In what felt more like a wedding or a bar mitzvah than a swearing-in, hundreds of well-wishers from near and far jammed City Hall to welcome new Police Chief Dean Esserman—and erupted into applause when he declared a return to community policing.
From top police brass to the rank and file, from elected officials to neighborhood activists and street outreach workers, New Haveners Friday afternoon made a collective leap of faith—that a dynamic new chief can finally help the city get control of the violence that has claimed 30 lives already this year. They allowed themselves to believe that cops can return to walking beats and rebuild trust with neighbors. They allowed themselves to believe that a long-rudderless department will have strong leadership that lasts more than a year or two.
“I’m inspired,” said longtime police critic Barbara Fair. “I feel good about him.”
“He seems to have a genuine concern about hearing” from the cops, said Arpad Tolnay (pictured huddling with Esserman Friday), who heads the police union, which voted no-confidence in Esserman’s predecessor.
Hill Alderman Jorge Perez observed that the outpouring of support stemmed from Esserman’s past history with New Haven—he served as assistant chief from 1991 to 1993, when the city successfully launched community policing and drastically cut violent crime —as well as from the fact that he’s the fourth chief in four years (not counting acting chiefs) to take the helm.
“This one needs to work,” Perez said. “For all our sakes. This average person in the city really wants this to work.”
Well-wishers, including the head of Connecticut’s FBI and police chiefs from Yale, Providence, Stamford, and New York City, filled the 300 folding chairs set up in the main lobby of City Hall. Others spilled out toward the main stairwell, where an elaborate deli spread was arrayed.
In brief remarks to the assembled, before an hour of schmoozing and noshing began, Esserman promised to restore walking beats to all parts of town as part of a larger strategy to reconnect cops and citizens and to prevent crime before it occurs, rather than chase after it later.
“The New Haven police department is returning fully to the neighborhoods of our city,” Esserman said. “The walking beat is returning.”
“It’s good to be home.”
Esserman, who’s 54, said every neighborhood will have a dedicated walking-beat cop. He said in previous jobs he has had rookies wait a year before spending any time patrolling in cars, so they could get used to the community on foot.
“There is one neighborhood I’ll target and empty of officers,” Esserman said later in remarks to the press. “And that will be police headquarters.”
Esserman made a point in his remarks during his swearing in of slipping a copy of the constitution into his uniform. He said he has done that in every job.
“We are a land of laws. The police are not above it,” he said. “The constitution is the only rule book I need it.” (Click on the play arrow to watch him discuss the subject.)
The day’s celebrity guest was William J. Bratton, former New York, Los Angeles, and Boston police chief. Cops hustled to have their photos taken with him before and after the swearing-in Friday afternoon.
In his remarks, Bratton (pictured) congratulated Mayor John DeStefano for bringing Esserman to Hartford. Later he congratulated him for bringing Esserman to L.A. Then he corrected himself, and made it New Haven.
In between, he put Esserman’s arrival in context: The national shift in policing philosophy. In the 1970s and 1980s, as cities like New Haven declined, police focused on responding to crime, while addressing the roots of crime were deemed other professions’ concerns. In the 1990s, cities like New Haven birthed community policing, focusing on “partnerships” with neighbors and social workers and federal and state law enforcement; and putting cops on walking beats where they got to know people. Cities started coming back.
Esserman left New Haven to develop that philosophy further in Stamford and Providence, which saw dramatic drops in crime, Bratton noted. He didn’t mention the subtext of the event: That New Haven lost its community-policing mojo, and the violence came back.
Mayor John DeStefano sought to acknowledge that sentiment in remarks before he swore in Esserman. He noted the “urgency” in New Haven as “homicides have soared” the past two years.
“Violence is terrifying a lot of our neighborhoods. It’s sucking optimism from a lot of the good things we are doing. And,” DeStefano noted, “it is killing our children.
“Does anyone ever want to think that 30 homicides [a year] are a normal thing? Have we had enough? I know we all have.”
Ultimately, while he’s excited about Esserman’s arrival, Friday’s event wasn’t “about” the new chief, DeStefano said. “It is about us. It is about what kind of community we want to be.”
Then he drew on arguments in a new book about stopping urban violence, by David Kennedy, whom the federal government has sent to cities around the country to help introduce a new idea about how to stop gang-related and drug-market-related shootings. Kennedy worked with Esserman in Providence, and violent crime dropped more than 50 percent. Kennedy was in attendance at City Hall for Friday’s swearing-in; he plans to work with Esserman here, too.
