Media manipulates police report that actually showed officer discipline in “dead pool” incident was excessive

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HARTFORD, CT- Last December, we reported on a situation in Hartford, Connecticut where a then-police detective had sent a group text message to a group of peers.

In that text, he made a tongue-in-cheek joke about starting a pool to determine when the first homicide would take place in 2021. Our original reporting may be found below.

As a result of the text message, the detective, Jeffrey Placzek of the department’s major crime division was suspended for 120 days and demoted. However, after an independent review, it was determined that Police Chief Jason Thody’s discipline was “excessive.” We hate it when we’re right.

One interesting factoid that came out when the findings were released was the way it was portrayed by local Connecticut media. For example, Fox 61, which has a history of unfairly portraying police officers, boasted in a headline:

“Independent review finds Hartford police addressed ‘deadpool’ wager incident in swift and timely manner.”

 

Buried in the lead however was the fact that the review also found Thody’s discipline to be “excessive.”

Meanwhile, the same information in the Connecticut Post?

“Review finds Hartford police discipline ‘excessive’ in ‘dead pool’ probe.”

Guess it all depends on whether you choose to merely report the news with the most important finding being the lead or join in with the anti-cop mob.

While the review said the department’s response to the incident was “timely and effective,” they also found it to be “excessive,” according to the consultant, Integrated Security Services out of New York. The firm also concluded that outside pressure [from the grievance mob likely] should not have affected the disciplinary process, the Post reported.

They wrote:

“While social media can broaden the conversation and the genesis for greater transparency, it also has the potential to create unwarranted turmoil. Allowing alternate authorities, armchair experts and social media evangelists [emphasis added] to influence a legitimate authority undermines responsible police professionals and does not serve the public interest. Law enforcement leaders are trusted to manage professionally as illustrated in this instance by the executive leadership at the Hartford Police Department.”

In response, Thody, who last year was disciplined for being involved in an evading motor vehicle accident in Chester, Connecticut, some 30 miles south of Hartford, stood by his decision.

In a prepared statement released with the report on Thursday, he defended his actions.

“I believe that the callousness and lack of compassion expressed in his text was in no way humorous and was profoundly damaging to our community,” he said. “I believe that transfer, demotion and suspension were absolutely justified.”

Continuing, he said:

“It will take a long time to repair the damage this incident caused to the community, the department and the relationship we share,” he said.

“I stand by the need for swift, meaningful, and fair discipline to discourage this type of behavior, and encourage supervisors to do the right thing quickly. Members of the community were deeply impacted and lost faith in the police department. The department’s reputation was damaged and our officers along with it.”

Thody acknowledged the report’s recommendations for improved interaction between the police department and the community, including a better understanding by officers of the community.

The report also acknowledged the impact of stress on police officers last year, likely caused by the anti-police sentiment fomented by politicians and community activists and said the mental health of police officers should be a high priority given the overwhelming workload during 2020 subsequent to the Floyd case in Minneapolis.

“We have taken steps to increase access to mental health supports, including through expanded in-service training, a more proactive employee assistance program, and developing a more active chaplain corps,” Thody’s statement said.

The report cost the city $6,000, and also addressed how morale within the ranks of a police department can be negatively impacted when controversies are played out in the media and by political opportunists.

Hartford city councilman Joshua Michtom complained about the report.

“The report focused on no actual harm came to the citizens, no explicit racist terms were used, and those things are true but sets a pretty low bar of how we want police to conduct themselves,” he said.

So, in the text message there was no racist tone to the message, Michtom acknowledged that, but still complains that no mention was made of racism in the report? That’s because there wasn’t a racial component to the text.

The findings of the report even acknowledged that there was:

“no indication that Placzek’s intent “was anything other than trying to be humorous.’ No members of the Hartford Police Department or the public were injured or suffered any negative consequences. Objectively, there is no indication of any racially motivated theme in his text.”

In addressing Thody’s excessive discipline, the report read:

“…excessive discipline, which includes numerous days of suspension, reassignment and demotion can have a deleterious impact on an already fragile workplace environment.”

