CCSU police officer accused of sexual assault is fired

Published on Thursday, 29 November 2018 21:06
Written by LISA BACKUS

@LBACKUSNBH

NEW BRITAIN - After two investigations into the campus police department, officials at Central Connecticut State University on Thursday announced sweeping changes and the firing of an officer accused of sexually assaulting a female co-worker.

A report released Thursday morning conducted by former state Commissioner of Public Safety Bernard Sullivan indicates that the department had poor oversight during the tenure of retired Chief Jason Powell that impacted the current chief’s ability to deal with staffing issues and discipline.

Sullivan was hired by CCSU President Zulma Toro to overhaul the department earlier this year.

Under Powell, the university was fined $100,000 for violations of the Clery Act, which requires institutions of higher learning to annually report all on-campus crime, and the department lost national accreditation due to lack of attention to the process, Sullivan said.

Powell also hired six former Hartford police officers, some of whom had histories of disciplinary action or incidents in their background that would make them ineligible, Sullivan said.

Officer Curtis Lollar, who was accused of sexually assaulting a female officer, was one of the six former Hartford officers hired, even though he had served a 33-day suspension in his previous job.

Lollar was fired by CCSU in September and Sullivan said the university should take steps not to allow him to come back.

“His return would likely be extremely disruptive and would present significant concerns related to the potential for retaliation and a hostile working environment,” Sullivan said.

Powell was a former Hartford officer who retired from CCSU in 2013. His replacement, Chief Gregory Sneed, was left with a department with staffing shortages and a “fraternity” atmosphere that included “inappropriate behavior, banter or horseplay,” said Sullivan and attorneys from Shipman & Goodwin, the law firm hired by Toro in late 2017 to investigate the sexual-assault allegations.

Toro released Sullivan’s report Thursday morning as she announced changes in the way the department would be run.

“As of Saturday, the police department will report directly to me,” Toro said in an interview Thursday morning. “I will follow up on the progress they have made.”

Three alleged sexual assaults involving Lollar and the same female officer occurred in 2013 or 2014, Sullivan said. Sneed knew about the allegation in late 2016 but didn’t pursue an investigation after discussing the issue with CCSU Chief Administrative Officer Richard Bachoo, who oversaw the department, and the school’s human resources officer, Sullivan said.

The female officer did not want to pursue a complaint, so all three concluded that no action, including a criminal complaint, could be taken, Sullivan’s report said. The incident should have been reported to the school’s Title IX coordinator by Bachoo, but was not, Sullivan said.

Bachoo was placed on paid administrative leave in June after the release of the Shipman & Goodwin report. He remains on leave pending further investigation, Toro said Thursday.

Other officers were disciplined as a result of the investigations, Toro said, but she declined to provide details, citing personnel confidentiality.

The Herald has submitted a Freedom of Information request for any internal affairs investigations that resulted from the investigations.

The campus police department will hire more clerical administrative staff and sergeants to make sure every shift has adequate supervision, Toro said. The Human Resources Department will now have input on police hiring and new policies have been put in place for background checks.

All police supervisors attended a two-hour sexual harassment prevention training and several officers attended a training session about strategies for working with sexual violence victims, Toro said.

The entire department will also undergo sexual harassment and Title IX training in January.

Sullivan also set up new disciplinary procedures requiring supervisors to review personnel files to determine prior offenses before issuing counseling or discipline.

“I am very optimistic about moving forward for the police department to be able to gain the trust they had before,” Toro said.

Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.



Posted in New Britain Herald, New Britain on Thursday, 29 November 2018 21:06. Updated: Thursday, 29 November 2018 21:08.