“The police and the community have to change the way we see each other, how we treat one another, and how we act toward one another,” DeStefano said, summarizing one of Kennedy’s main arguments. “Enough is enough. Let’s do something about it. Not just this chief. All of us.”
Thomas MacMillan contributed reporting.
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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 18, 2011 4:47pm
Wow.William Bratton.I remember him when he was police commissioner in new york back in 1994. He bust some police officers call the Dirty 30 in harlem.They would rob drug dealers and take pay offer.My bet is that this New Chief like the others will be gone within two years.
posted by: Freedom of The People on November 18, 2011 4:56pm
Well the rules of engagement for the police are the same as the military thats a start because citizens are not fighters in a war example: the gentlemen beaten on his own property for a cell phone in his pocket on the day of his childs tenth bday party. You wanna stop the drugs tell the govt to stop shipping them and the guns in. There are no gangs in new haven if there were we would have the issues philly have and we are nowhere near having gang issues. Groups of a couple of thugs is’nt not a gang!
posted by: If people cared more on November 18, 2011 5:03pm
The people affected by violence and the police have never worked together in america. The history has made that possible and history is a current event especially when there really is’nt a reason to trust police when your people have been abused for generations by them in some form or fashion from when it was ok in america to now where it’s not ok but you must have done something to deserve it or draw attention to yourself. a month ago people were upset about the politics involved with the hiring while noone even knew we did’nt have a chief, now you have this pouring support hooray! moment what it is as just another observer is string people along new haven does’nt help the AA community with crime because new haven is’nt a majority AA it’s mostly white property owners, business owners and institutions who have no interest in really addressing the problems that even in some cases make it possible for them to have what they “have”. ILLUSION ILLUSION ILLUSION.
posted by: B.Ude.Tiful on November 18, 2011 6:01pm
Now unchain Valleca
posted by: Insider98 on November 18, 2011 6:44pm
yup,...you gotta love how art imitates life or is life imitating art,.,....i wonder how long it will be before esserman makes an office at the pd for barbara fair…
posted by: noteworthy on November 18, 2011 7:35pm
It was a real love in. With all that passion I just hope the morning after is as good as the group coupling this afternoon. So how much is Esserman being paid? Does he get hazard pay for pulling DeStefano’s ass out the fire?
posted by: newhavenresident on November 18, 2011 8:06pm
For all the negative comment please keep them to yourself…this new chief has what all the others didn’t and that’s the balls to put these lazy cops back on the BEAT for real… I remember growing up there was always two cops walking the beat and crime was nowhere has high has it is now so if this is his proposal for the streets of new haven then i’m all for it!
I am keeping an open mind and my hopes high for New Haven. I hope Esserman is everything we want him to be. ....
posted by: Robn on November 18, 2011 9:43pm
gosh for about a half comment span I thought something positive that was about to come out of 3/5 mouth (pen? keyboard?)
posted by: nhpd on November 18, 2011 11:15pm
to newhavenresident, it has nothing to do with lazy cops walking the beat its the supervision that stopped the walking beats…. the new rookies should always walk before they drive like many others in the past have done… so maybe this chief will put his foot in some of the supervisors butt and get this thing rolling again… when you have supervisors who don’t lead then it brings down the rest of the department. majority of us are hoping this chief will see through the mask some of these supervisors wear and force them out. any chief would have and could have done this if the mayor only lead the city right. now the chief needs get all these silver badge officers out of their office pposition’s and get them on the street where they belong.
posted by: Farce 55 on November 19, 2011 12:10am
There’s no problem with the cops [...]! They are getying record number of guns off the streets. 10x the amount from 10 years ago. It’s the dangerous drug slinging kids in New Haven, absentee parenthood and handcufging of the police! Let them do their job
posted by: Noteworthy on November 19, 2011 12:19am
Just asking - how much did we pay to get Bratten here for the big love in? Can’t wait tosee the walking beats in Westville - we have hills. Better tell them to wear tennis shoes.
posted by: Sunday on November 19, 2011 12:36am
To NHPD I agree with you 100%. I couldn’t have said it better, apparently you were reading my mind alone with many others.
posted by: lance on November 19, 2011 6:25am
Esserman is going to walk the beat? Honest question: how many arrests has he made in his lifetime?
