Was Chief John Troxell in the wrong for failing to include First Selectman Gayle Weinstein in his communications regarding the police department’s acquisition of two Humvees to be used in emergency situations?
Whatever the case, Troxell insisted Tuesday night that his decision to retire, announced last month, did not have to do with “a single issue.”
“There’s no single issue that has driven me to make my decision to retire,” Troxell said, adding his enthusiasm’s been “chipped away” over his 31 years of service to the town. “A chief has to know when it’s time for him to go, and I’ve reached that point. I’ve done everything there is possibly to do. Let somebody else take a shot at it.”
Troxell said he had “no animosity” towards the town or Weinstein.
“Gayle and I have a very good relationship,” he said, adding they’ve not always seen eye to eye on every issue, but were both professionals.
On the table Tuesday night was whether the police commission would allow the department use of the Humvees, which were obtained through a program that returns military vehicles and equipment to police departments. The commissioners unanimously voted to do so.
Troxell told the commissioners a bit about the vehicles before they voted.
“They were never deployed, solely used for vehicle transport and personnel transport,” he said. “One has 4,100 miles on it, the other 6,400 miles on it. They’re basically in mint condition.”
Troxell said that the department’s Crown Victoria vehicles do not hold up well in inclimate weather and that the department needs 4x4 vehicles. He said when he found out about the program, he jumped on the opportunity because he thought it could benefit the town.
“We’re kind of on our own here, until people can get to us,” Troxell said, adding that in the case of another storm of Irene proportions in which a lot of trees fell down, with the Humvees, we could “drive over [a tree] if we had to.”
Troxell said his department’s recent requests for vehicles have been denied. The department had to use the Board of Education’s SUVs during the last storm — “an embarrassment to the town,” according to resident John Dembishack — so he jumped on the opportunity.
“The most important thing we do as a police department in this town is respond to emergencies,” he said. “I felt it was a good choice to bring both of [the Humvees] back.”
Chain of command
The Humvees ended up in Weston after Troxell got permission from the commission, by a vote of six to one, to obtain them last month. According to state statutes, the chief is bound to the commission when making these sorts of decisions.
But ambiguous language in the town’s charter and chief’s contract led to no one-hundred-percent clearly defined hierarchy of to whom the chief must answer. Weinstein, as first selectman, has authority over the chief regarding “significant” matters and felt as though she should have been kept in the loop regarding these vehicles.
So the confusion began.
“My opposition is that you guys had this discussion via email instead of having it at a meeting,” Weinstein said. “I should have been informed of any major purchases that impact the town.”
Troxell said the vehicles cost virtually nothing to the town and they will be fitted for the road with Weston Police decals, red and blue lights and a siren, all for free. The Humvees will cost the town $531 each per year to insure.
“To me it just made perfect sense,” he said.
Weinstein reiterated she felt as though because police cruisers are in the capital budget, she should have been in the conversation regarding the acquisition.
“This whole thing has become so much of a bigger deal than it should have been,” she said.
Commissioner Jess DiPasquale said that Troxell’s actions were legal and justified, and “to convolute it and make it look like something was done wrong is just inappropriate.”
“We acted totally within our powers to do this,” Commissioner Beth Gralnick said.