New Chief Assigns Top Cops Homework

(Updated) On his first day in town, New Haven’s new drug gang-fighting police chief asked his command staff to hand in two ideas apiece for improving the department.

Frank Limon issued the homework assignment at a private meeting in the mayor’s conference room. Then he stepped into the City Hall atrium for a press conference, where Mayor John DeStefano announced that he’d named the 55-year-old career cop the city’s next police chief.

Limon begins work April 5. His term will run through Feb. 1, 2014.

Limon succeeds James Lewis, who left New Haven a week and a half ago following a 20-month stint reorganizing the police department.

Limon was chosen from 50 applicants, all males, according to someone familiar with today’s scheduled announcement. He is Latino, as is his wife, who hails from Ecuador. (The New Haven-based Ecuadorian consul attended the announcement Tuesday). In the end Limon prevailed over two other finalists, one a former New York City precinct captain.

He comes to New Haven from Illinois. He spent 30 years on the Chicago police force, where he supervised 600 people in the Organized Crime Department (OCD) before retiring in 2008. For the past year he has served as police chief in River Forest, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago. He shook up that department, cutting staff and crime at the same time.

Limon spent five hours cruising all around New Haven Monday—in part because he was staying at the Omni, which had been evacuated because of a bomb scare. He described the city as warm and welcoming. He described meeting a friendly couple who invited him and his wife for dinner; because his appointment hadn’t yet been announced, Limon couldn’t tell his new friends why exactly he was in town.

Mayor John DeStefano said Tuesday that he chose Limon in part because of his skills in working with the community and his background fighting drug gangs. The department “needs to be more aggressive on narcotics,” DeStefano said. “Virtually all gun violence is related to narcotics.”

District managers and unit heads met with Limon in the private session before the press conference. He asked them to submit, in sealed envelopes, their two best ideas for changing the department, along with their resumes. He plans to meet one-on-one with each of them.

“I want ideas from the rank and file and department leaders that are there now,” he said. “I’m not going to come in with a wand and fix everything.”

Limon visited New Haven and considered the chief’s job two years ago, the last time it was open. He decided against pursuing the job further, he said, because his wife Gisella was still working. She has now retired; she was an arson detective with the Chicago police force.

In his remarks to the press Tuesday, he spoke of his support for community policing. He also spoke of combating drugs through a strategy that combines law enforcement and social services. Click on the play arrow at the top of the story to watch some of those remarks.

A Hit In River Forest

Paul Bass PhotoAs OCD head, Limon worked closely with state and federal cops, an important part of a New Haven chief’s role. He’s a graduate of Xavier University and the Illinois Institute of Technology.

For the past year, he has produced “amazing” results in turning around the once-troubled department in the 12,000-population town of River Forest, according to Stephen Hoke, who chairs the Police Committee of the Board of Trustees there.

Crime went down 28 percent while the chief cut staff 17 percent over the past 11 months, Hoke said.

“He’s a living example that more for less is possible,” Hoke said.

Limon’s emphasis was on placing more cops on the street; cuts were focused elsewhere. For instance, he cut the number of deputy chiefs from two to one. In New Haven, one open question is whether the new chief will continue to have four assistant chiefs. (Read about that here.)

You can read about the River Forest department’s problems and how Limon produced a “dramatic turnaround” beginning on page 5 of this report. And read about the problems he inherited when he took the job in this report.

Hoke also credited Limon with building bridges to chiefs in River Forest’s neighboring communities.

“His theory is crime doesn’t respect borders,” Hoke said. Limon created a working group of regional chiefs that produced some major busts in the past three to four months, according to Hoke, including breaking up a 54-member burglary ring.

The local Wednesday Journal newspaper shared Hoke’s assessment. It named Limon “Villager of the Year” for “transforming” the department. Read about that here.


Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry


posted by: DKR on March 9, 2010  9:04am

sounds like an impressive resume indeed. however will he be just another puppet to johnny boy or will he be able to lead this department as a chief should, having TOTAL CONTROL and bring back morale, and alleviate all the turmoil within??? we shall see

posted by: Anon on March 9, 2010  9:20am

Hmm, this fellow reportedly is capable of conducted major drug/conspiracy investigations without the help of FBI or DEA.

