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Casanova Will Remain Assistant Chief

by Paul Bass | Mar 29, 2013 12:32 pm

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

Posted to: Legal Writes

Allan Appel Photo (Updated Sunday 5:03 p.m.) A feverish last-minute behind-the-scenes effort to change a pension rule came up short—leaving Assistant Chief Luiz Casanova to decide whether to become a lieutenant again or remain assistant chief. In the end, Casanova chose to stay put in his leadership position.

Casanova (pictured visiting Roberto Clemente Leadership Academy) had to make that decision by Easter Sunday. He had to choose between staying in a top post in the department and preserving his retirement benefits in the face of a unique mix of pension and union rules and personal circumstances.

He wrestled with the question—and concluded that his top priority was continuing the work top cops have undertaken to revive community policing in New Haven.

“I look forward to continuing to working closely with the entire Board of Aldermen membership, union President Louis Cavaliere and most of all the hard-working New Haven police officers,” Casanova said Sunday afternoon. “Together we will continue to move the NHPD in a positive direction. I will continue with work with the New Haven community to positively align community-based policing with community expectations.”

“Chief Casanova is a remarkable police officer and person who has always put the community and police department first. He will always be part of the team that serves the people of the City Of New Haven,” said Chief Dean Esserman.

A popular former top Fair Haven cop, Casanova was one of four cops tapped to become assistant chiefs a year ago to flesh out Chief Dean Esserman’s top management team and perhaps ascend to the chief’s position one day. At the time an unspoken agreement among top officials called for adjusting a retirement rule so that if Casanova were ever to lose his job through no fault of his own, he would still have a pension.

He needed that guarantee because he was the only assistant chief to take the position with under 20 years of service in the police department. Cops need 20 years to collect a pension. Casanova has 17 years on the job.

Fast forward a year. The rule change never happened. And Mayor John DeStefano announced he will retire at the end of the year.

Suddenly Casanova’s pension appeared at potential risk in the event that two “ifs” take place: If the next mayor decides he wants a new police chief (not suggested by the current leading candidates). And if the new chief wants to put in his or her own assistant chiefs (as the past three chiefs have done).

If that happens, Assistant Chief Casanova would be in a pickle. His job could be eliminated or he could otherwise be pushed out of the job. But he wouldn’t be able to return to his old job as a lieutenant, which unlike the assistant chief’s position is part of the police union. Under the contract, a unionized worker has up to a year after leaving a position to seek to get it back. After that, he or she is out of luck.

So Casanova (shown in the video at left addressing a line-up on Kensington Street after the shooting of a 16-month-old boy) faced a deadline: He had to decide whether to return to being a lieutenant by March 30, the one-year anniversary of leaving the union to become an assistant chief. Or else risk losing his pension after 17 years in the job. (He already took a pay cut by becoming assistant chief because he no longer qualified for overtime.)

Before he made the decision, city officials tried to convince first the police union and then the Board of Aldermen to change a rule in order to save Casanova’s job: Either allow him back in the bargaining unit after more than a year (a union decision); or change the city’s executive management rules (an aldermanic decision) to allow a person who retires after 15 years to cash in at least three years of unused sick time. to qualify for the pension. Firefighters can already do that. Cops used to be able to do that, but no longer can. (Casanova has accumulated well more than the needed number of years of unused sick time.)

The Union No

Melissa Bailey Photo Police Union President Lou Cavaliere (pictured) said he didn’t see how he could make an exception for just one person. He also said rank-and-file cops have besieged him with demands not to make that exception.

“It’s nothing personal. I understand his concern. A lot of people say he should have known that when he took the deal,” Cavaliere told the Independent Thursday. “I get along with the kid. It’s nothing personal. I have to entertain the members’ complaints. That’s part of my job.”

“I’ve been getting calls nonstop. I can’t even do work in my union office,” said Cavaliere. “It’s one member after next coming in asking what the deal is. Why are they helping him and not us? They feel there is favoritism.”

Casanova’s tenure as assistant chief has included overseeing patrol. In that role, he has taken some unpopular stands among some rank-and-file cops: Removing one of two prisoner transport vans during some shifts, for instance; or overruling some people’s preferences for which days to work based on when the department needed to up staffing levels; or insisting cops arrive to work on time. (Read about some of that here.)

