New Haven’s “Finest” & “Bravest” Hit The Streets

Contributed PhotoFirefighters and cops recently converged on Kensington Street park—not to put out a blaze or chase crooks. But to hang out.

The departments have agreed to conduct some hour-long joint patrols in neighborhood spots where kids gather, as part of the city’s ongoing effort to stem youth violence by having responsible adults be more visible and reach out to them.

Paul Bass PhotoThe plan is to have a firefighter join a cop in one neighborhood public spot, around 4:30 p.m. and the again around 6:30 p.m., Fire Chief Allyn Wright (pictured) said a press conference on the Green Monday afternoon. Recent spots have included Goffe Street Park, the playground at Shelton and Ivy, South Genessee Park, Criscuolo Park, and Kensington Street’s park.

“New Haven’s Finest and New Haven’s Bravest” will “stand should to shoulder,” said Police Chief Dean Esserman.

Police union President Louis Cavaliere Jr. said his local has filed a grievance with the state labor board over the new plan. He argued that the city should have negotiated the plan with the union first. “It seems like they created a position without anybody knowing about it. I had to find out about it from a press conference. That’s unacceptable,” Cavaliere said. “That’s Labor 101. It was a slap in the face.”

“Putting a firefighter with them—it’s definitely a safety problem,” Cavaliere argued. “You’re taking a cop from that beat and replacing him with an inexperienced firefighter. We don’t do their job. And they don’t do ours. It’s not time for show and tell. We’re at a fast-paced job.”

“With all due respect to the concerns expressed by Mr. Cavaliere, there has been no new position nor safety problem created by this pilot program,” responded mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer. “The city looks forward to working with all parties to address his concerns should a decision be made about making this program more permanent.”

Firefighters union President Jimmy Kottage showed up at Monday’s press conference, standing back at a distance to listen. He said he hadn’t heard about the plan, so he had no comment yet.

Mayor Toni Harp called the new joint patrols the latest in a series of measures her administration has taken in the wake of the recent murders of two teens. Other measures have included:

Keeping schools open during the April vacation, with activities and meals.

• Starting My Brother’s Keeper, a program linking cops, educators, and other responsible adults with some of the most at-risk young people in New Haven.

• Holding a citywide canvas to find out which families need help with teens in trouble.

• Launching a weekly “Youth Stat” meeting with school, probation, police, and fire officials to track and plan strategies for dealing with the cases of at-risk kids.

The patrols aren’t guaranteed each day. Officers will sometimes be pulled away to respond to calls. For instance, Monday afternoon a joint patrol was planned for Murray Lender Playground behind John C. Daniels School on Baldwin Street (where the Lender family baked bagels beginning in 1929 on th their way to becoming a household name). Then a shooting took place across town on Sherman Avenue, a 4 year-old was found wandering alone by Ella Grasso Boulevard (he was unharmed) and police officers were needed elsewhere. An adult watching the kids at the playground at 4:45 p.m. said he had seen some firefighters assemble up the block around 4 p.m., but they hadn’t stopped by the playground

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posted by: connecticutcontrarian on April 28, 2014  7:37pm

is that Youth Services Director Jason Bartlett holding the microphone?

posted by: mailuser1221 on April 28, 2014  7:42pm

That’s all warm and fuzzy but they are not social workers, they are Public Safety Officers.

Plus Mr. Cavaliere Jr. is right.

posted by: HewNaven on April 29, 2014  7:21am

This is smart. Public safety officers should feel comfortable interacting with our children, and vice-versa. Hope it’s effective.

posted by: Mike Slattery on April 29, 2014  9:20am

OK, the rollout is clumsy, and yes these personnel must be fairly scheduled and compensated - but the idea sounds awesome.

IMHO, it is very important to have a person’s first contact with police be social, rather than in conflict.  If cops become just those guys who give you tickets or hassle you, that’s not good.  Firefighters in our culture have a lot of pre-allocated as well as hard earned goodwill to share, so it is smart to have them out together.  (While I’m allocating everyone’s time in fantasyland, I would add Parks and Sanitation too, to elevate them as well - maybe we’d litter less if we knew the person cleaning up.)

Of course, that can be done during regular duties as well - and they do.  NHPD was awesome during Rock to Rock.  Officers in the streets were in the rain but cheering folks on.  The bike cops were buzzing around keeping order, showing they could manage cars and crowds while showing compassion for tired riders, etc.  Bike cops are the new mounted cops, without any riot control baggage.  Mounted can be an awesome community outreach factor, people want to talk about the horse/bike etc and that creates a positive interaction.

posted by: Hmmmmm on April 29, 2014  10:25am

Let’s make the dispatchers go out on patrol with the police officers and firefighters then they would HAVE to answer the radio!  LOL Since we don’t have enough officers out on the streets now to answer calls are we going to hire more in order to make this program work?  Why wouldn’t anyone have spoken to the unions about this first? Why does the City continue to make these decisions without involving all of the affected parties?  I’m not saying they’re stupid, I’m just saying they have really bad luck when it comes to thinking.

posted by: William Kurtz on April 29, 2014  10:30am

maileruser wrote, “That’s all warm and fuzzy but they are not social workers, they are Public Safety Officers.”

Friendly, social, casual interactions—what you call ‘warm and fuzzy’ and what lots of the rest of us think as ‘basic social skills’ need to be a part of any meaningful public safety program.

Those are the kinds of things that improve safety—by the time the police charge in, sirens flashing and guns drawn,‘safety’ is already gone.

posted by: Shaggybob on April 29, 2014  11:17am

Wow Cavaliere is against a move to promote a “visible presence” of model leadership and safety that may help to curb violence. Surprise!!

I don’t see where the FD is providing any police services nor has created a new position.

“it’s definitely a safety problem” oh please, stop the exaggerations and please explain how -I think we all could get a laugh out of your unjustified reasoning.

Please Mr. Cavaliere stop your griping about no free parking for officers and get on board with trying to curb violence any way we can. No ones stepping on anyone’s toes here.

posted by: Tell The Truth on April 29, 2014  12:50pm

While this is an earnest attempt to further the mayors anti violence/youth engagement campaign, I’m not sure this is wise.  Yes, these two quite different services should engage the public, but not in this way. The police union is correct, there is a huge safety issue presented with this endeavor.  The fire fighters have no experience in shootings, gang intervention, anti drug enforcement techniques AND fire fighters do not wear KEVLAR.
This is dangerous not only to the public, but to the police officers and firefighters involved.  RIGHT IDEA , WRONG IMPLEMENTATION!

posted by: Shaggybob on April 29, 2014  3:23pm

Why is everyone missing the point that all they are doing is going to PARKS TO TALK WITH KIDS !!

No one has said they are there to perform police activities or fight fires. They are NOT PATROLLING.


“The plan is to have a firefighter join a cop in one neighborhood public spot, around 4:30 p.m. and the again around 6:30 p.m.”

Where does it imply anything else? Please point it out.

Please people don’t play into the antics of the Union. Remember when the Union decided to illegally hold a protest by Marching from Union Ave. to City Hall with out the proper permits?? Political Antics.

posted by: mailuser1221 on April 30, 2014  7:49am

They should have Armed Forces not cops and firemen, at least at risk teens can join the armed forces.

It’s almost impossible to become a policeman/fireman in New Haven due to the politics.

posted by: Jones Gore on April 30, 2014  4:03pm

A better idea would be to invite parents from that area to walk with the police. Encourage parents to get out there, develop a good relationship with the police and allow the children to see this.

This would make more sense and a meaningful impact in the communities.