Typically Neutral Wilton Police Union Makes Rare Endorsement, to Support Zucaro

The Wilton Police Union has joined with the local police unions in Norwalk and Westport to take an unusual step–endorsing a candidate running for political office. Late last night, it was announced that they’ve thrown their weight behind Patrizia Zucaro, the Republican candidate running for State Representative in CT’s 143rd House district, which includes parts of Norwalk, Westport, and Wilton.

Unlike for statewide police organizations, the move to declare support for a partisan candidate is an uncharacteristic one for local police unions, which historically remain neutral when it comes to politics. But the passage of police accountability legislation in the July special session of the CT General Assembly–a law that was introduced and supported by Democrats–is something the unions say pushed them to choose a side.

EDITOR’S NOTE (Update, 10:35 a.m.):  It’s important to clarify that the Wilton Police Union represents the officers of the Wilton Police Department. The endorsement did not come from the Wilton Police Department, which is a department of the town of Wilton and a separate entity from the union.

Speaking on behalf of the three unions, Sgt. Anna Tornello, president of the Wilton Police Union, said, “[Union] members, the men and women who have pledged to serve and protect their communities and to ensure that all rights of all citizens are equally preserved, have trusted their elected officials to legislate in support of the safety of all individuals, the public, and their servants alike. Instead, our state legislators rushed to pass one of the strongest anti-Police bills in the country, a bill that promotes hatred and divisiveness instead of seeking understanding and reconciliation.”

Tornello was quoted in a press release sent out late Sunday evening by Zucaro’s campaign announcing the endorsement.

The announcement was accompanied by a longer statement signed by Tornello and the presidents of the other two police groups–Lt. David O’Connor of the Norwalk Police Union and the Westport Police Union’s Cpl. Howard Simpson.

The statement pointed to George Floyd’s death while in police custody in Minneapolis as the turning point for a partisan-backed bill:

“Instead, after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, our State legislators have rushed to a crowd-pleasing judgment and condemnation of their local Police forces, merely based on hijacked emotions rather than factual data. As a result, in July Connecticut passed one of the strongest anti-Police bills in the country, whose success was ensured solely by partisan effort. Hastily put together, without any meaningful consultation with those who were to be mostly affected by it, the bill demonizes and vilifies Police, accusing officers of random and intentional wrongdoings under the alleged “shielding” power of a largely misunderstood qualified immunity.”

We serve with integrity, and we ask for our legislators to serve our State with integrity, and not in the blatant furtherance of partisan political interests.

The Wilton, Westport, and Norwalk Local Police Unions therefore ask you to stand with us in support of Patrizia Zucaro, as an advocate for the safety of our communities, and the safety of the men and women who have devoted their lives to the service of the public.

Commenting on the endorsement, Zucaro is quoted in the announcement, saying, “I am truly honored to have received this endorsement because I have so much respect for the work that the Wilton, Norwalk, and Westport Police Departments do every day to keep our communities safe. It’s a difficult job they do, often at great risk to their own lives, and it is the legislature’s responsibility to ensure that they have the tools and the means to perform it successfully.”

On her campaign website, under a list of “priorities” entitled “Approaching the Complex Issues We Face with Balance–Not Politics, Zucaro makes a similar statement, which also includes a reference to individual rights:  “Ensure that law enforcement professionals have the means to keep our communities safe while respecting the rights of every individual.”

Zucaro recorded an “informational video” about the law (see below), which explains seven “major points” made by the legislation. In the video she does not make an evaluative statement for or against the law, and says that the points she discusses are “not meant to be inclusive,” but suggests viewers “take the time to research it on their own.” The video is available on Zucaro’s Facebook page.

In September, Zucaro signed her name to a letter to the editor along with other Republican candidates expressing opposition “to the so-called ‘police accountability’ law.”

The seven candidates (including Jonathan Riddle, challenging U.S. Rep. Jim Himes) write that their opposition doesn’t mean accountability in police isn’t necessary, but instead is based on the way the legislation was crafted: “This bill was rushed, failed to have an adequate public hearing, failed to include legislation that would truly remove bad actors, and requires additional examination of facts after its enactment. The law casts extraordinary doubt on the ability of even the absolute best police departments and law enforcement officers to discharge their civic responsibilities professionally and fairly.”

