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State police will maintain presence at Foxwoods, for now

By Brian Hallenbeck

Publication: The Day

Published January 17. 2013 4:00AM

A planned reduction in state police staffing at Foxwoods Resort Casino has been deferred for the time being, a state official said Wednesday.

Also, as of this week, troopers deployed at the casinos are wearing uniforms for the first time, Michael Lawlor, undersecretary for criminal justice planning in the Office of Policy and Management, said.

The changes follow a report in The Day last week that the state police presence at the casinos - Foxwoods, MGM Grand at Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun - was to be reduced Friday, a move decried by the president of the Connecticut State Police Union.

Representatives of the union, the governor's staff and state police commanders subsequently met to discuss the matter, the union president, state police Sgt. Andrew Matthews, said.

"We're pleased. That's how the process is supposed to work," he said. "We're just relieved that the safety of our members and the casinos' employees and their patrons has been addressed. We expect there will be continued discussions about staffing levels at the casinos."

According to Lawlor, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which owns Foxwoods, asked that the planned reduction in state police staffing at its casinos be delayed to give tribal police more time to prepare for the greater role they must assume. A reduction in state police staffing at Mohegan Sun did take place last week as planned, Lawlor said.

The Mohegan Tribe's police force is "much more advanced" than the Mashantucket force, "which has made a lot of progress," he said.

Reducing the state police presence at the casinos is aimed at freeing up troopers for deployments elsewhere and reducing costs borne by the tribes, which pay the troopers' salaries. For the plan to work, the tribal police must be ready to pick up the slack.

Lawlor said the assessment the tribes are paying for state police coverage has been reduced and that it will continue to change over time. He provided no specifics.

State police officials believe that uniformed officers will be in a better position than those in plainclothes to deter certain criminal activity at the casinos, such as the rowdy behavior associated with alcohol consumption.

As of Monday, all troopers on duty inside the casinos were to be in uniform, Lawlor said.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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