State police probe delayed home invasion response [Journal Inquirer]

January 24, 2014

Article as it appeared in the Journal Inquirer
By Jonathan M. Stankiewicz
Journal Inquirer

Posted: Friday, January 24, 2014 12:19 pm

State police are probing an allegation that their response was delayed by 1½ hours Monday afternoon when they received a report of a home invasion in Windham that left two children locked in a bathroom.

State Sen. Tony Guglielmo, R-Stafford, said he is “sickened” by the news of the delayed police response.

Guglielmo, a member of the legislature’s Public Safety Committee, issued a statement Thursday questioning the consolidation of four state police dispatch centers in eastern Connecticut.

The consolidation of the dispatch centers at the Troop C barracks in Tolland began in October and took full effect Oct. 28, after a similar consolidation in the western part of the state.

Troop C is now the centralized dispatch center for Troops D in Killingly, E in Montville, and K in Colchester.

Wendy Merchant, the fiancée of Windham homeowner Troy Quick, said today that the home invasion was reported to police around 4:30 p.m. Monday. Merchant said she wasn’t home at the time.

She said Quick’s children, a 12-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl locked themselves in a bathroom when they heard two men break into the home.

She said state troopers based at Troop K in Colchester didn’t respond until 1½ hours after the children first called 911.

State police ‘cooperative’

But Merchant also said, “The state police have been very cooperative and keeping in contact with Troy daily.”

Merchant said the troopers who finally arrived at the home were “really disturbed” by the situation.
“The troopers said they were upset that they didn’t know the severity of the situation,” she said.

Master Sgt. Donna Tadiello, a state police spokeswoman, confirmed early today that an investigation is underway into the alleged delay in the police response. She said the department’s Professional Standards Unit started the investigation when the delay was reported.

Tadiello said the investigation into the home invasion, which is being conducted by major crimes detectives, is moving in a “positive direction.”

Merchant said she is “absolutely” glad the police are investigating the response time to the home invasion. “We don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” she said.

Connecticut State Police Union President Andrew Matthews said today that the union has reached out to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office for an immediate and comprehensive review of the consolidated dispatching at Troop C.

“We believe that if we still had local control at the troop level, we wouldn’t have had this incident,” he said.

State police officials, however, have argued that the consolidation of dispatching has streamlined the force, making procedures more efficient and keeping troopers and civilians safer.

Unprecedented delay

As to Monday’s home invasion, Matthews, a 16-year veteran, said he has never heard of such a slow response by the state police.

Matthews said blame falls directly on Col. Daniel R. Stebbins, the state police commander.

“The colonel has compromised the safety of the public and the troopers in the field,” he said.

Matthews said when the dispatch consolidation occurred that experienced dispatchers were replaced by “call takers.” He said the call takers go through only a roughly eight-week course before starting work.

“They truly have no experience being dispatchers,” he said. “We’ve been telling the colonel’s office for months.”
Matthews said the union has seen an estimated four- to eight-minute delay in getting information from the consolidated dispatch center in Tolland.

He said call takers don’t have the ability to dispatch calls anymore because they are logging calls into a system, then sending the calls to a dispatcher in the same room.

Guglielmo has asked the state’s commissioner of emergency services and public protection to investigate the Windham home invasion.

“The two teens in this case are to be commended for their bravery,” the senator said. “Calling 911 during a home invasion is what we teach our kids to do. The fact that it may have taken an hour and a half for the state police to respond is troubling.”

On the dispatch center consolidation efforts, Guglielmo said, “It’s unclear how some savings … makes sense from a public safety standpoint.”

“The citizens of Connecticut should not be put in jeopardy because of these consolidations,” he said.