Chief: Sorry. And We Saved Money

Markeshia Ricks Photo Top city cop Anthony Campbell came to City Hall bearing an apology as well as some good news about the police department’s budget.

Interim Chief Campbell and his officers had been a no-show earlier this week at a Board of Alders Public Safety Committee meeting that ended up with delay of approval for a $1.5 million grant application needed by the police department to purchase body cameras. Alders decided not to vote on the request because the cops didn’t show up and because of confusion over police officials’ handling a second pilot program underway for body cameras. (Read more about that here.)

Campbell did show up in City Hall’s alder chambers Thursday night at a hearing of the board’s Finance Committee to discuss the police department’s request for a nearly $43 million total operational, special funds and capital budget for fiscal year 2017-2018. He called police brass’s prior absence this week “completely unacceptable.” He had been on vacation and “communication snafus” resulted in no one attending the meeting, he said.

“Before I get into the finance part, I wanted to take a moment to apologize to the members of the board who are members of the Public Safety Committee,” Campbell said. “Had we been here we could have answered the questions that you had.”

This is Campbell’s first year presenting the budget to alders in the role as acting chief. Despite the misstep two days ago, his debut at Thursday night’s hearing featured none of the tension and tough questioning that greeted his predecessor, former Police Chief Dean Esserman, who retired last September.

The absence of fireworks seemed to be mainly because Campbell had pretty good news.

He reported that the department is on pace to replace its patrol fleet in two years. A recruit class of 30 new officers is ready to graduate May 12, putting the department closer to full staff of nearly 500 officers, and likely reducing overtime. Only two cops have retired over the last seven months, slowing a troubling trend. Ranks such as detective are back to full strength. And with the the upcoming promotion of seven sergeants and the completion of the lieutenants exam, the rank and file has had room to advance.

The biggest update for alders concerned one of the largest new expenses to hit the department in recent years —and it turns out the expense will be less than expected.

Last year, with only two months notice, the budget-strapped state government informed the city it would have to take over management of — and the cost of running — the pretrial detention facility at 1 Union Ave. At the time the police department estimated that staffing would cost as much as $2 million in overtime. Now, Campbell reported Thursday night, that annual cost estimate has come down to about $520,000.

Westville Alder Adam Marchand said he was “heartened” by Campbell’s “optimistic assessment.” But he asked for more details about how the department has been operating the detention center and why the chief was confident that the department had figured out the best operating model.

“My fear is that we approve this amount and then we see you in four or five months and you say, ‘We need another million dollars,’” Marchand said.

Campbell said he based his estimates on weekly staffing breakdowns he receives as well. To run the lock-up, he said, it takes a supervisor and four officers a shift. He said the incoming class of officers next month and the recent promotion of sergeants mean that the department will have more flexibility in staffing the lock-up rather than pay so much overtime. In fact, Campbell said that he believes that the the $520,000 amount could come down in the future.

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posted by: Noteworthy on April 21, 2017  10:46am

Almost 500 officers for a city the size of New Haven - gross over-employment - gross by any national standard. Fat and happy - keep hiring. The idea that overtime has come down - any nitwit could make that calculation. Of course, you hire more people, there is less available overtime. It’s abused anyway.

That’s one cop for every 268 people in New Haven. No wonder it feels like a police state.

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on April 21, 2017  12:34pm

Congratulations to acting-Chief Campbell.  This is great news for the City and will help keep taxes down and people safe.  Also, a congratulations to the Mayor for appointing him.  And to be fair, his predecessor Dean Esserman should also get some of the credit.

posted by: Jonathan14 on April 21, 2017  5:14pm

Amazing that Esserman gets forced out, and cops stop retiring.  His presence was toxic.  @ Noteworthy: people in most cities would welcome that ratio of police to public.  Sounds great, and it is an important factor among many others that is necessary to reduce crime.  Let us not forget that among cities it’s size, New Haven has ranked in the top five most crime plagued in the very recent past.  Doesn’t feel like a police state to me; it feels like an appropriate response to a very serious problem, but I have no axe to grind.

posted by: mailuser1221 on April 22, 2017  7:19am

The good news in this article for me is Chief Campbell himself.  He is honest, transparent and genuinely cares about all issues that promote and benefit peace.  I can assure you, if you need confirmation of this have conversations with him personally as I have over the years and you too will be affirmed.

In terms of overtime, is there a report that someone has to refer to?

posted by: JohnDVelleca on April 23, 2017  9:10pm

Made a mistake, acknowledged it, apologized for it, moved forward from it.  Nice job Chief….

posted by: tcc036 on April 24, 2017  5:52pm

@noteworthy - you seem pretty salty without offering any insight why. I suppose the city would be better off unpoliced? If you’re so confident of the city being “over policed”, I suggest you pay a visit to some of its more illustrious areas after dark and alone. Something tells me the only thing that would be “noteworthy” is the change of your tune!

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on April 24, 2017  7:23pm

What I find interesting is, if interim Chief Campbell is so great, then why is it taking the mayor so long to make him chief? 

As some like to give the mayor credit for a reduction in crime (although crime is down nationwide), I’m curious, will these same people rush to give her the blame if or when crime increases?