One resident of Hartford, who clearly already possesses an anti-police bias was interviewed by Fox 61 and said:

“I think that was very wrong and inappropriate. I think he should be fired. I don’t trust cops period and they say black lives matter and we really don’t in my opinion.”

In response to the report, the Hartford Police Union released the following statement:

“The Hartford Police Union wants to thank City Council for their request to have the “Deadpool” investigation reviewed by an outside agency. While we concur with the findings of the review, we find it disgusting certain Council members were calling for Lieutenant Cicero and Detective Placzek to be fired without just cause.

If Council continues to treat members of the Hartford Police Department in this manner, the City will continue to fail in the recruiting and retaining of officers. We demand that Chief Thody not fall to political pressure and render a fair discipline to Detective Placzek and Lieutenant Cicero.

The Hartford Police Union also feels a Council apology to our members is in order.”

To offer some perspective to the discipline received by Off. Placzek, by virtue of his 120-day suspension, he was “fined” the equivalent of around $30,000 in lost wages, not including overtime or extra duty and not including salary lost due to being demoted.

Conversely, an overwhelming majority of the slugs who have been arrested in cities such as Minneapolis, Portland, and other major cities who have caused millions of dollars in damage and who have been responsible for injuries to police officers and death to citizens, haven’t paid a dime in fines, nor have they spent a minute in jail.

Nothing.

In fact, the officer in Washington, DC who shot and killed an unarmed woman who was a threat to nobody will not face charges, or in fact any discipline.

That folks is called (un)equal justice.

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LET Unity

For our original reporting on this incident, we invite you to:

DIG DEEPER

This article contains editorial content written by a retired Chief of Police and current staff writer for Law Enforcement Today.

HARTFORD, CT- Well, the hammer has dropped on a story we reported on this past weekend from Hartford.

The moral of the story is this…send a tongue in cheek text message where you speak about a mock bet on when the first homicide of 2021 will occur, and you get demoted and the equivalent of at least a $30,000 fine in lost wages. 

However, get in an evading accident while 30 miles out of town, fail to report the accident to the state police, and inflict over $3,300 in damage to your city-owned vehicle and you get a slap on the wrist. Oh, and while 911 callers report erratic driving, and believe that you’re also under the influence.

Copy that. 

Detective Jeffrey Placzek was suspended for 120 days without pay and demoted for sending the clearly joking text message last week to select police officers and apparently court officials, NBC Connecticut reported. 

Placzek’s return to duty is contingent upon passing a “fitness for duty” evaluation as well as completing a “restorative justice program,” whatever that is. 

Not happy with merely screwing with Placzek, Thody also removed Lt. Paul Cicero, supervisor of the Major Crimes Division from his role as department public information officer, and suspended him from overseeing the Major Crimes Division effective immediately, pending the outcome of an investigation. He was one of the recipients of the text message, according to Thody. 

Thody said Cicero and other supervisors who received the text message could also be subject to discipline. 

He said that the investigation should be completed by the end of the week. 

In a statement, Thody said:

“It is critical that every member of the Hartford Police Department conduct themselves in a way that builds and strengthens a relationship of trust with our community, and this conduct undermined that relationship and undermined the work of every single officer on our force,” Thody said in a statement. 

Apparently, that conduct does not include wrecking your department-owned vehicle and fleeing the scene of the accident, at least when you’re the chief. 

Thody, who actually publicized the incident via a Facebook post, said he was “disgusted, angry and disappointed” when he read the message. He was also angry that none of the supervisors had taken any action against Placzek after receiving the text. 

Detective Placzek is a 16-year veteran of the Hartford PD, with a clean disciplinary record aside from one minor incident, which he self-reported where an elevator button was damaged. 

Hartford’s mayor Luke Bronin supported Thody’s decision to both suspend and demote the officer. 

“The officer who sent this message demonstrated a profound disrespect for our community and s deeply troubling lack of judgment.

Chief Thody has imposed serious discipline, including both demotion in rank and a lengthy four-month suspension without pay, which I support, and I expect that additional discipline will be coming for supervisors who received this message and failed to take action,” Bronin said. 

