New Bridgeport police chief pledges community engagement
A months-long national police chief search ended with former Capt. Roderick Porter tapped to lead the Bridgeport Police Department.
“I don't take it for granted, and I don’t take it lightly,” Porter said at a news conference Thursday where Mayor Joe Ganim announced his pick to plenty of applause.
Once he’s sworn in on Dec. 1, Porter said he’ll get to work making sure making city neighborhoods get the police services they need.
“We cannot be successful in how we police the city of Bridgeport if we do not seriously engage the community in a collaborative way,” Porter said of his plans.
The 30-year veteran, who recently retired, was one of three finalists for the job following a search by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Nineteen candidates were narrowed down to Porter, acting Chief Rebecca Garcia and Capt. Lonnie Blackwell.
Ganim told the crowd all three were “outstanding top cops,” and it was a difficult decision. He also praised Porter's commitment to outreach in the community.
“I've asked him to do with me together, get out in the neighborhoods and rebuild the bond and the trust of the residents as he does with the department as well,” said Ganim.
The mayor’s choice for chief comes after his last one—back in 2018—ended in scandal. Porter was finalist in that search too, but Ganim went with his friend, then-acting Chief AJ Perez. In 2020, Perez was arrested on federal charges he cheated to get the job. He later pleaded guilty and spent less than a year in prison. For this police search, the IACP was brought in and the community had input. The three finalists took part in public forums and a Q&A with the city council.
“It took me a while to get here, but I’m here now, and I’m going to do the best that I can do,” Porter pledged.
He’s spent the past few months working as a substitute teacher in Bridgeport, something he said has shown him the importance of investing in the city's kids. Community members told News 12 that is critical to reducing crime and improving quality of life there.
“I think the big issue is youth-on-youth crime,” said City Council Member Mary McBride Lee. “I think it’s going to mean a lot for our kids because most of them look like him, and they are from the same place that he is from.”
Harry Bell, who worked as a guard in the school system, echoed that. “Especially in cities like this, we need chiefs that kind of look like the kids in our city.” Bell said he hopes Porter can bridge the gap between young people and police.
The department is currently down about 100 officers. Porter said, while they are recruiting, he plans to realign some things to make sure the current manpower is being used as efficiently as possible. He said some people will need to take on more responsibilities.
“We need to put our focus not on us as individual officers but what we provide and what we can do for our community,” Porter stressed.
Ganim thanked Garcia for her leadership over the past two years and said, “She didn’t ask for the job but didn’t hesitate to step up to the challenge.” She will continue to serve as acting chief throughout the month. He said he didn’t know if she’d stay on with the department after but hoped she would. Garcia wasn’t at the announcement, but Blackwell, the other finalist, was. He received a round of applause from the crowd.
The Greater Bridgeport National Association for the Advancement of Colored People released the following statement in response to Porter becoming the new chief:
The Greater Bridgeport National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (GBNAACP) wholly supports Mayor Ganim’s decision to hire Retired Captain Roderick Porter as its new chief of police.
Reverend D Stanley Lord, president of the GBNAACP, cites that the Bridgeport police, the city’s leadership, and all its residents are best served by the selection of the best candidate in the field of eligible public servants for Roderick Porter, a 30-year veteran, and now the top law enforcement officer for the City of Bridgeport.
“We believe this has been an equitable process for the City of Bridgeport and the protection, service, and futures for all of its diverse taxpayers, families, and businesses,” Lord said. "He is fully committed and responsible for ensuring the quality and respect of human life are his top priority.”
The GBNAACP has expressed ongoing concerns over the hiring and retention actions of the city and its police department. Lord said that these issues have been at the forefront of decisions made most often without consideration for the true complexion of this community. “For the racial and gender makeup of the city, we have lacked seeing key law enforcement leadership that looks like and represents the city’s true demographics; what Bridgeport looks like.”
The GBNAACP has long cited that the Bridgeport Police Department – with its uniformed officers, undercover teams, investigators, and administrative team – is charged with keeping the peace, serving our needs, and supporting safety and laws fairly and without bias. Reverend Lord added that too often, people here have not felt that was true. “We will hold Captain Porter to that commitment as his service moves forward,” he said. “We look forward to supporting him to accomplish a mission that supports those goals for more diversity, inclusion, and equity for the community and the teams of law enforcement professionals that he now leads. We wish him all the best in doing so.”
The GBNAACP is looking onward and upward now that this selection process is complete, we look forward to a progressive stance and a wide scope of engagement with Captain Porter at the helm.