Bridgeport councilwoman plans protest to support Shelton police chief

Shelton Police Department's Chief Shawn Sequeira.

Shelton Police Department's Chief Shawn Sequeira.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — A Bridgeport councilwoman has organized a rally in support of Shelton’s top law enforcement officer who recently has been embroiled in several disputes with the police union.

Eneida Martinez, in a Facebook post, said there will be a gathering at 6 p.m. Monday at the Shelton Police Department “in honor of our African American Chief Shawn Sequeira.”

Martinez told Hearst Connecticut Media that she and other members of the Bridgeport community joined in support of Sequeira after seeing posts on social media about the chief “that were unacceptable to us.”

Sequeira, who was named acting police chief in 2015 and chief in 2017, has recently been criticized for his edict closing the building’s bathrooms to the three female officers but letting the 49 male officers in, and then eliminating all access and putting up portable toilets for all the patrol officers when the union complained.

“The union simply requested that the females be given the same right of access to use the female bathrooms that the male officers were granted,” said Shelton Police Union Inc. attorney Barbara Resnick last month when the locker room dispute was publicized. “In response, the city denied all officers access to any of the 12 bathrooms — plus three urinals — within the police department building and is instead using taxpayer money to pay for portable toilets in the parking lot 20 yards from the 12 available bathrooms.”

The toilet dispute had social media hopping. The main poster of the union’s grievances has been Michael Lewis, who was hired in May by the union as its representative.

Earlier this month Lewis posted photos on the “Support the Shelton Police Union, Inc” Facebook page that show what the union describes as city police officers changing their clothes in the department’s parking lot. Last week Sequeira said the department is investigating the photos for what he described in a Facebook post of his own as “possible indecent exposure.”

Lewis served 15 years as Shelton Police Union president while an officer with the department before his retirement. Lewis said union members brought him aboard because of his years of experience fighting city hall, with years of legal battles with former Chief Robert Voccola and Mayor Mark Lauretti.

“The complaints (that have been) raised focus on the chief’s abilities … or lack of abilities,” Lewis said, “same as I did 20 years ago with (Voccola).”

Sequeira said he has no involvement or knowledge of the planned gathering but did say he has received an “enormous amount of calls, emails and messages ... in support” of his efforts as Shelton’s police chief.

Lewis, who was hired to represent the Shelton Police Union in May and was not present for the years of battles between union members and the chief, said he did not plan to attend the protest since he felt his presence would only act as the “fuse for the powder keg.”