Perhaps that will save a lot of legs from gunshot wounds in New Haven in the coming years. Seems to be the gun crime of choice these days: Bullet Leg

So as not to end a New Haven blog comment without a dose of that cranky New Haven skepticism, have to ask, how did he escape the crisis at Chicago PD where he served as deputy commissioner during a scandal that brought down the commissioner?  Are we going to become a episode of The Wire?

posted by: J. Hart on March 9, 2010  10:23am

Excellent! A Chicago cop is exactly what this town needs. I have the same high hopes that I had when Lewis came to town. Best of luck, Chief Limon.

posted by: ned on March 9, 2010  10:40am

More tired “drug war” rhetoric, really, the “drug war” should just be renamed: “the corrupt police full employment act”.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on March 9, 2010  11:08am

He will be gone in three years.

posted by: anon on March 9, 2010  11:17am

Just another puppet…. maybe all the cops will begin to work hard and fight crime if he isn’t and bring back morale which the UNION divided.

posted by: Pedro on March 9, 2010  11:59am

For what it’s worth, River Forest is sad to see him go. He seems to be cut from the same cloth as Lewis in terms of transforming police departments:

posted by: Nicoles on March 9, 2010  12:00pm

Let’s give him a chance before you judge.

posted by: 2Unique on March 9, 2010  1:00pm

3/5s, must you always be so positive?

posted by: jack- on March 9, 2010  1:24pm

watch the cops apply their chapstick -’ pucker up’- let the suck-ups begin !
doing more with less- i think ive heard that before-  hhmmm think johhhnnny d. has told chief lemon- ‘no more 4 a.c.‘s’    and i wonder if lewis whispered in lemons ear- ” hold out- make the city get you housing” .
pucker up - theres a new chief in town -

posted by: anon on March 9, 2010  2:41pm

The weather is getting nice, hope the new Chief can bring back the QUAD SQUAD asap!  Quads , ATVs, dirtbikes are terrorizing our neighborhoods and parks again!

posted by: Beaver Hill Resident on March 9, 2010  3:26pm

I agree with anon.  Bring back the quad squad immediately!!  Before the neighborhoods go crazy!!

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on March 9, 2010  5:09pm


3/5s, must you always be so positive?

Thank you for the compliment.But like I said he will not be here very long.

posted by: anon on March 9, 2010  5:17pm

Not sure why we pick on QUADS when the DRIVERS are also out of control. Can there be a special crackdown on both? 

In the summer, the cops will be needed to deal with shootings so now is the time to crack down on the insane, speeding drivers who are singlehandedly ruining the quality of life in this city and making it an impossible place to live… I’m fed up and about ready to leave!

posted by: fingers on March 9, 2010  5:19pm

Now I understand why the Omni got a bomb threat.

Here’s one thing: Stop having cops chase 12,000 FALSE alarms. I couldn’t believe that when I read that a few weeks ago. Waste of man power.

posted by: Eric on March 9, 2010  5:36pm

We need to bring back walking beats to New Haven, especially in the club district on Crown St and on Park Street south of Chapel.

Dwight Street between Whalley and Frontage is sorely in need of a walking beat- officers who stop and actually interact with residents- instead of barreling past on their cell phones.

Also, bring motorcycle cops to James Street- specifically to Criscoulo Park- ticket the litterers and pot smokers. There’s always someone having sex in their car at the park, drinking, and dealing drugs at the dead-end. Craps games at night contribute to local violence.

Sobriety checkpoints at night downtown would also help curb accidents and irresponsibe driving.
Bicycle cops and mounted cops (horses!) in the beach communities/parks would increase visibility, calm the nerves of people used to seeing cruisers as an enemy, and bring peace back to the parks.

East Rock Park would benefit from a mounted police presence on the trails, where vehicular traffic is impossible. There are a number of muggings there in summer.

Glad to see the new chief is bilingual- it should help assuage fear in the spanish-speaking community that an out-of-touch chief is in town!

posted by: citysavior on March 9, 2010  6:47pm

welcome to New Haven Chief Limon. Be careful some of the command staff that your are inheriting may not be truthful. some have agendas to get their command staff members on to your staff. Others are wolfs in sheep clothing. as you have four years sit back the movers and shakers will be known to you. Keep a eye on your 40 hour workers and your minute men and women. You have seen this in of luck and god bless you and your family. PS GREAT SCOOP PAUL!!!

posted by: Hmmm? on March 9, 2010  6:50pm

I thought the narcotics unit was doing well?

posted by: John Fitzpatrick on March 9, 2010  7:25pm

Welcome to New Haven, Chief Limon. The Chapel-Ellsworth block watch looks forward to working with you.

posted by: Pioneer on March 9, 2010  8:25pm

A huge welcome to Chief Limon and his wife, don’t know if they have any children.. but I had the pleasure of meeting his this afternoon, nice guy.. I’m sure he’ll do great!

And for sure - let’s get the Quad Squad back on.

posted by: Beware the Ides of March on March 9, 2010  8:55pm

Two weeks back Chief Lewis warned that cuts would come to the sworn services. Now we have the guy who can do more with less. Johnny Boy’s tax hike will never fly. He knows the alders will not approve it. He can then blame them for the layoffs of cops and firefighters that are coming.

posted by: Claudia Herrera on March 9, 2010  10:04pm

Welcome chief Limon.