I beg your pardon Chief Esserman, put the U.S. Constitution away, it is the last reference book you will need in New Haven.
First, you will have to embrace and enhance the Perf recommendations of 2008, installed by Chief Lewis and subsequently ignored by Chief Limon.
I believe you should first focus on the two important recommendations which as of today remain unknown to New Haven citizens.
1. A new vision for the New Haven Police Department.
2. Develop a City Wide Crime Strategy, in conjunction with the neighborhoods.
Second, you will have to familiarize yourself with the current police union contract, so as to avoid Limon’s pitfall and ignorance in it’s meaning and application.
Third, you should explain how you plan to systematically measure the goals and objectives you set for community policing.
Without planning tools to measure accomplishments against goals, community policing becomes just an extension of Pastore’s failed attempt. My understanding is Assistant Chief Hensgen has expertise in the very area…explore his potential.
Above all Chief Esserman, it is hoped that you keep Chief DeStefano at two arms length, he has already failed six times at finding a workable solution.
Finally Chief, if you will, read the States Attorney’s guidelines for the correct application of warrants and affidavits to be submitted to that office.
After all that Chief, you can go ahead and read your constitution in your jacket pocket, and determine if New Haven is getting it right…this time.
posted by: THREEFIFTHS on November 19, 2011 10:19pm
I wonder if this is true.
Providence police chief under fire for lack of minority hiring By theGrio
8:43 AM on 03/19/2010
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP)—The chief of Providence’s police department and the mayor are defending themselves against accusations that they haven’t made enough effort to hire more minority police officers.
The city’s NAACP chapter this week called on Mayor David Cicilline (siss-ill-EE’-nee) to fire Chief Dean Esserman and appoint a minority as public safety commissioner.
NAACP chapter President Clifford Monteiro tells The Providence Journal that Esserman has failed women and minorities.
The city says in Esserman’s six years as chief, the department has hired 86 whites and 45 minorities. The department is currently 78 percent white, 10 percent Hispanic and nine percent black.
Esserman says he has made progress in hiring more minorities, but acknowledges there is more to be done. Cicilline says he has “full confidence” in the chief.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
posted by: bjfair on November 19, 2011 10:37pm
Insider98, soon you will be posting as outsider98.Outside the car and onto the streets doing what you’re paid to do and if you can assist with that office I would appreciate it. i would like one with a view of the city I love. Thanks for mentioning me. You make me feel so special.
posted by: Livesinfairhaven on November 20, 2011 5:02pm
Why should Esserman take somebody like Jewu Richardson seriously? ... . By the way, has anybody seen Richardson’s record on the CT Judicial website? Typical of somebody who does wrong, then points his finger at the police as the problem.
posted by: Livesinfairhaven on November 20, 2011 5:32pm
Not sure if that question is rhetorical, but to answer it, it is probably true the Providence NAACP called on David Cicilline to fire Esserman. It is also probably true the NAACP chapter president told the Providence Journal that Esserman has failed woman and minorities regards his hiring practices. Maybe Esserman was only hiring qualified candidates without regard to gender or race. Here’s to making something out of nothing.
posted by: bjfair on November 21, 2011 12:24pm
In reference to Jewu.When a police department is corrupt it’s no surprise many will have criminal records they don’t deserve.One of Jewu’s claims was that former officer Billy White and other corrupt and unscrupulous officers planted drugs on him, arresting him. Noone took him seriously then. Years later the FBI proved officers were in fact falsely arresting people and planting drugs. Maybe if people had taken him seriously decades ago the city would not be paying nearly $100,000 a year to one of the most corrupt officers who operated within NHPD. I love those who try to discredit someone by bringing up a criminal past.It’s indicative of the level of desperation one feels. At least Jewu’s criminal past is not supported by a huge annual payoff from a city struggling financially. While you’re reading the website make note of the criminal past of officers within the NHPD current and past. Now, moving on to the topic of the article….the swearing in of the new police chief.Walking beats returning. Yay!!!
