New London — City police Chief Brian Wright was placed on administrative leave with pay on Wednesday.
According to New London Mayor Michael Passero’s office, Wright is facing an internal investigation regarding a complaint received Wednesday. A news release from Passero’s office states that an “outside legal investigator is conducting the investigation.”
Neville A. Brooks, a retired deputy chief of the Hartford Police Department, has been appointed as interim superintendent of police.
“He will assume the role of the head administrative officer of the City of New London Police Department during this investigation,” the release reads. “Mayor Passero remains confident in Chief Wright’s leadership of the New London Police Department.”
On Wednesday evening, Passero declined to comment further on the matter or to clarify what the investigation into Wright was regarding, except to emphasize what he said in the release about believing Wright would be back on duty in his position soon.
“We have not lost confidence in the chief, and we fully expect that he’ll back in the job at the conclusion of the investigation,” he said.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Wright declined to comment on the situation.
After nearly 27 years of service to the city police department, Wright was officially sworn in as police chief — the city’s first Black chief — during a ceremony July 14 at City Pier. During that ceremony, he said he was “grateful, honored and humbled,” and promised an open and transparent police department that acknowledges its shortcomings.
“When we mess up, we’ll fess up and we’ll fix it,” he said.
Wright was named acting chief, and later chief, when former Chief Peter Reichard abruptly announced his retirement in June.
Passero said Reichard opted not to renew his expiring contract, but later said Reichard retired shortly after Passero confronted him about secretly recorded audio. Reichard, according to the people who had listened to the audio, could be heard making disparaging remarks about the city, along with comments about being passed over for promotion in favor of minority candidates.
New London NAACP chapter Vice President Tamara Lanier said she and her chapter are “in a state of shock” over the news about Wright.
“We’re very upset. We’re upset with the process and the decision to place him on adminsitrative leave. We are going to be planning something in support of Chief Wright,” she said Wednesday evening. “We have to sort it out ourselves before making a full public statement, but we will definitely be planning some activities in support of Chief Wright.”
Lanier said that without the proper documentation, she wouldn’t want to comment on the specifics of the investigation, but added, “This is clearly an injustice, and I believe an attempt to smear the good character and the good name of Chief Wright.”
“As this becomes more real, we’re going to do what we can to clear this officer, this chief, and to rally the community behind him,” she added.
New London’s Police Community Relations Committee Chairwoman Kat Goulart said she doesn’t have details on the investigation and that the matter would not come before the committee because it is an internal investigation and the committee only reviews civilian complaints. She criticized Passero’s office putting out a news release regarding Wright’s administrative leave, calling it a “gross overreach.”
“I think it’s an overreaction to the mayor’s mishandling of the incident with former Chief Reichard’s tapes last time,” Goulart said. “We all know what happened with former Chief Reichard, the mayor tried to hide it, and eventually had to come clean. I think he’s trying to make up for that now and he’s gone way too far the other way.”
Goulart went on to say Chief Wright “is a man of integrity.”
“I think his merits speak for themselves,” she said, “and I certainly hope that he comes out on the right end of things.”
This is a developing story.