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Esserman Breezes Through Confirmation Hearing

by Thomas MacMillan | Mar 4, 2014 6:58 am

(6) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Before voting to recommend he keep his job for four more years, city lawmakers showered police Chief Dean Esserman with gratitude.

The outpouring of thanks came at a Monday night meeting the Board of Alders’ Aldermanic Affairs Committee.

As part of a new process this year—thanks to a revision to the city charter last year—alders have the power to approve or deny certain high-level mayoral appointees, including the police chief. Monday’s public hearing was part of that process.

The five-member committee voted unanimously and without discussion to recommend that Esserman (pictured) remain chief, as Mayor Toni Harp has requested. The matter now moves to the full Board of Alders for a final vote.

Also Monday night, the full Board of Alders voted unanimously to approve Matt Nemerson for economic development chief and Joe Clerkin for budget director. Both mayoral appointees had found the approval of the Aldermanic Affairs Committee last month.

Questions, Thank-Yous

Esserman earns an annual salary of $162,000. The city also contributes 15 percent of that sum annually into a retirement account for the chief, who does not receive a pension.

Alders grilled Esserman lightly before toasting his success Monday night. They asked Esserman about staffing levels in the department and efforts to recruit more New Haveners to become city cops. And they took turns offering effusive thanks for Esserman’s leadership and his department’s efforts to cut crime.

“Crime continues to go down in the city,” Esserman said at the outset of his testimony. When he was hired over two years ago, he said, his “marching orders” were to reduce crime and bring back community policing.

In 2011, the year he was hired, the city has 133 shootings and 34 murders, Esserman said. “It’s been cut in half. Crime is down in all categories.”

To bring back community policing, Esserman said, he’s been hiring cops, promoting supervisors, and re-instituting walking beats.

In the last two years, the department has hired 71 cops. Esserman said he hopes to fill two more police academy classes this year with 30 to 45 recruits each.

Because new cops need supervisors, Esserman said, he has been moving people up the ranks, and sending them to special “command college” training immediately upon promotion.

To increase walking beats, every rookie coming out of the academy is required to walk a beat for a year, Esserman said.

Fair Haven Heights Alder Rosa Santana (pictured with Alder Aaron Greenberg), chair of the committee, asked about redrawing the city’s policing districts. She noted that her neighborhood is part of one long policing district that stretches the length of New Haven’s eastern border.

Esserman said the department is planning to create more districts. The challenge will be to balance the need for more patrol cops with the need for more supervisors. He said patrol will always be the “number one priority,” that the supervisory ranks will always be underfilled.

Wooster Square’s Alder Greenberg asked about efforts to increase the number of New Haven cops who live in New Haven. Esserman said the answer is “aggressive recruiting.” He said the department is pursuing a number of new avenues to encourage New Haveners to start a career in law enforcement, including by sending police academy rookies out to recruit new rookies.

Esserman said he doesn’t know yet how many members of the next police academy class will be New Haveners. Candidates are subject to tests and checks that are in the hands of the state, not the city, he said.

Esserman also spoke about his efforts to improve the department’s Police Activities League, including doubling the size of PAL’s summer camp.

Edgewood Alder Evette Hamilton spoke up to “thank you personally for the hard work you have been doing and continue to do.”

“I’d like to thank you,” said Newhallville Alder Delphine Clyburn. “I thank God for all the work that you are doing.”

“Thank you for all that you have been doing on the east side,” said Bella Vista Alder Barbara Constantinople.

“I thank the Board of Alders and I’m proud to serve,” Chief Esserman said, before shaking each of the alders’ hands.

Also Monday night, the full Board of Alders voted unanimously to approve Matt Nemerson for economic development chief and Joe Clerkin for budget director. Both mayoral appointees had found the approval of the Aldermanic Affairs Committee last month.

 

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posted by: anonymous on March 4, 2014  8:17am

Wooster Square’s Alder Greenberg asked about efforts to increase the number of New Haven cops who live in New Haven. Esserman said the answer is “aggressive recruiting.”

That doesn’t work because officers move out of New Haven almost as soon as they are hired. Most officers live outside the city, and the ones who live here tend to be in wealthy neighborhoods.

Also, I wish we would stop pretending that crime is down when it isn’t.  You can find any trend you want in the year to year noise but the long term trend is definitely not good, especially in some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods.  Sure, crime is down in gentrifying areas like Westville and East Rock, but not everywhere else.  The city won’t be safer until a few of our police officers start living in our city again. 

Instead of just focusing on recruiting, how about incentives like those that other cities provide to allow officers to live in the city?

posted by: ProUnion on March 4, 2014  9:41am

Although I do think walking beats are needed I disagree with having rookies spend their first year walking a beat. Once they finish the academy and complete their field training they should be sent out on a regular patrol. They spent the first year walking a beat and do not get to drive in car and practice all of the skills that they learned in the academy. There is a big difference between a walking beat and a regular patrol shift. It a a disadvantage for rookies to walk a beat when they are still “wet behind the ears”.

posted by: TheMadcap on March 4, 2014  11:03am

” Sure, crime is down in gentrifying areas like Westville and East Rock, but not everywhere else”

East Rock and Westville aren’t gentrifying, they’ve always been middle and upper class neighborhoods(i mean in living memory)

Crime is definitely down in Fair Haven compared to when I was young, and as the NHI reported last month, Hill north only had one shooting all year long. The main problem spot seems to be Newhallville where violent crime remains stubbornly high despite police and community efforts.

posted by: webblog on March 4, 2014  1:10pm

Before the alders trip and fall over each other in praise, they should do their home work and look at the ten year history of the rise and fall of crime in New Haven.
Heck, all one need do is look at the crime log linked to the NHI’s front page. How’s it looking now?

The alders never bothered to question the excessive and ever growing weekly overtime spending and the fact that each year overtime is grossly overspent. Another important question should have been the efficiency rating for the department by division. Efficiency rating tells you how many man hours the department needs and expends per officer over a forty hour week. Absence those statistics it is difficult to measure performance. Equally important is the fact that the chief almost NEVER meets with community groups as personified by Chief Lewis. Finally, the Chief needs to work on his interpersonal skills, officers say he is downright nasty, and community folks have said he is impatient.

Other than that he just doing what he’s suppose to do for $162K.

Therefore, before blessing the king and kissing his ring, Mayor Harp should perform a six month evaluation grading his strengths and weaknesses.

posted by: Threefifths on March 4, 2014  1:50pm

They are Nothing but dictator’s legislature rubber stamp politicians.This is why we need Term Limts.

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on March 5, 2014  7:42pm

I can’t remember the names of the five MEN who were Chief of Police, before Esserman.

Why? The wonderful, and masterful manipulation of the local press, by Esserman, who has taken the Giuliani invention of the “perp walk”, and expanded it. Press conferences putting the familys of murder victims, in their pain and shock on display. Just one type of press event, constantly churned out by the chief’s press agent, and the local media can always rely on him to fill dead space for the local news cycle.

The second thought, that might want to be examined, and addressed, there has never been a woman as Chief. It’s a shame the Mayor has put her trust in a man she barely knows (his resume is beautiful, but does not come close to painting an accurate picture of his results while the chief of various other departments.) and did not hire a woman she does know. How bad could it be? The last 8 men couldn’t run the department in a manner that slowed down the rate of violence in this city; how risky could it be to place control of the department in the hands of a woman?

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