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What Do You Get for Kicking Handcuffed Suspects? Promoted and $130,000 Annual Pension for Life

by Derek Gilna

In most jobs, if you kick a defenseless person multiple times and attempt to cover it up, you will not only get fired, but will probably also get arrested and sent to jail.  Not so in Hartford, Conn., where cops, Steven Barone and Christopher Mastroianni, kicked and stomped handcuffed suspects Ricardo Perez and Emilio Diaz back in June 2016. After being disciplined internally for their abusive behavior, both Barone and Mastroianni were promoted to higher paying positions in the police department in September 2017.

Both suspects fled from police and engaged in a car chase before they were apprehended and handcuffed. Mugshots showing multiple injuries to their face and head prompted an excessive-force investigation by internal affairs.

Another cop involved in the incident, Sean Spell, who stomped one of the suspects in the head while he was on the ground, was not as lucky but still managed to cash in despite his brutal actions caught on dash cam video. He was arrested and forced to retire, but the 46-year-old managed to keep his taxpayer-funded pension of nearly $130,000 a year for the rest of his life.

The promotion of these two cops and allowing another disgraced cop to quietly resign and still keep his pension are even more remarkable given the internal affairs investigation that took place after the incident revealed gross misconduct. After the chase ended, Barone manually shut off his police cruiser’s dash cam video recorder and told  investigators that he did so because he didn’t feel that it was “relevant” to have the camera on, even though the position of his vehicle would have captured at least part of the scene. 

Barone’s acknowledgement that he turned off the camera prompted investigators with the state’s attorney to be “concerned that the video was physically tampered with” and have the police cruiser video equipment tested.

Mastroianni was disciplined because he delayed filing supplemental police and use-of-force report until a full week after the suspects were arrested. During the internal affairs investigation, Mastroianni admitted that he “delivered multiple foot strikes to Mr. Diaz’s torso area” and acknowledged that he “should have known better.”

Officials with the police department and city dismissed the outrage sparked by the promotions and lifetime pension. Deputy Police Chief Brian Foley said, “None of the officers promoted were disciplined for excessive force. Both officers were disciplined for policy and procedural violations. The officers were given their discipline and then passed over for previous promotions.” This brings to mind the expression: If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said without a hint of irony, “As a city, we are committed to transparency and openness, we have an outstanding and dedicated police force, and we expect our officers to uphold the highest standards – and to be held accountable when they fall short.” Many local residents likely find this statement a bit difficult to swallow in light of the promotions and $130,000-a-year lifetime pension recently handed out. 



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