Danbury resists fired officer’s demand for reinstatement
DANBURY - A former police officer fired five years ago for berating an undocumented immigrant during a traffic stop is trying to get his job back, but the city is fighting the effort.
Christopher Belair, a five-year veteran of the force, was fired in June 2013 after video surfaced showing him yelling at the driver and threatening, “If there weren’t four other cops here, I’d beat the s--- out of you.”
The incident brought national headlines at a time when incidents of police brutality had sparked outrage around the country. It also came at a time that Mayor Mark Boughton, who had earned a national reputation for talking tough about illegal immigrants, was softening his rhetoric in preparation for a run for governor.
Boughton rejected the criticism, then and now.
“Watch the video and ask yourself, would you want your mother, your father, your brother or your cousin treated that way?” he said Tuesday. “At the end of the day, his actions were not representative of the Danbury Police Department.”
An arbitration panel found in September that although Belair’s conduct was “outrageous and disturbing,” the city lacked just cause to terminate his employment and that a 90-day suspension would have been a more appropriate punishment.
The city is appealing that decision on several grounds, including that Belair’s conduct was discriminatory. He could be heard in the video yelling, “Stop being in this country and almost f-----g killing people.”
The panel concluded that Belair’s actions were motivated not by the motorists immigration status, but rather his drunken state.
According to court filings, Belair had seen the motorist - Rene Chalco - stumbling in the middle of the street shortly before the traffic stop. Belair had offered the man a ride, which was declined.
Chalco was stopped about 10 minutes later by another officer after failing to come to a full stop for a red light. He was ticketed for driving without a license.
An internal affairs investigation later found that officers had probable cause to arrest Chalco on a drunken driving charge, and several taking part in the traffic stop were suspended 90 to 120 days for failing to do so.
Belair was charged with third-degree assault and threatening. He was found not guilty of the charges three years ago after a jury trial.
Belair admitted that his behavior was inappropriate, but said he hoped to get his job back.
“Pretty much my entire career has been spent trying to help people,” he was quoted as saying. “I want to continue to do that.”
Stephen McEleney, Belair’s attorney, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Belair could also not be reached for comment.