no longer has confidence in the ability of our ‘leaders’ like LTC. Eckersley to lead our membership and we no longer support them, their illogical policies or offensive behavior toward our membership,” the letter read.
The union will conduct the vote through secret balloting sent to individual troopers’ homes.
“If only they had listened and kept their word, this unfortunate outcome could have been avoided,” the union letter read.
The union will also host a “Back the Blue” rally Thursday near the state Capitol in opposition of legislative measure under considering in a special session aimed at police reform.
Nicholas Rondinone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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