posted by: insider98 on November 21, 2011 1:04pm
hate to burst the bubble of so many,..but “walking-beats” are not a cure all to crime and never will be,....for all of you who say it was walking-beats that “lowered” crime in the late 80’s and early 90’s,..well it was the feds that did the majority of the work,..it was the feds that did the wire taps and utilized the rico-act to dismantle all the gang and drug activity back then,..do walking beats serve a purpose,..to a point yes,..but a walking beat can’t respond to the domestic or shooting 10 blocks away when other officers in cars are tied up on other calls/investigations..thats not reality…you can’t have it both ways in a city run by back door dirty politics….change was happening and moral was rising with chief lewis,...but because he wasn’t a puppet,..johnny boy told him to leave…we’ll see how history repeats itself now,..for those of you retired and on the inside and have been around awhile,..you know exactly what i mean,...
posted by: To blair on November 21, 2011 1:10pm
Walking beats are awesome. As a cop you don’t have to do nearly as much paperwork and your beat is so much smaller - meaning a lot less 911 calls to respond to. Basically you just walk around and hang out. Yeah having a car kinda sucks because then you’ll get dispatched from one side of the city to the next. Just keep that in mind when you call 911 and the only officer available is walking a couple miles away.
posted by: Ex-NHPD on November 21, 2011 7:29pm
No one mentioned that the coronation of Chief Esserman was delayed two days, from the original scheduled date of Wednesday, November 16, 2011. There is a simple explanation for the delay. The Grand Poobah of the Royal Order of We Are The Only Police Chiefs Who Know The Secret To Reducing Crime (Bratton) was unavailable on Wednesday. Nice to see it was worth the wait, as the Poobah seemed a bit confused about where he was. Glitz and Hype were put before Substance. Was Esserman’s swearing-in more special by having Bratton present? Did Bratton need to be there so all would know that Esserman is one of his disciples?
Esserman was hired in world record time, over a month ago. Then, he took his time in coming here (1 month)to begin his sweeping change to save the city. Then, he decided another 48 hours was no big deal for the city to wait. I guess all the violence and crime that occurred during that down time was not important enough to merit his attention. I wonder how many of the NHPD District Managers were contacted during that 2 month and 2 day waiting period by Esserman, to find out from his “Neighborhood Chiefs” about what is going on in the Districts.
It is nice to see that the NHPD is returning to the neighborhoods “fully”. When this concept is unable to be fulfilled (due mainly to staffing levels and the overtime to pay for it), will the response be “It depends upon what the word ‘fully’ means?”. If the overtime gets too high, will Johnny D. lay off cops again?
The pocket Constitution is a nice touch, and makes for a good soundbite. It would be interesting to see if any other members of the Royal Order have used the same maneuver. Though it is certainly the most important rulebook he needs, it is not the only one he needs. He might also want to familiarize himself with, and utilize, the General Orders, Rule and Regulations of the Department, and the Union Contract. And don’t forget the unwritten rulebook of Johnny D’s micro-managing the NHPD.
Finally, Esserman better have a contingency plan for steering the NHPD ship if the current contract negotiation begins a real trend towards major givebacks by the Union. It would not be out of the realm of possibility that as many as 60/80/maybe even 100 cops would retire before that new contract is signed. The cupboards, in all ranks, would be bare.
posted by: TheCove on November 21, 2011 9:48pm
I hope these walking beats are intelligently deployed. It seems like city officials see them as a panacea for all the crime in the city. My neighborhood is sprawling and in many ways suburban, but we have an increase in burglaries to homes and autos. I’ve also become aware that our police district extends from the Lighthouse all the way to North Haven, and is chronically under staffed. What happens if I have a 911 emergency and the nearest cop is on Route 80? Nevermind if he’s on foot. Do I need to arm myself like the police union leader suggested? We need more cops before we can even begin to think about spreading the exist force thinner.
posted by: bjfair on November 21, 2011 11:00pm
We don’t need more cops. We need to end the fear tactics and address the conditions that breed crime and violence. we are already a police state. Employing more officers hasn’t impacted crime and violence at all.
posted by: Unfortunate on November 22, 2011 8:52am
Whats truly sad is the NHPD seems to be at fault for all of the crime in our fair city, just ask the NAACP and all of the community activists. It apparently has nothing to do with the way the kids in this city are being brought up, oh wait… That’s the schools fault. And seeing the mayor runs the city… Heck it’s his fault too. Anybody else notice a pattern here? We have become a culture of government reliant finger pointers. It is about time the NAACP and the community activists in this city started addressing the real issues. Try being parents, hold your kids and yourselves accountable for there actions. I am so sick of reading “he was a good kid” after one of our children has been shot and killed. Well, I hate to say it but when your 17 year old kid has been arrested 5 times is doing drugs, and has been shot and killed on a street corner at 1am on a Tuesday he was not “a good kid” YOUR failures as a parent led to this inevitable tragedy. It’s time to stop blaming the police, the schools, and the government for what is wrong with this city. The only ones who can make positive change is us. The change starts at home…. Are YOU ready to be responsible for it?