Bronin, who was the one who gave Thody the slap on the wrist for the May accident doesn’t seem to care as much about Thody’s lack of judgment in crashing a city vehicle while being reported as a possible drunk driver.

Perhaps because Bronin hired Thody he doesn’t want HIS lack of judgment called into question. 

NBC Connecticut reached out to the Hartford Police Union, but received no response. It is expected Placzek will appeal his discipline. 

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LET Unity

Following is our original reporting on this incident:

We have seen all across the country where police have been targeted by radicals, politicians, Hollywood hypocrites and sports “stars.” That is to be expected because by and large, all of the above are phony, opportunistic morons.

What grinds our gears however is when police chiefs decide to play politics and put their own political survival above that of their department and their officers. The chief of Houston, Art Acevedo is probably the best example of a political hack.

Now it looks like Hartford, CT., police chief Jason Thody is vying for first place.

According to the Hartford Courant, Hartford has seen a 36.7% increase in shootings year to year from 2019 to 2020. While the number is less than two years ago, it’s still on the increase. This was from an article in July, so it only covered roughly the first six months of the year.

So, with that being said, what is the priority of the Hartford police chief? Text messages.

Chief Thody is very upset. An incident which clearly could have been handled internally was so upsetting to Thody that he just had to send it out on the department’s Facebook page. What got the chief’s shorts in a bunch?

Apparently, a police detective assigned to the Major Crimes unit sent a text to a group of officers and court officials, proposing a wager about when the first homicide of 2021 would occur. That was it. Oh, the humanity!

As someone who worked in law enforcement for many years, let me tell you that such talk among peers is nothing out of the ordinary.

In fact, such talk is often used as a means of “venting” if you will. The fact that this particular detective made such a comment is not shocking to 99.9% of men and women who work in police agencies. For Thody however it was apparently the end of the world.

In his Facebook post, Thody admitted that no such wager ever took place. He was however very upset over what he called an “appalling lack of judgment, an extreme insensitivity toward our community, and a clear violation of Department policy.”

Thody promised “serious disciplinary consequences.”

Media manipulates police report that actually showed officer discipline in "dead pool" incident was excessive
Hartford Police Department Facebook www.facebook.com/HPDCT screenclip

I’m not sure if Thody’s response to what was clearly a tongue in cheek text message is more disturbing than the fact that someone decided to notify Thody about it.

This isn’t a case where an officer advocated any kind of nefarious conduct. It was a joke, which actually used to be allowed in law enforcement circles. The other question is: Why did Thody feel it necessary to post this on the department’s Facebook page?

Nowhere in the text, as far as what Thody mentioned, was there any denigration directed toward anyone within the Hartford Police Department. Thody is upset because he claims the text “does a disservice to the incredibly hard work that so many of our officers are doing on a daily basis to prevent and solve serious crimes.” How so?

Thody goes on to rail about building trust, assuming with the community. If that is truly the case, what possible purpose did it serve to release this publicly? To try and get out in front of it? Perhaps. But this is not a police misconduct case. This was a text, sent to a selected group of recipients, not a department-wide email.

Thody removed the detective from Major Crimes and promised to charge the officer with violating the code of conduct Saturday afternoon. Fortunately, this officer will have the ability to appeal the discipline.

The responses to Thody’s email were probably not what he was expecting. Following are some of the highlights:

-Ian Nathaniel: Chief, either you’ve become a political figure, or you’ve sat behind a desk for so long that you’ve genuinely become far out of touch with the reality of becoming a cop.

Humor is how cops get through the traumatic things they see and experience. The fact that you let a simple joke that this detective made get taken so far out of context to make it seem as if he doesn’t care about his community is disgusting.

-Buford T Justice: This is the type of Chief, who if he thought tap dancing with a clown nose and big shoes on a iced over bridge would solve community relations he would do it. Not to solve community relations issues, but to keep a paycheck and pander to those who hate law enforcement. It’s the oldest trick in the book, keep people looking at your right hand while your left hand does all the work. This is the example of a Chief that you do not want to work for. Take note young children, this is not what leadership looks like. This is what pandering looks like.

