Mayor: 2 detectives involved in Smith-Fields, Rawls death probes placed on administrative leave
Two Bridgeport detectives who were involved in the Lauren Smith Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls death investigations have been put on administrative leave, according to Mayor Joe Ganim.
They are the subject of a Bridgeport Police Department Internal Affairs investigation and disciplinary action due to their “lack of sensitivity to the public and their failure to follow police procedure in the handling of these two matters.”
“The Bridgeport Police Department has high standards for officer sensitivity especially in matters involving the death of a family member,” said Ganim in a video exclusively obtained by News 12. “It is an unaccepted failure that policies were not followed. To the families, friends, and all who care about human decency that should be shown in these situations – in this case, by members of the police department – I’m very sorry.”
The family of 53-year-old Brenda Lee Rawls told News 12’s Frank Recchia that the police department mishandled the investigation into her death. According to the family, they were disrespected by police and failed to be notified of her death in a timely manner.
The family told News 12 back in December that Rawls was found deceased in her home on Pearl Street but were not notified by police of her death.
She was found on the same day as Lauren Smith-Fields, 23, of Bridgeport. News 12 Connecticut was the first to report on the untimely death of Smith-Fields on Dec. 22 – a beloved college student who was found one day after a date that was made thought the app Bumble.
Three days later, News 12 broke a strikingly similar story about 53-year-old Brenda Lee Rawls, who authorities say was also found dead the same day in the same neighborhood by a different man she had gone out with on the same night, Dec. 11. In both cases, the families say they weren't notified by police and allege investigators were racially insensitive.
It was later revealed that Smith-Fields died from an overdose of drugs and alcohol. The police department opened a criminal investigation after the medical examiner released the cause of death.
Ganim told News 12 that insensitivity, disrespect in action, or deviation in policy will not tolerated by his administration.
“It should also be noted that the untimely death of Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls are both still under active investigation and have been reassigned to members of the Bridgeport Police Department to resolve,” said Ganim.
Full Statement from Mayor Joe Ganim:
I again would like to express condolences to the families of Lauren Smith-Fields, and also to the family of Brenda Lee Rawls.
I want you to know that I am extremely disappointed with the leadership of the Bridgeport Police Department and find actions taken up to this point unacceptable. After reviewing the matters even more closely and in the absence of the Police Chief, I have directed Deputy Chief Baraja to immediately put on administrative leave the two officers who are the subject of a Bridgeport Police Office of Internal Affairs (OIA) Investigation and disciplinary action for lack of sensitivity to the public and failure to follow police policy in the handling of these two matters.
To be clear:
EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY BOTH DETECTIVE LLANOS AND DETECTIVE CRONIN ARE SUSPENDED FROM DUTIES AND PUT ON ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE UNTIL SUCH TIME AS THE OIA INVESTIGATION AND DISCIPLINARY CASE HAVE BEEN COMPLETED.
In addition, the supervisory officer who was in charge of overseeing these matters has retired from the department as of this past Friday.
The Bridgeport Police Department has high standards for officer sensitivity especially in matters involving the death of a family member. It is an unacceptable failure if policies were not followed. To the families, friends and all who care about the human decency that should be shown in these situations in this case by members of the Bridgeport Police Department, I am very sorry.
I want to be clear to members of the public and the department that insensitivity, disrespect in action, or deviation from policy will not be tolerated by me or others in this administration. My disappointment and demand for accountability in these and any other matter brought to my attention will remain until all the questions are answered to the satisfaction of all.
It should also be known that the untimely death of Lauren Smith-Fields and Brenda Lee Rawls are both under active investigation and have been reassigned to members of the Bridgeport Police Department for resolution.
I want to thank Attorney Crossland [sic], and the families, and the thousands of others for reaching out asking the questions that needed to be asked and that still need answers. I as mayor, but also as a father, cannot fully comprehend what you must be going through. I can only pledge my continued support to try to ease your pain by getting answers and holding those responsible accountable.
STATEMENT FROM SMITH-FIELDS' FAMILY'S LAWYER:
"It's been over a month and in that time the family has had to grieve and advocate for justice at the same time. That is unfair and unacceptable. People from across the country and around the world heard our cries for justice yet the City of Bridgeport did not. The mayor’s statement today is a step in the right direction. The city is liable for the behavior of its police department and its officers. I am pleased that the mayor has accepted that liability publicly and has apologized to this family for the suffering they have endured."