posted by: Trustme on November 22, 2011 11:04pm
... We have a huge shortage of cops and this city is violent as all hell. Walk beats??? Yeah right how, the mayor doesn’t like cops and he hates even more spending money. The truth is that we have young teens in this city with dreams of shooting and killing, everyone is talking about this chief like he is the next best thing since sliced bread. If the killings and shootings go down its because the the kids are not shooting. And now if the killings and shootings go up it won’t be the chief’s fault its just because the kids are shooting. Very simple, it’s not hard to figure out. But I love the fact that the chief is shaking the hand of a complete ... criminal and talking about police brutality, instead he should be talking to his God or is priest asking for forgiveness the many people he victimized.
posted by: Lynda Faye Wilson on November 23, 2011 3:14pm
Time stops for none of us. and as times moves on, for nearly two decades NOW. Our Mayor of New Haven is bellowing , ALL OF WHICH WAS UNDER HIS WATCH,LOUD AND CLEAR, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. THAT HAS BEEN THE SENTIMENT OF THIS CITY FOR ATLEST A DECADE OR MORE. THERE NEED BE A CONCRETE SENTIMENT AMONG THE CITIZES THAT THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES OF EVERYTHING IN LIFE. THERE ARE GOOD-ONE AND THERE ARE BADDDDD ONES AND WE THE CITIZEN, YOUNG AND OLD AND IN-BETWEEN HAVE “FREE CHOICE.” DO GOOD, EXPECT GOOD, DO BAD/EVIL, EXPECT NONE SHORT JUST THAT IN RETURN. BOTH HAVE A WAY OF ENCOUNTERING YOU WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT TO. BE WARE, BE AWARE AND BE BLESSED, ALL OF YOU THAT MAY READ THIS COMMENT. IT’S STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART/GUTT.
posted by: TheCove on November 25, 2011 12:36am
A “police state” Ms. Fair? Really?
Funny how the people who scream the cops aren’t doing their jobs when people are getting shot are the same people screaming harrasment when the police are stopping known trouble makers.
posted by: bjfair on November 25, 2011 11:27am
@Cove: Yes we live in a police state. Denying it won’t change the facts.The solution to reducing crime is not to treat everyone who doesn’t look like you as a suspect and whether you realize it or not…the police job is not to “report on crime”. Engagement of the community in a positive manner is a preventative measure. You know how its done in certain communities..If Joey is heading toward trouble you take Joey home to his parents (of course the officer knows Joey and respects his parents and have built a good relationship)and you all have a conversation and maybe even provide resources that won’t involve arrest and prosecution yet may play a role in Joey choosing another path.I’m sure you’ve heard of that kind of policing.
posted by: Livesinfairhaven on November 25, 2011 9:29pm
More often than not, “Joey” is a lot better behaved than his counterpart in the community you are speaking of Ms. Fair. Let’s be real.
posted by: bjfair on November 27, 2011 12:44pm
@Cove: As a matter of fact many of the “Joeys” I speak about are no better behaved (and even worst)than the ones you allude.In my profession I have met many scary Joeys and yet the treatment they received left them with a clean police record.I’m sure you also heard of those who even with a criminal record were able to move on and live productive lives. I’m sure you’ve heard about some of them too.
posted by: Livesinfairhaven on November 27, 2011 2:30pm
@ bjfair - I’m the one made the comment about “Joey”. What I said was ‘more often than not’, not ‘always’. Of course there are exceptions in both cases. If you want to look at it from a purely mathematical point of view, I believe crime statistics will show I have a far better chance of running good “Joey” than bad. Maybe that is why a cop is more likely to give Joey a pass. Based on experience?
posted by: bjfair on November 27, 2011 8:17pm
@lives… What you are trained to “see” likely has more to do with your experience than math. Perfect example:Mathmatically all statistical research will show far more whites use and sell drugs than the 13% of African Americans in our society yet incarceration figures show a different picture. Is the fact that African Americans are more likely to be incarcerated for drug offenses relative to “experience” or selective enforcement and treatment?