Full joint statement from Wilton, Westport and Norwalk Police Unions:

The Local Police Unions of Wilton, Westport, and Norwalk stand together to endorse Patrizia Zucaro, candidate for State Representative of the 143rd district.

Local Police Unions have historically aimed to maintain a neutral position in political matters. Their members, the men and women who have pledged to serve and protect their communities and to ensure that all rights of all citizens are equally preserved, have trusted their elected officials to legislate in support of the safety of all individuals, the public and their servants alike.

Instead, after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, our State legislators have rushed to a crowd-pleasing judgment and condemnation of their local Police forces, merely based on hijacked emotions rather than factual data. As a result, in July Connecticut passed one of the strongest anti-Police bills in the country, whose success was ensured solely by partisan effort. Hastily put together, without any meaningful consultation with those who were to be mostly affected by it, the bill demonizes and vilifies Police, accusing officers of random and intentional wrongdoings under the alleged “shielding” power of a largely misunderstood qualified immunity.

In spite of rational and in-depth analysis of the various aspects of the bill that jeopardize Police officers and communities alike, blatantly partisan support ensured the passing of a bill that limits officers’ right to due process, establishes extremely vague standards for decertification, places an unreasonable burden on officers and expands on personal liability in situations of use of force, dramatically curtailing the ability of officers to confidently respond to calls and take the quick action that is often necessary to protect our communities.

It is an act of legislation that promotes hatred and division, rather than seeking understanding and reconciliation. As a result, the men and women of law enforcement will now dread that life or death call, and dangerously hesitate when faced with the choice between protecting their own life or ensuring the survival of their own families.

Our message to the communities is that the men and women of our local Police Unions will continue to be proudly committed to the safety of the public, to the assistance of all those in need, and to the preservation of life and property of all people, with full respect of all diversity that is comprised in the definition of humanity. More than ever before we need your support, and we encourage you to engage in conversations with your local officers to better understand how this legislation has affected the officers’ ability to protect themselves and the communities they have sworn to protect.

We serve with integrity, and we ask for our legislators to serve our State with integrity, and not in the blatant furtherance of partisan political interests.

The Wilton, Westport, and Norwalk Local Police Unions therefore ask you to stand with us in support of Patrizia Zucaro, as an advocate for the safety of our communities, and the safety of the men and women who have devoted their lives to the service of the public.

Commenting on the endorsement, Patrizia Zucaro said, “I am truly honored to have received this endorsement because I have so much respect for the work that the Wilton, Norwalk, and Westport Police Departments do every day to keep our communities safe. It’s a difficult job they do, often at great risk to their own lives, and it is the legislature’s responsibility to ensure that they have the tools and the means to perform it successfully.”

Sgt. Anna Tornello, President, Wilton Police Union
Lt. David O’Connor, President, Norwalk Police Union
Cpl. Howard Simpson, President, Westport Police Union

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Every Tuesday during election season, GOOD Morning Wilton publishes a weekly composite article that includes all candidate endorsements issued in the previous week. Due to the significance of this endorsement, from a group that typically does not issue endorsements, we felt it was newsworthy and timely enough to cover the endorsement announcement now. 

2 COMMENTS

  1. This came across my newsfeed and I decided to watch the whole video. I very much appreciate Patrizia Zucaro taking the time to read this without commentary so I could actually hear what’s in the bill–it actually helped. I have to say, that I don’t see anything wrong with the points in the bill. It all seems to make sense. I would love to hear what our Wilton Police Dept Chief feels is the problem with it. It all seems very reasonable.

  2. I am saddened and disappointed to see our police department taking sides on an important political issue. Though I’m not a lawyer, clearly this political endorsement is a conflict of interest due to the endorsement being based on a bill that directly impacts them. This endorsement raises questions as to the independence and integrity of our police force.

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