“He wants to break balls if you park in the wrong parking spot,” Cavaliere remarked. “I understand we all have rules here. I can see if I was in a parking lot with a knife in my hand slashing people’s tires, you want to write me up. But if a guy comes a little late and parks in the wrong spot, you got to put the guy on the paper? Guys here are saying it’s karma.”

Casanova responded that he felt he had to make decisions based on needs of the department and public safety: “The same way we enforce the rules in the community, cops should be held to the same standards, if not higher.”

“The mayor has been calling the aldermen. The chief has been down here asking me if I can make a deal for the kid because he has a family,” Cavaliere said. “Not for nothing, the guy makes over 100 Gs a year plus a car. I make half of that. That’s fine. He took the position. He had a handshake deal [with city officials for a pension rule change]. A handshake deal is not binding.”

Aldermanic No

City Hall also tried to convince the Board of Aldermen to take action this week to change the executive management rules to allow for Casanova to qualify for his pension if he has to leave his position for reasons other than just cause.

That was one of a package of proposed changes the administration brought before the board earlier this fiscal year. The proposals stalled in committee as the administration negotiated an overall new contract with the police union.

“I did receive a call from City Hall [this week] concerning some issue with the Assistant Chief Casanova,” Board of Aldermen President Jorge Perez reported Thursday. “Since there’s no meeting between now and Friday, the discussion came to an end real quick.”

“There is an acknowledgement that this is a real concern. We looked at different ways of trying to address it,” said city Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts. “We couldn’t find a way of addressing it.”

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posted by: Solid45 on March 29, 2013  12:51pm

The Chief knew the rules when he took the job, now you have to deal with it.  Ask Ex-Chief Petisha Adger.  Remember Louis you’re only as good as your last mayor.

posted by: Edward Francis on March 29, 2013  1:27pm

He will not lose his pension….we hear this story behind the scenes often.(not only about police but firefighters also)....The Policemen’s & Firemen’s Retirement Fund has a “Vested” clause that protects each employee should they decide or have to leave before they qualify for a regular years of service retirement. Like many others in government Assistant Chief Casanova would like to have it both ways.  There have been too many “Monte Hall” deals made over the years to fatten up the pensions. I commend the police union president for speaking out on the issue on behalf of all the members of the pension fund and the city tax payers.

posted by: AverageTaxpayer on March 29, 2013  1:49pm

Not for nothing, Cavaliere Jr. and the Police Union’s attitude are a total disgrace.

It’s becoming harder and harder for me to care about New Haven’s police officers when so many of them care clearly only about themselves.

Does anyone have a list of last year’s retirement pay-outs? Why are we paying ex-Police officers $60,000 plus to retire in their late-40’s?

posted by: HewNaven on March 29, 2013  1:54pm

“He wants to break balls if you park in the wrong parking spot,” Cavaliere remarked. “I understand we all have rules here. I can see if I was in a parking lot with a knife in my hand slashing people’s tires, you want to write me up. But if a guy comes a little late and parks in the wrong spot, you got to put the guy on the paper? Guys here are saying it’s karma.”

I think I understand why Cavliere is upset. Cops like Cavaliere and the other officers who have been complaining don’t like following the rules, that’s why they like being cops. God forbid someone asks them to play by the rules, they might have to get off the power trip. Imagine the consequences!

posted by: NHPDVet on March 29, 2013  3:04pm

Cavaliere is destroying this PD.  He sold his soul (thus, our collective souls) by agreeing to separate the Union [body], and now attempts to portray the wrong message about our views.  Those officers going to the union office are the same malcontents that always complain to the union.  The same lazy cops that want the union to support their laziness and poor work ethic; Cavaliere can relate to them all too well.  Note: Elections are coming soon.

A.C. Casanova is trying to hold officers accountable, which has been lacking for years.  The majority of officers are hard working, abide by the rules, and welcome accountability.

posted by: UNH Grad on March 29, 2013  4:28pm

“It’s nothing personal. I understand his concern. A lot of people say he should have known that when he took the deal,” Cavaliere told the Independent Thursday. “I get along with the kid. It’s nothing personal. I have to entertain the members’ complaints. That’s part of my job.”

