Connecting Dots

Bear with me, as this is a long and winding post, relying on you to keep track of a number of points along the way.  As for the lines connecting, well, they’ll be twisted and obscured, when we’d much rather have straight and clean.

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Point One:

During the February 2nd public hearing held by the Public Safety Committee, state Senators pressed for clear answers as to why the National Guard base in East Haven was deemed “unsuitable” for the needs of the Connecticut State Police.  Two answers in particular need to be noted (and are repeated on DESPP’s ever-changing “State Police Range- FAQ“).  Answer one was that the number of days the National Guard range would be available for CSP use would be “insufficient”.  From the FAQ:

” In terms of availability, the East Haven facility is currently utilized by the National Guard throughout the year and would not be available to the State Police on all days. Specifically, CSP would be able to use the range for approximately 100 days between May and September, and 140 days from October to April. Since CSP can only assign 30 troopers per day to the range as the majority of troopers are deployed to cover posts and perform other critical duties daily, this schedule is insufficient to meet our needs.”

However, the math indicates differently.  If there are some 1100 Troopers, who must be divided into groups of 30, that means only 37 days would be needed to complete the required 9 hour training session.  Note that not all 9 of these hours require access to a firing range.  In fact, only 2 of the 9 hours take place on a firing range.

The second answer given for why the National Guard base wasn’t suitable for CSP was that the rifle ranges were shorter than 300 yards.  While every Trooper has to undergo handgun training every year, not all of them are assigned a rifle (called a long gun in the hearings), and of those assigned a rifle, not all of them need the 300 yard qualification range.

And so the entire National Guard range has been deemed unsuitable based on the needs of a subsection of CSP Troopers (hear it at 1:53:19).

“East Haven also has a rifle range. Likewise, its design does not meet our needs; because its lanes are short, it uses small targets to simulate shooting at a longer distance. A range that simulates distances does not meet the training needs of CSP, and if used exclusively, would not meet the needs of the National Guard. That is why this type of rifle range is used to qualify soldiers to carry the weapon but does not meet the National Guard’s mandatory training standard for overseas mobilization. Unlike the National Guard, the CSP would not have access to additional facilities, and the short range is not suitable for rifle qualification and proficiency.”

However, this last part isn’t true, is it?  The CSP would have access to additional facilities- the current range in Simsbury.  Please note that the above quote, taken from the DESPP’s FAQ file, conflates the needs of ALL CSP Troopers with the highly specific needs of only the special units.

Also note that during the Public Hearing held on Feb. 2, 2016, Lt. Petruzzi says that using multiple, exiting ranges across the state wouldn’t work because there’s no guarantee that each range has the same setup, which would produce “dislike training” amongst the Troopers (occurs around 1:51).  No mention of updating each range to a uniform set of standards has ever been mentioned.

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Point Two:

At the public hearing, when asked why the proposed facility needed classrooms to seat 100 when there was the 30 Troopers/day max, Lieutenant Marc Petruzzi said “that’s the size of our recruiting class”.  However, DESPP’s own FAQ says that the facility will not be used for anything other than the proposed training facility. (hear Petruzzi’s statement at 1:54:15)  “100 is about the amount of space we would need to manage recruit classes of that size,” says Lt. Petruzzi.

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Point Three:

Every year since 2005, the CT SWAT Challenge has taken place.  Growing steadily year by year, it attracts an international crowd, almost 100 vendors*, awards close to $50,000 worth of prizes and swag, and is now a three day affair.

Past events have included clearing a simulated meth house while using live fire, a bus assault challenge, and helicopter demonstrations.  Here’s a video from the 2015 Challenge (WARNING: this video contains profanity.  Not suitable for children or workplace):

Since 2008, this massive display of firepower has taken place at the Metacon Gun Club and the current State Police training range in Simsbury, which are located right next to one another..

* one of the listed vendors is Sadlak Industries of Coventry.  Stanley Sadlak is the owner of the Ruby Road site in Willington.

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Point Four:

In 2006, a lawsuit was brought against the Metacon Gun Club (located right next to the State Police firing range in Simsbury). One of the plantiffs named in the case was Robert Patricelli, the owner of Folly Farm in Simsbury.  Folly Farm is home to the Simsbury Polo Club, and is also an event venue.

In 2015, Patricelli petitioned the Simsbury Conservation Commission to enact tougher lead and noise restrictions on the gun club, citing, in part, that the noise from the guns has made the polo events the farm hosts dangerous to horses, riders, and spectators.  He claims to know that the offending gun fire comes from the Metacon Gun Club (which the town has some degree of authority over), and not the State Police site (which the town has no authority over).