There are a whole host of reasons for crime reduction i.e., church youth prevention programs, sororities and fraternities, after school programs, youth athletics, police presence, proper parental supervision, teachers and overall mentoring.  A mayor that has excellent leadership qualities would rush to give credit to these entities, but unfortunately this mayor is bereft of such humility.  So instead, she gives it to herself.

posted by: Noteworthy on April 24, 2017  8:57pm

TCC:

I have freely moved in every single neighborhood in this city during daylight and after dark. I have no qualms about any of it. But I’ve seen and been in a lot worse than New Haven. I’ve canvassed for votes, in the dark, alone and in the heart of some of our worst neighborhoods. Your assumption about me should be embarrassing to you.

http://www.governing.com/gov-data/safety-justice/police-officers-per-capita-rates-employment-for-city-departments.html

The above referenced article is from 2015 - and looks at the police employment in cities by size. We are on the low side of the 100 - 200,000 resident size city. The average is 21:10,000 - or for us, that would be 281. The police department and its political handlers have hidden behind fat police budgets in the twisted view that more cops equals more safety.  It doesn’t. It just spends a lot more money.

posted by: Noteworthy on April 24, 2017  9:02pm

In fact - we almost rival the same ratio as NYC, Baltimore - that’s really necessary? No.

posted by: Resident on April 24, 2017  11:01pm

Noteworthy- if you’ll recall back in 2011 there was tremendous support for the return of community policing. A major selling point of this philosophy was returning neighborhood foot patrols so the police would be more accessible to the public. The downside of these foot patrols (which we now have in place) is that they are manpower intensive and expensive. Taking cops out of cars drastically reduces the area they can cover, and therefore requires more cops. Most suburban towns in this state don’t have any walking beats and therefore can cover with fewer officers, lowering the cop to citizen ratio.
Community policing is the Cadillac of police programs, however New Haven is perpetually on a Hyundai budget. This point was made by opponents of the new walking beat program years ago. Now we can either scrap it or pay for it.

posted by: tcc036 on April 24, 2017  11:23pm

@noteworthy- perhaps if you like the NYC and Baltimore murder rates, perhaps you’d feel safer in those places. I hear the murder rates in Baltimore arent that great. When you overwork officers who then cannot proactively police, criminal activity spreads like mushrooms feeding on decay.  New Haven had alot of murders in 2011 before the re-introduction of walking beats.
Lets heat your better ideas? I need a good laugh

posted by: Noteworthy on April 25, 2017  5:39am

Resident:

I support community policing. We need community policing. That doesn’t mean you have to have to bloat up the budget in the name of community policing. I have not looked deep enough into these studies to see which cities deploy community policing and how that changes the employment needs. But even if it does, I seriously doubt that it requires an over-employment of 78%.

This is nothing but politics and creating the theater of safety. Can you imagine any alder or the mayor cutting the police budget? Or the bloated fire budget? Look what happens when they talk about taking a fire engine out of service in favor of an ambulance that actually serves our medical needs which happens to be about 80% of all fire department calls.

All that said - community policing is worthless as long as cops continue to profile cars, people and neighborhoods - and without cause, stop, frisk, search and embarrass, delay and hold innocent people. It mocks “community policing.”

posted by: Noteworthy on April 25, 2017  8:53am

TCC -
The only correlation to NYC or Baltimore is as it relates to police staffing vs. number of residents. Your rationale is kind of a punk repudiation of my logic.

Look: New Haven’s answer to everything is “more of it.” Esserman famously said several years ago at budget time, back when he wanted a Master Tweeter and big staff increases - “I’ll take whatever you give me.” He wanted a lot more. The same mentality infects the NHPS.  We have more schools than anybody in the whole state and we just keep building more, approving more charter schools and of course, spending more money on the school budget. “It’s for the children.” And of course, more schools, mean more outside kids, more staff positions, more healthcare, more insurance, more janitors. It’s become of a cesspool of employment.

We need a workforce study for both the police department and the NHFD. In fact, we need a workforce and outside auditors/experts to determine how best to manage our schools. Nobody in city government has a freaking clue as to how many of anything we need. They just throw money at it. Our money. More of it.

posted by: tcc036 on April 25, 2017  11:08am

@ noteworthy- Where do you get the 78% number? You need to site reputable sources if you’re going to start using numbers and information.
All that said - community policing is worthless as long as cops continue to profile cars, people and neighborhoods - and without cause, stop, frisk, search and embarrass, delay and hold innocent people. It mocks “community policing.”
I believe the department deploys officers to higher crime areas. I mean, do we need a patrol officer guarding Starbucks on High Street or the Yale art gallery? Or would you prefer them in high crime areas to deter crime? That’s strategic deployment. If the police do something illegal, there are legal means to redress the issue. I’m sure if a cop verbally asked every criminal if they’re doing something wrong or if they’re carrying a gun, they would just admit it and place their hands behind their backs. Typically, they run. But you’re approach sounds much safer. Perhaps you should give lessons in police tactics.
And no, the city doesn’t need more of everything. I understand your point there, but there are certain levels that are necessary. If we had a city of people who took responsibility for themselves, this wouldn’t be an issue. We live in a city of social services. You name it, food stamps, health care, methadone clinics, section 8 housing, children raising children and not disciplining them, etc. The city invites problems, and then front lines have to deal with it.

posted by: Noteworthy on April 26, 2017  5:34am

TCC -
The 78% comes from math. If according to the national police employment census, our staff should be at 281 - but we’re approaching 500 - that’s 78% higher than other cities in our size criteria.

posted by: tcc036 on April 27, 2017  12:59pm

@noteworthy- Want to share the link to the consensus website? Your number sounds arbitrary to me. If you’re going to make a public comment, you should atleast enlighten the rest of us so we can be “informed” as you.