I see both sides of this debate, but that aside I think its extraordinarily disrespectful for Union President Cavaliere (Officer or Sergeant, the article doesn’t say) to refer to an Assistant Chief, particularly in front of the media, as “kid.”  Very unprofessional for the Union President of a large city department.

posted by: Wildwest on March 29, 2013  6:28pm

I was going to write a post and then I saw HewNaven’s post. You said it. That quote was disgusting and reminds me of high school bullies and the things they like to say. Unions with guys like this in charge are outdated and need to go.

posted by: kg on March 29, 2013  9:51pm

these are tough times. we all need to pull up our socks and work. retirement after 20 years is crazy. benefits are out of line with the rest of the country

posted by: Claudia Herrera on March 29, 2013  11:04pm

We just lost one very popular and favor it police officer in Fair Haven, sergeant Zona and now Casanova is trying to keep hi JOB?
I really hope that he doesn’t get tired and left us too to find a better opportunity for him. I will not blame HIM.

posted by: Eugene Debs on March 30, 2013  10:17am

Lou Cavaliere has become a fantastic union president.  I’m impressed how he has, in difficult times, grown to fill the shoes of his father, a remarkable and inspiring man.

It seems, the obvious way to help the assistant chief would be to extend a benefit to everyone with 17 years or more to somehow bridge the time needed to retire.  That would provide everyone working there with added security, and not just one favorite son.

posted by: citysavior on March 30, 2013  10:41am

Asst.chief Casanova has a far better reputation with in the city than the union president does. I have spoken to union members who do not share the presidents view and comments. Under Chief Esserman’s administration a demand for accountability is being Enforced The Union president is not protecting the pension as the union has not done so in the many deals to allow others to retire early.The Union President is trying to move some one who demands accountability. Asst. Chief are year to year employees which is why the position has been unstable for years as was the chiefs.A solution would be for the city to lock in asst.chiefs to two to three year contracts.Besides the present asst.chiefs any in house candidate would be in the same position as Chief Casanova.Police officers should not be allowed to break rules regarding illegal parking then come into our neighborhood and enforce the same regulations.

posted by: Fr Jim on March 30, 2013  3:44pm

Assistant Chief Casanova has my up most respect as a man and as a police officer. I pray that he makes the best decision for himself and his family.

When he left Fair Haven, he assured the community that he would find the right person for district manager, and he did. We are grateful for Sgts. Zona and Johnson, and the team of officers assigned to Fair Haven.

Chief Esserman has selected a great team to build on the strengthen the relationship between the police and community- Assistant Chiefs Casanova, Generoso, Reddish, and Blanchard. And good things are happening.

After Good Friday services yesterday, several leaders in the parish told me that a police officer was looking for me. Concerned, I went out to see the officer. Asking if there was anything I could do, he simply said, “I just wanted to introduce myself, I am Officer Santiago, and I am new in Fair Haven.” There were several people around and we were moved by Officer Santiago’s gesture.

So many good things are happening in New Haven, and our police department is one of them- good things happen because of good people like Casanova and Santiago.

posted by: HhE on March 30, 2013  11:35pm

As someone typically very supportive of the NHPD, and who has had is fair share of bad bosses, I have to say Officer Cavaliere is doing this union no favors. 

Start with, that “kid” is your boss, and a better officer.

Next, many people in this city (let’s call them “tax payers”) expect the police to arrive to work on time. 

I also find it really tiresome to have to walk around officer’s POVs that are blocking cross walks and all that.

posted by: AdranaS:) on March 31, 2013  11:13am

Did I read this right?? is the Union President saying that this is karma because the Asst Chief did his JOB by correcting officers who were breaking rules.  So what Cavaliere is saying its ok for his union members to be late to work and break the rules to park wherever they wanted to and have no consequences because the KID should mind his own business and allow the NHPD Officers to be late, break rules, and send these same officers out on the street to enforce rules.
WOW is all I have to say… The NHPD has a GEM for a union president

posted by: Threefifths on March 31, 2013  11:13am

posted by: HhE on March 30, 2013 11:35pm
As someone typically very supportive of the NHPD, and who has had is fair share of bad bosses, I have to say Officer Cavaliere is doing this union no favors.

Are you part of rank and file?Did you vote Cavaliere in.Last I look it was police officers who voted him in.


Next, many people in this city (let’s call them “tax payers”) expect the police to arrive to work on time.

Are you the spokes person for the taxpayers of New Haven.Who saya the poilce are not arrive to work on time.


I also find it really tiresome to have to walk around officer’s POVs that are blocking cross walks and all that.