Robert and his wife Margaret are well known philanthropists with accomplished backgrounds.  From an article about the couple:

“Robert Patricelli is chair and chief executive officer of Women’s Health, USA. He previously was founder, chair, and CEO of both Value Health, a NYSE company and the nation’s leading company in specialty managed care (sold in 1997), and Evolution Benefits, a provider of electronic payment solutions (sold in 2010). After graduating from Harvard Law School, he began his career in the federal government, starting as a White House Fellow and then serving as minority counsel to a U.S. Senate Subcommittee, deputy under secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, and administrator of the Urban Mass Transit Administration. He then joined CIGNA Corp., rising to executive vice president of the parent company and president of the health care group….Mr. Patricelli’s many other affiliations include service as a director of numerous companies and nonprofit entities including Newman’s Own Foundation, Newman’s Own food company, Northeast Utilities, the MetroHartford Alliance, and the Connecticut Science Center. He is chair of the board of the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford, and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He likes to cook and drive tractors on their home on Folly Farm in Simsbury, Conn.”

While Margaret Patricelli’s accomplishments include:

“Margaret Patricelli is president and CEO of the Robert and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation, which focuses on programs designed to assist low-income neighborhoods in Hartford. It played a leading role in creating the innovative TeacherDollars program in Hartford public schools…Ms. Patricelli previously worked in health planning at the Harvard School of Public Health and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, marketing and communications at Connecticut General and CIGNA, and public affairs at ConnectiCare, where she created the ConnectiCare Foundation.

She is active in numerous local, national, and international philanthropic activities, having served on the boards of the Mark Twain House and Museum, Foodshare, Planned Parenthood of Connecticut, the Hartford Ballet, and the Simsbury Public Health Commission. She currently serves on the boards of Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and the Friends of Simsbury Public Library…She likes cats and rhythm and blues.”

Both Robert Patricelli and Governor Dannel Malloy serve on the Connecticut Science Center Board of Trustees.  The two men have shown a willingness to work together, as evidenced by a 2010 account of a newly-elected Malloy meeting with Hartford business executives, although Patricelli has publicly expressed shock over Malloy’s healthcare budget cuts for fiscally-distressed Connecticut.

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Patricelli (at podium) and Gov. Malloy (right), at this event.

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Conclusion:

What does this all mean?  Certainly nothing overt, so what follows is speculation:

  • Rich and well-connected businessman owns property used for polo competitions and wedding events.  Gunfire from his neighbors, the Metacon Gun Club and the Connecticut State Police, are a disruption, pose safety issues, and possibly cost him clients.  Businessman attempts legal channels to curb Metacon; is it possible that he then used personal connections in Connecticut’s government to affect change in the CSP situation?
  • Although the West Hartford Police host it, CSP and Metacon Gun Club offer their properties for the wildly popular, lucrative, and ever-expanding CT SWAT Challenge.  Size of the event seems only to be limited by space, as interest and spectacle continue to grow.  If only there were a new, state-of-the art facility they could use, how much bigger could the event get, both in terms of vendors and challenges?  Could such an event be used to help fill budget shortfalls?
  • Length of rifle range is the only real objection DESPP has raised to using the National Guard range in East Haven.  Having the subsection of Troopers who need to undergo yearly rifle training report to the Simsbury site has never been raised, why not?
  • Despite decades of successful use, providing our Troopers the training they need, the Simsbury site is declared “unsuitable” due to flooding.  No plans for engineering a better facility on that location are entertained.  Why?  Is it possible that Patricelli had the connections and influence to make renovating the current Simsbury site an unappealing prospect?  Is it possible that the CT SWAT Challenge is lucrative enough to actively pursue expanding it?  As noted above, only 30 Troopers a day can undergo firearms requalification, so why the overbuild on the proposed site?  Did Lt. Petruzzi let something slip when he talked about the recruiting class and there are plans down the road for the Police Academy in Meriden to be shut down and moved to the new site?
  • As the CT SWAT Challenge website notes, bonds are formed and trade secrets are swapped at this event.  Could members of Connecticut State Police have spoken with vendors at the Challenge, including Sadlak Industries, and gotten a tip about a piece of property in Willington, since the Glastonbury deal fell through?  A piece of land, to be had for a nice price, that could get the current range out of Simsbury, allow for a state-of-the-art jewel-like venue for future law enforcement events, all with room left over to move the CSP Academy?

So many pieces, so many connections that could mean something, or nothing.  But it’s hard to understand why, in the midst of a budget meltdown, this plan to build a brand new, state of the art facility that will routinely run at only 1/3rd of its capacity continues to move forward.  Budget cuts to almost every other faucet of Connecticut’s services have been made- why has this mysterious and controversial project not been shut down?

If questions surrounding this project were tax dollars, Connecticut’s budget crisis would be solved.