Finally, our authorities referred and recognised to those who are destroying the quality of life with crazy driving, noise pollution and groups on bicycles all over the city in summer time as a drug gangs. They are NOT enjoying the good weather with so much aggravation to the peace.  They are responsible of intimidation to the rest of the community.

A Chief with impressive city life experience and drugs. Good start!  Good luck.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on March 9, 2010  10:18pm

The vast majority of crimes are property crimes while violent crimes, which are much less frequent, is the greatest contributor to the sense of a lack of safety.
Beyond this, it can be observed that there are two types of crime-those committed as a direct result of specific circumstances and those committed as a result of cultural and social degradation that stem form circumstances that happened over a relatively long period of time.
The first kind has been around since the first civilizations were being formed and will likely be around for the foreseeable future. An example is if a person loses their job and cannot feed their children, so they are reduced to stealing, this would be a case of a main stream citizen turning to crime as a direct result and usually a last resort. This can be effectively addressed by police, either through prevention by having community-based walking beats and patrols and by having investigative work of a crime to catch the perpetrator and bring them to (when possible) rehabilitative justice.
Conversely, police are extremely ineffective at addressing the second type of crime. If that same person loses a job and steals bread to feed their family and ends up having to repay their debt with interest to the property owner and society through jail time (or fine, community service, etc) and that person’s child grows up without that person there, without access to jobs (because along with the parent’s job, the work was exported to Mexico, China or India), the lower standard of living that is common in single parent households, and because this child has a child at a young age, then the perfect storm for an existence defined by social inadequacies. This is amplified when it happens to entire communities and neighborhoods, which is precisely what happened in this country and in this city in communities across the nation when manufacturing jobs were exported to places with cheaper labor and less regulation/taxation. Police can address the person committing the crime, but they cannot address the underlying problem. Social programs also cannot address these problems, only an atmosphere of purpose and community through complete neighborhoods with jobs for all people, adequate housing, recreational/public space, services and access to daily needs can address the underlying problems that plague much of our city. After several generations of social and cultural degradation we see the types of violence that can result from drugs becoming an underground currency and women becoming an object to fight over. Even drugs are not a central problem, the issues in crime ridden neighborhoods go back much further than the 1980s cocaine boom, they go back to the decentralization and destruction of urban centers through sustained decay and suburbanization of the countries woodland, farmland and coastal areas that accelerated the de-localizing of this country’s intricate networks of commerce, governance and coherently organized citizen involvement in “places”.
Drugs are a complicated issue because I think it is sensible to decriminalize them but not without first supplying the alternative of meaningful employment that produces goods and services that others rely on.

posted by: observer on March 9, 2010  10:33pm

Did I miss something,or did the Mayor state that he hired him because of his “drug-gang” experince. Is the Mayor now admitting that there ARE gangs in New Haven?? He’s been dispelling that “myth” for a few years now…Wow how the story changes.

posted by: Maribel on March 9, 2010  11:27pm

Felicidades, Chief Limon.  I truly hope that you will turn this city’s crime rate around.

posted by: gangs in the hill on March 10, 2010  12:13am

observer: it was confirmed at the last hill south management team meeting that latin kings are back in the hill.  for the mayor to pretend that there arent gangs in this city is absurd.  and they best do something about it.  its hard to learn in your newly reformed school when youre worrying about the life/death situations that come with gangs in the hood.

posted by: atr on March 10, 2010  9:04am

For years we were told crime was down in New Haven or there was no crime!? because New Haven failed to report the crime. This city is a mess, Chief, Good Luck and God Bless. Don’t be fooled or manipulated by anyone. You need to clean this place up, crimes are up in every neighborhood there is no respect for our police and to many special interest groups that run this city.Come to the “annex” section of New Haven, look what it has become… J.D should remember what it was and what it is now.He grew up in the area.

posted by: Claudia Herrera on March 10, 2010  10:18am

After I checked chief’s Limon “page 5” report and follow the link Pedro posted, I will add three more words to describe him.Philosophy, vision and goals.

seems like he knows and follows his instincts to perform his job base on reality. very good thing.

posted by: Wooster Square resident on March 10, 2010  10:25am

Welcome to New Haven Chief Limon.  I hope you continue the good work of Chief Lewis in enforcing the motor vehicle laws.  When cars can speed through red lights, chronically turn right on red and ignore pedestrians in crosswalks, the city looks and fells lawless.  (Maybe some of the “No turn on red” signs should be gotten rid of?)