How do you know that those are POV.I knew people who park there cars near headquarters and take Metro North.Aslo BOE people park there also.

posted by: streever on March 31, 2013  1:15pm

Right on, Hhe.

The police have a tough job, and thankfully, many good officers who work hard and keep their name out of the media, just doing good work & showing up to perform thankless work.

Maybe Officer Cavaliere should retire if he can’t share his opinion about the legality of a former union member who is his superior without resorting to disrepectful language.

posted by: HhE on April 1, 2013  6:03am

I never claimed that I voted for (or against) Cavaliere.  What I did claim is that his conduct is not in the best interest of the rank and file—even if he is doing the bidding of vocal members.  Maybe there was a time when unions could ignore public opinion.  However, in this day and age of media relations and all that, the public service union that ignores the tax paying electorate, does so at its peril. 

Obviously, I am not a spokes person for all the tax payers.  However, when a person who is as inclined to be sympathetic to police officers as I am is disgusted, then it is reasonable to believe that many other people will hold a similar view. 

How do I know officers are arriving late?  Police Union President Cavaliere told me so, “But if a guy comes a little late and parks in the wrong spot, you got to put the guy on the paper? “

I cannot preclude the possibility that BoE employees and persons using Union Station are parking their cars illegally adjacent to 1 Union.  Yet to do so with impunity, does not require the car to be perceived as belonging to a fellow officer?

posted by: Noteworthy on April 1, 2013  7:29am

I used to be generally supportive of both the NHPD and NHFD. But over the years, with contracts rich in benefits, in compensation, rules and protections against dumping poor performers, I am less supportive than ever. We are hiring too many, and providing a level of comfort that inspires poor performance and frankly, a lack of common sense. There is incessant whining about contracts, arbitration and a refusal to seriously look at our inability to fund their pensions and nearly free healthcare. That’s before we get into yanking dozens of citizens from their homes on a monthly basis for psych reviews, transported by expensive ambulance services based on nothing more than a phone call. This is just the latest example of where cops waste money that’s not theirs, wastes the time of taxpayers and do it all with impugnity.

This rule should not have been changed and all the crying by the members of the two largest budget items for which taxpayers overpay, should just end. For all the bravado, they act like spoiled children.

posted by: Curious on April 1, 2013  10:23am

Good for Casanova!  That shows not only real integrity, but confidence in his abilities and the likelihood of remaining in his role if the winds do change.

Cavaliere should be embarrassed to even say this: 
[ “I understand we all have rules here. I can see if I was in a parking lot with a knife in my hand slashing people’s tires, you want to write me up. But if a guy comes a little late and parks in the wrong spot, you got to put the guy on the paper? Guys here are saying it’s karma.”]

That guy is a cop?  He represents other cops?

What if I am a little late in slowing down and go through a stop sign?  Or a little late getting back to my car and feeding the meter?  Do I get a free pass as long as I don’t have a knife in my hand?  What a sad thing to come out of a police officer’s mouth.

posted by: Curious on April 1, 2013  10:28am

Also, is that three years worth of vacation time?  Or does that actually mean three years worth of service that can be taken as vacation?  That is 750 vacation days. 

How the hell do you rack up 750 vacation days, even over 17 years on the job?  Most workplaces either make you cash them out, or force you to take them. 

Three YEARS of vacation time?  Are you kidding me?

posted by: Threefifths on April 1, 2013  6:21pm

posted by: Curious on April 1, 2013 10:28am

How the hell do you rack up 750 vacation days, even over 17 years on the job?  Most workplaces either make you cash them out, or force you to take them.

Very simple.Take the tese for these type of jobs with these benfits.How come most work places let CEO get this type of benfits after they have wreck the company.

Heinz CEO due $212.6 million golden parachute
By Chris Isidore.

http://money.cnn.com/2013/03/05/news/companies/he

MY Bad.Take a look at what the taxpayers payout when the president of the united states retires.

Taxpayers are picking up the tab for millions of dollars in expenses racked up by the 4 living ex-presidents—all of whom are multimillionaires.

By Karen Datko Jun 6, 2012

http://money.msn.com/retirement/article.aspx?post=d14df074-82c0-4972-bd6c-714fb2632c09

posted by: factsifter on April 2, 2013  12:03am

Good Man, I hope you become chief one day.  It will be well deserved.  Thanks for putting the people of New Haven first and having confidence in your abilities.  Others will follow your example and the NHPD will become a better place.

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