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Who will hold Stonington police accountable?

I haven't seen any evidence that the abysmal Stonington police response to the June 26 attack on Crystal Caldwell, a front desk employee at the Quality Inn in Mystic, who is Black, was racially biased. But I can certainly understand why so many people think so, given that Caldwell's attackers, whom she told police used racial insults while assaulting her, made it safely out of town, even after a visit of some two hours to the hospital in New London, without being apprehended by police.

Would the outcome have been the same if she were white and her attackers were Black? That's a fair question, given today's social climate, and one for which we will probably never have a definitive answer.

I certainly subscribe to the description of the response by investigating police proffered by Caldwell's attorney: lazy. I wonder, too, if they might have been as lazy if the victim were white.

Indeed, the official police account of the events is that police plans to apprehend the attackers hinged on asking the hotel to alert them when the suspects got back to retrieve their belongings from their room.

I can't get out of my head the picture of police waiting at a doughnut shop for the call from the hotel.

Adding to the dysfunction, the police admit to talking to the suspects on a cell phone while they were at the hospital, warning them they needed to contact police when they were done and be escorted back to the hotel.

The suspects took a ride service to the hotel instead and made it out of town before police ever knew what happened. Actually, calling the police response lazy is kind. These people made total fools of police.

After all, police knew the suspects were only passing through town. And they could have easily looked up the suspects' criminal history, which for at least one of them turns out to be extensive.

Most troubling about the whole incident is the official account from Stonington Capt. Todd Olson and Chief J. Darren Stewart, who have insisted in statements that police were told they could not come to the hospital the day of the assault, because of COVID protocols.

The chief and captain said in a statement Friday they have since clarified procedures with the hospital, ensuring that police would henceforth be allowed in.

And yet the hospital finally confirmed Monday that police have always been allowed in, and nothing has changed since the pandemic began.

It appears the police leadership has been grossly misleading the public about police response to a racially charged incident at a time when the country is on full alert for police insensitivity on racial matters.

The public deserves answers from the chief and captain about this.

It is possible that the investigating officers talked to the wrong person at the hospital that day and got bad information about hospital policy.

Still, they should have at least waited outside the hospital for the suspects or put a watch on their car at the hotel. You don't have to watch many crime shows to know that.

Even if someone at the hospital that day did mistakenly tell investigating officers they could not come in, how do we square that with the statement from the chief and captain, almost a week later, that they had since clarified the hospital policy and that police would be allowed in the future?

They must have been told by hospital officials that it has always been the policy and nothing has changed because of COVID. Indeed, hospital employees say police throughout the region know they are routinely allowed in.

And yet police leadership in Stonington continued to imply that it was actions by the hospital that led to the suspects getting away.

Presumably, the suspects will eventually be found and charged. But the police response and the explanation by leadership need to be investigated.

The Stonington Police Commission, which should convene a special meeting to ask why police leaders apparently misled the public, has instead canceled a regular meeting for Thursday. Lazy would be a kind way to describe the commission's response.

And what do we hear from Stonington First Selectwoman Danielle Chesebrough — who not long ago came to the aid of a "Making Haircuts Great Again" barber who tried to defy Gov. Ned Lamont's pandemic shutdown order — as police in her town misrepresent their handling of an attack on a Black employee of a Stonington business who says she was assaulted by white people using hate language?

Nothing.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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