July 12 - 19, 2006
By ANDY HART, The Hartford News Staff Writer
Up until a few weeks ago, Daryl Roberts was planning to retire from the Hartford Police Department at the end of this summer and assume a top-level security position at the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC).
And then he was asked to take over as Hartford’s top cop upon the retirement of Chief Patrick Harnett.
Roberts discussed his options with his family and others, including his pastor at St. John’s Full Gospel Deliverance Church, Apostle Johnny Wilson. “I talked it over with my pastor...he told me to follow my heart and I did,” said Roberts, who will be sworn in as Hartford’s police chief this evening at Hartford City Hall.
Roberts said he envisions staying on as chief for at least seven to eight years (“if the city will have me”) and wants to bring stability to a position that has changed hands several times in the past decade.
In his 23 years with HPD, Roberts has worked a great deal with Hartford youth so it is no surprise that one of his first projects will also concern the city’s young people. On Monday afternoon, Roberts was in the middle of drawing up a proposal to revive the city’s truancy program. Although he said he is still in the preliminary stages of the project and is not sure whether HPD or Board of Education personnel would actually be dealing with youngsters (ages 7-15) who are habitually skipping school, he hopes to have the program in place by the time school starts in September.
“I’m a firm believer that everyone wants a certain amount of discipline deep down, especially kids. It shows that people care enough about you to make you want to do the right thing,” said Roberts.
A lack of caring is a primary reason why kids join gangs, Roberts said. “Young people are looking for someone to care about them and that’s what a gang offers.”
Roberts said he will continue Chief Harnett’s emphasis on community policing, but emphasized, “Some people get the wrong idea. Community policing doesn’t mean soft on crime...if you’re out there doing the right thing, you’re going to love your relation ship with the police. But if you’re doing the wrong thing, trust me, you’re going to hate your relationship with the police department.”
Although Roberts said the police are concentrating on reducing the sharp rise in violent crimes and shooting, other problems are not being neglected. He said the department’s top officers meet every week and go over the crime statistics from throughout the city. “If we see a spike in any kind of crime, we are going to address that problem,” he said.
Roberts is a Hartford native and a graduate of Naylor School (“I’m a Naylor Knight,” he smiles) and Bulkeley High School. He starred in track and football at Bulkeley and wanted to play in the NFL until a knee injury cut short his gridiron career. He said he first began seriously thinking about his other career option, police work, at age 11. “I guess it was because we always had some very good officers in the neighborhood and I admired them. It seemed like a worthy and honorable job.”