The city is preparing to settle a pair of unrelated lawsuits against purportedly out-of-control police officers.
Neither case — one involving alleged road rage, the other excessive force — has garnered much attention.
But they are two more black marks for a department grappling with higher profile disciplinary issues, questions of leadership and depleted manpower.
The city attorneys office declined to comment on details or provide dollar figures, arguing the settlements are still pending.
Volpe’s lawsuit stems from an October 2012 incident involving Police Officer Barry Jones.
Volpe claimed he was driving north on Boston Avenue when Jones, who was behind the wheel of his private pickup truck, in uniform for an off-duty assignment, attempted to pass Volpe.
Jones allegedly told Volpe to pull over, then slammed the latter against his truck, sending him to the hospital.
Jones claimed Volpe cut him off and Volpe was arrested. But a Superior Court judge dropped the charges after reviewing video footage of the encounter taken from a store surveillance camera.
A source said Jones was disciplined, but details on the specific punishment were not immediately available.
Tinted windows led to stop
Stinson sued over a May 2012 incident, also captured on camera — this time a witness’ cellphone.
Stinson was stopped for driving a 2006 silver Cadillac with “extremely” darkly tinted windows through the P.T. Barnum low-income housing project. Officers subsequently searched Stinson, claiming he was “concealing contraband” in his mouth.
The protesting suspect was handcuffed, forced to the ground, and pushed against, then inside a police cruiser.
The police report characterized Stinson as “very dangerous.” He at the time already had a lengthy record, including 11 years as a young adult in prison for manslaughter with a firearm. Stinson is now serving a 15-year sentence, suspended after five years in prison, for sale of narcotics and assault charges.
Stinson is part of a $10 million federal lawsuit Mastronardi filed, alleging that since 2010 three officers, including Sgt. Ronald Mercado, who figured in the P.T. Barnum incident, have been allowed to beat up and abuse citizens.
The lawsuit lists nine incidents, including Stinson’s.
Negative headlines for police
The proposed settlements with Stinson and Volpe come as the Bridgeport Police Department has garnered negative headlines over other issues: black cops allegedly drafting racist letters targeting African-American members of the force; the possible theft of $30,000 from an evidence safe; and the placing of an officer on administrative duty after his AR-15 assault rifle went missing and was later recovered on the streets by members of the Gang Task Force.
The police department is also at a crossroads in terms of leadership.
Ganim had pledged to move quickly to fill dozens of vacancies that he and others argued have led to increases in homicides and nonfatal shootings. Ganim was also expected to let Police Chief Joseph Gaudett’s contract expire in December. But Finch in his final days in office extended Gaudett’s contract another five years.
As Ganim figures out what to do with the inherited chief, he has hired Wilbur Chapman, who ran the police department during Ganim’s final years in office, as a public safety consultant.
Chapman has insisted there is only one chief in town — Gaudett.
But Ganim appears to be intentionally sidelining Gaudett by instead working with Chapman and A.J. Perez, who helms the detective bureau and was Ganim’s driver when he was last mayor.