Darien Police Commissioner resigns after concerns raised over his tweets
A Darien Police commissioner has resigned after a resident wrote a letter to the Board of Selectmen charging tweets on his personal Twitter account were a “degradation of the town and country’s very ideals,” according to First Selectman Jayme Stevenson.
Thomas Joyce, a Republican commissioner since 2014, offered his resignation to Stevenson on Thursday afternoon as per her request, Stevenson confirmed.
Darien resident Reed Barthold, who recently wrote an op/ed in The Darien Times calling on town leaders to improve diversity efforts, sent a letter to the board with examples of Joyce’s tweets.
“Calling for profiling, sexualizing & objectifying women, and defending assault are unbecoming of any public official, but especially a police commissioner whose function it is to set and enforce the proper standard for socially responsible police behavior, consistent with public safety,” Barthold wrote.
On Saturday, Alexander Davidson, chairman of Darien’s Republican Town Committee, said the committee “repudiates the reprehensible comments made by a former police commissioner on social media.”
“We are grateful to First Selectman Jayme Stevenson for acting decisively and asking for his immediate resignation. We pledge to work quickly and thoughtfully to find the most qualified Republican candidate for consideration by the Board of Selectmen,” he said.
The Twitter account that Barthold quoted, @TomJoyce222, is no longer accessible. But one example among tweets Barthold included was from January 2018, which said: “Watched a lot of the Golden Globes. Found it interesting that so many of the women wearing black to protest sexual harassment had their breasts hanging out, dressed like sex objects. Kind of a mixed message ...”
Others referred to Muslims. In July 2016, he tweeted “All these attacks are from young Muslim men. It’s time for profiling.” In September 2016, he tweeted, “Gee, shocking...A young Muslim male trying to kill people. Where have I heard that before? Time for profiling. Not PC.”
On Friday, Joyce issued a statement to The Darien Times.
“I understand that some of the tweets I made on my personal account are insensitive. I am honored to have had the opportunity to serve the Town of Darien as Police Commissioner for the past several years, during which time I always acted with the utmost integrity and always had the interests of the people of Darien at heart,” Joyce said.
The letter comes at a time when the country is being rocked by protests against police brutality after the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died in custody after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, as captured on video.
Darien has held a Cross Walk and more recently a Black Lives Matter protest. Friday night, a Black Lives Matter vigil has been planned for Tilley Pond Park.
Response to resignation
Stevenson said she asked Joyce for his resignation immediately after seeing the tweets.
“Commissioner Joyce’s comments are not reflective of the high standards and ideals required by the first selectman and Board of Selectmen in our appointments to the Darien Police Commission,” Stevenson said in a statement. “The Board of Selectmen is in agreement on this course of action.”
Barthold told The Darien Times his goal in reaching out to the board with Joyce’s comments is “to highlight areas where this town and its leadership can start to grow.”
“The comments made by the police commissioner are not entirely unique — many people share his beliefs, however, tolerating that problem is just as bad as never recognizing it. I shared that ignorance growing up here — and this is something not talked about often enough,” Barthold said.
“As a kid, I made reprehensibly ignorant jokes based on stereotypes — not because I truly felt that way, but because I failed to educate and expose myself. I was not proximate to the problem,” Barthold said.
The Darien Police Commission currently serves as the Town's Legal Traffic Authority and consists of three members who serve three year overlapping terms. The remaining members of the Commission are Kim Huffard and Kevin Cunningham. The Commission approves personnel decisions for the police department, including hiring, raises and promotions. It gets regular updates from the department on its management and current events.
On Friday morning, Huffard said she received a copy of Commissioner Joyce’s resignation addressed to First Selectman Jayme Stevenson.
As is stated in the Town Charter, the selection and reappointment of commissioners is the responsibility of the Board of Selectmen, Huffard said.
“As chairman of the Police Commission, I am very proud of the work the Darien Police Department does to keep us safe while ensuring an adherence to the highest standard of policing. Our officers are professional, highly trained, and fully engaged in our community,” she said.
“Commissioner Cunningham and I will continue the important work of the Darien Police Commission in providing support and oversight to Chief Anderson and the rest of the Department,” she said.
Darien Police Chief Donald Anderson in a statement thanked Joyce for “over six years of dedicated service to the Town of Darien.”
“He always performed his duties as a police commissioner with integrity, due diligence and a strong sense of reasonableness and pragmatism,” Anderson said.
Anderson recently told CNBC in their story that while he had a good working relationship with Joyce as a police commissioner, Joyce’s tweets are “clearly not in line with the Darien Police Department or practices” of the department.
“Those tweets were a complete surprise to me and to the commission,” said Anderson. Read more of that story here.
“I never heard or saw anything of this nature” from Joyce during his tenure on the commission, the chief said. “It was a complete shock.
“Prior to being named Chief of Police in 2019, I had the pleasure of working closely with the Police Commission for quite a few years as the administrative services bureau captain, working under both Chief Duane Lovello and Chief Ray Osborne. Commissioner Joyce always demonstrated that he kept the best public safety interests of the Town of Darien (as a whole) at heart in all decision making,” Anderson said.