– Eddie Ed: This affects the safety and security of the citizens of Hartford how? This rates this level of attention? This detective must have been on your short list to begin with. Sounds like an end to a witch hunt. Take a cue from professional sports in this case and keep these types of things in the locker room. Discipline in private that which has no direct effect on anyone but those in the locker room.

– Kcaz Daws: Just out of curiosity, Chief was your DUI placed in a press release by the agency? Such as this one? Legitimately asking.

As many said, you’re a politician now and not a LEO.

The Detective violated policy and conduct, I 100% agree with reprimand BUT this isn’t something that should be blasted and made public. Phenomenal job making your officers walk on egg shells. Humor, maybe not to this extent, is part of a coping mechanism by ALL first responders, hospital workers, military, etc. Does it cross the line? Absolutely, should that be addressed? Absolutely. Should it be blasted to a public forum? No.

You lost a ton of respect from LEOs across the country because of this move and I can almost bet that you lost a lot from your own subordinates.

And finally, the comment of the day:

What in the blue falcon, double standard, totally failed upward, completely scuffed kneepad, back biting, REMF, brown nosed, utterly obsequious, Benedict Arnold, stab them in the back to climb over the corpse of their career, utterly recreant, disloyal, dishonorable, unscrupulous, underhanded, two faced, boot licking, duplicitous, shifty, narcissistic, venal, mercenaries, doble dealing, unscrupulous, mendacious, treacherous, rimjobbing, traitorous, should be on the Brady List, never drank a Bang in his life, white shirt nuzzling, deceitful, Luke Bronin guzzling, surreptitious, inveigling, height of hypocrisy, morale crushing idiocy is this??

A dark humor text…and the Rectal Jester who had a single vehicle accident (while being called in as a drunk driver) and failed to follow proper procedure wants to discipline that detective??

He sent a text. It’s not like he drove recklessly enough to possibly kill someone.

So, what is this about Thody allegedly driving drunk?

According to NBC Connecticut, Thody was driving his city issued vehicle on Route 154 in Chester, Connecticut on May 31, when he was involved in a single vehicle accident with the car scraping against a guardrail, according to an investigative report.

There had been a 911 call made to the Connecticut State Police, which was made available by that agency on July 7 where another car had witnessed Thody driving erratically, complaining that the driver appeared to be intoxicated.

 

The Hartford Courant said that the caller told emergency dispatchers in the call that Thody’s vehicle was speeding and veering “all over the road.” He also claimed the vehicle was “flying” along Route 154.

“There’s a law enforcement agency guy in front of me who’s intoxicated. He hit the guardrail on 154,” the caller said.

“He’s going like a bat out of hell. I mean I’m going 60 and I can’t keep up with him,” the caller told the 911 operator.

According to Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, Thody had admitted that he was “driving distracted” during the incident, saying his phone slid off the center console which led him to swerve. 

Bronin meanwhile claimed that state law exempts police from distracted driving laws.

That is correct, however it is only while “in the performance of their duties.”

Thody was likely not “on duty” thirty miles outside of Hartford. Bronin claimed that Thody was responding to the city due to protests in Hartford subsequent to the George Floyd incident in Minneapolis.

Thody apparently never notified the state police of the accident, with Bronin claiming there was no damage to the guard rail or any other property. However, that is hard to believe since there was over $3,300 damage to Thody’s vehicle.

Since Thody never reported the incident to state police, it is unknown if he was in fact intoxicated at the time of the crash.

How ironic that Thody decides to discipline a cop for a text message just months after he evaded responsibility in a motor vehicle crash likely while under the influence. He criticized the detective for doing a “disservice to the incredibly hard work that so many of our officers are doing on a daily basis.” 

We would offer that evading responsibility in an accident where some suggest he may have been intoxicated does more of a “disservice to the hard work of Hartford police officers” than a flipping text message.

This guy has lost any and all credibility he had left with his department.

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