Eric Brown is the attorney for the union that represents New London police officers. His job is a little harder these days, because he’s banned from all police buildings and properties in the city.
In a letter dated Nov. 27, Chief Margaret Ackley issued the ban, saying that Brown verbally assaulted her before a meeting at the main police station. She also filed a workplace violence complaint with the city.
“If Mr. Brown is seen on or in any NLPD building, property, or grounds, it is ordered that it shall be immediately reported to Command Staff,” Ackley wrote in the letter.
Brown, who lives in Cheshire and is the attorney for AFSCME Council 15, Connecticut Council of Police, said he’s believes he is being punished for doing his job properly. “I think I’ve been effective for the union at this point and that’s bothersome” to police officials, Brown said. “So it’s a little dysfunctional [situation] and it’s a little embarrassing to be in the middle of it.”
Brown says he never used any “sexist, vulgar or abusive language toward the chief.”
“I did make a comment which I would characterize as crude or coarse, but not atypical of use among police officers,” Brown said. “In describing her actions toward the union members that I represent I said, ‘You kick these guys in the balls and then you laugh about it.’ I’m sure I could have used nicer language, but I was trying to make a point. I certainly did not mean to offend anyone, including the chief, by the use of that phrase.”
Brown said because he lives about 60 miles from New London, he had asked that three disciplinary hearings for officers be set up one-after-the-other instead of at separate times during the day. However, Ackley refused. When Brown got to the first hearing late, he was barred from the conference room, he said.
He believes that being banned from the building is an unfair labor practice because it prevents him from doing his work. He also believes the ban may violate the First Amendment because the chief is retaliating against his criticism of her.
Brown said he has not received any formal notice of the ban, and has heard about it only through the press. He said he has never heard of a similar incident involving a union lawyer.
In her memo to Jane Glover, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, Ackley said that on Nov. 25 that Brown went “beserk for no apparent reason, used foul vulgar,sexist language, verbally assaulted me in the presence of my subordinates, and made me feel that he was going to physically attack me.”
She continued: “As the Chief of Police, I should not have to fear for my personal safety as it relates to the police union attorney. I deal with members of the public who are not always happy with police services, yet I have never had a member of the public at large conduct themselves in such a threatening manner as Attorney Brown displayed. Please let me know what steps are being taken to assure my safety and to put my (and my family) heart and mind at ease concerning this matter.”
According to The Day of New London, the chief and the union, headed by Officer Todd Lynch, have had a difficult relationship for years. It came to a head most recently over contract negotiations and an internal investigation into an alleged leak of information to the media during an open investigation. Each side has claimed the other side is lying.
Suzanne B. Sutton, the state’s first assistant chief disciplinary counsel, said she has given information reported in the press about the case, as it relates to Brown, to the state investigator.