I bless Chief Lewis every time I can cross the street now.  Good luck!

posted by: juli on March 10, 2010  10:34am

@gangs in the hill:

how could you overlook the direct link between gangs and school reform?

a good mayor should address both. but you don’t believe access to a solid education would decrease gang activity?

Chief Limon, welcome & best of luck to you.

posted by: Tomas Reyes Jr. on March 10, 2010  11:16am

Congratulations and welcome to the new Chief, Frank Limon. Congratulations to Mayor DeStefano
for spending the time and energy to find an
experienced and obviously courageous individual
who,I believe,will not only energize the Department but will engage the community at a
variety of levels.Lets all say yes to truly
working together for a better and safer community and prove the naysayers wrong!

posted by: gangs in the hill on March 10, 2010  12:43pm

@juli:  of course a good mayor should address both.  but what is our mayor really addressing?  he is in denial about the gangs and he is focused on student attendance and test scores disguising this focus as “reform.”  its a case of which came first the chicken or the egg.  the gangs have to be dealt with, as its a quality of life issue impacting the neighborhoods where our kids live, work and play.  im not sold that a “solid education” will decrease gang activity.  of course excellent schools are important, but it has to be an aggressive two-pronged approach.  i will believe it when i see it.  and yes, welcome to the new chief.  best wishes for a peaceful and productive term.

posted by: Sunday on March 10, 2010  1:10pm

I just hope that this chief got the guts to do the job. We were on a good path when Lewis and his boys left in which the Mayor should have kept them. We need accountability to the tax-payers in New Haven that’s paying these officers salary. It is so easy to go a-stray when you don’t have good leadership in place.Just because a person get promoted don’t mean they are qualified to do the job and has good leadership skills. Just look at past practice. The past help you to define the present. The past at New Haven Police was “HOPLESS”.

posted by: The Count on March 10, 2010  3:09pm

Perhaps it can be best summed up by a quote from Chicago’s own Mayor Richard Daley (Sr.): “The police are not here to create disorder. They are here to PRESERVE disorder!”

posted by: bumphus on March 11, 2010  10:02am

I heard there’s a guy in New Haven that smokes pot. I sure hope they catch him…

posted by: A View from behind the curtain @ 1 Union Avenue on March 11, 2010  6:57pm

I wish Chief Limon all the best in his new position.  I have some random thoughts about what lies ahead, based upon this article and the linked articles.

One should not read too much into Crime Stats, or be quick to give any person or action credit when it reduces or spikes.  I am suspicious of those who trumpet their reduction of Crime Stats.  Everyone was crowing about Lewis reducing crime by 10%.  Yet, he was here for the first ten weeks of 2010.  He is now gone for two weeks.  The Shootings and Homicides have skyrocketed for the first quarter of the year.  What is the NHPD doing differently from 2009 to 2010?  The answer is nothing.  Can you correlate it to the bad guys taking advantage of Lewis leaving town?  Not likely.  There are too many factors that drive the Crime Stats to be able to say that any Chief or tactic is THE reason for a spike or downturn.

I like that he met with the NHPD Command Staff before he was trotted out to the adoring public.  But, just as troubling, is the way he left his last assignment (Lake Forest PD) without the courtesy of telling anyone (Village President, Police Commission, Lake Forest PD) that he was leaving.  A link to the Lake Forest paper shows that the day he was named to NHPD (Tuesday), the Lake Forest Village President had not received any official notification.  The same goes for the Police Commission that met that Monday night; they heard rumblings, but he was already in town at the Omni.  Remember, Limon spent less time in River Forest than Lewis did with NHPD.

I am leery of people who speak in sweeping generalities and platitudes like Limon’s “Everybody should be mentored to move up..” in regards to reaching out to Department members, as he was in Chicago.  Real World response is “No”.  Not every police officer in the NHPD, or any other Police organization, is qualified or suitable to be moving up.  Some, as in all PD’s, probably should not have been hired in the first place.

The Mayor, in his remarks that day, again showed his lack of understanding (or having read at all) of the PERF Report.  He said that Lewis had finished shoring up the Patrol Division and its issues, and it was NOW time to turn attention to the Detective Squad.  ISU was the main part of the PERF Report’s findings.  So, when he brought in Lewis, along with the PERF Report Playbook for the NHPD, the Mayor, and by extension, Lewis, both failed to pay any attention to the Report.  Is the PERF Report still in play?  Or, was it ever?  Was the City sold a bill of goods that was largely ignored?

Lastly, Limon was quoted as saying that God had led him back to New Haven.  I guess Limon is just like those other Chicagoans—Jake and Elwood Blues; He is on a MISSION FROM GOD!

Again, Good Luck Chief Limon in your four year contract.  Has anyone established an over/under betting line for his term?