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Controversial Wethersfield Police Chief Fired

Wethersfield Police Chief James Cetran speaks to protesters on Monday, April 23, 2019, after the fatal shooting of Anthony Jose Vega Cruz.
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public Radio
Wethersfield Police Chief James Cetran speaks to protesters on Monday, April 23, 2019, after the fatal shooting of Anthony Jose Vega Cruz.

Longtime Wethersfield Police Chief James Cetran has been fired.

Wethersfield’s town council Tuesday night approved the decision of Town Manager Gary Evans to terminate the embattled chief in a 6-1 vote that came at the end of a six-hour hearing.

Cetran has served in Wethersfield for 47 years total and was due to retire Aug. 31, 2021. In November, Evans placed Cetran on administrative leave for interfering with an investigation of two police sergeants.

When Cetran returned from the leave, he said he’d retire at the end of August. But then he announced he didn’t intend to follow through, and the termination was ultimately based on that breach of his retirement agreement.

But at the hearing, the chief defended his actions.

The dispute over the retirement agreement arose, according to Cetran, when the town manager tried to promote a sergeant within the department.

“I asked for the wording the way it is in this agreement clearly saying that I would run the department and he wouldn’t interfere,” he told the council. “When he did interfere -- I just threw my hands up. What good was the agreement if he’s going to interfere with my day-to-day operations?”

Cetran later testified that the actual reason for the rescission of his retirement was that he’d found out that a search firm was hired to find his replacement. “I wanted to save the town, the department money,” he said.

When Evans testified, he said Cetran’s actions showed that the chief couldn’t be trusted.

“Ultimately the decision to have an agreement and then kind of announce that you’re not going to follow that agreement impacts the reputation of the division and causes instability and confusion within the organization,” he said.

It’s not Cetran’s first brush with controversy.

Social justice advocates have tried holding the Wethersfield police force accountable in recent years for alleged racial profiling. The department was recently flagged a sixth time by a statewide racial profiling prohibition project for having significant disparities in traffic stops.

The Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project, also known as CTRP3, analyzed stops on roads connecting Wethersfield to neighboring Hartford, Newington and Rocky Hill. In one example, researchers found Hispanic motorists were 15 percentage points more likely than white drivers to get stopped by Wethersfield police coming across the Hartford border. Black drivers were 13 percentage points more likely to get pulled over on roads leading from the capital into Wethersfield.

“The disparity could be the result of discriminatory policing by Wethersfield police against racial and ethnic minority motorists,” reads the report filed by three researchers.

CTRP3 produced the report, titled Border Discontinuity, after renewing its scrutiny of the town in the wake of the 2019 fatal shooting of 18-year-old Anthony Jose Vega Cruz by a police officer during a traffic stop.

Cetran has told Connecticut Public Radio in the past that his officers don’t engage in racial profiling. 

Copyright 2021 Connecticut Public

Frankie Graziano joined CPBN in October of 2011 as a sports producer. In addition to reporting for WNPR, Graziano produces feature profiles for CPTV and the web.