Chief’s Challenge: Change Minus Tsuris

Paul Bass Photo(News Analysis) Bringing community policing to New Haven the first time sparked a civil war within the department. Will the city’s new chief be able to bring it back without sparking another one?

That question follows Tuesday’s return appearance in town of Dean Esserman. The one-time New Haven assistant police chief will become the city’s new police chief, the fourth in four years, starting Nov. 16.

At a City Hall press conference, Esserman made clear what he plans to do. Initial reactions, including from some old-line skeptics, suggest that he may have an easier path this time around.

“In my day [New Haven] was the center of the country for community policing. It is time to regain that reputation,” Esserman said. “Community policing works.”

Esserman, most recently the chief in Providence, R.I., spelled out some of what that means (since “community policing” has at times become a catch-all, often meaningless phrase in public discussion): Cops assigned to regular neighborhood walking beats again. Programs like the one New Haven invented pairing cops with Yale Child Study Center shrinks to work with young kids who witness violence. Acknowledging that gangs exist and dealing with them. Police developing personal relationships with people in neighborhoods and focusing on intelligence-gathering. Cops visiting shooting victims—even in the middle of the night.

“I roll on every shooting,” declared Esserman, who’s 54. “I go to every hospital. I go to every wake. I go to every funeral.” He said he expects his officers to do so, too.

After 20 years in the business, Esserman added, he has new tricks to add to that toolkit. The biggest one: He promised to bring the “High Point” plan to New Haven.

That’s the gang-violence and drug-dealing strategy that grew out of High Point, N.C. In Providence, Esserman oversaw the federal government’s first successful effort to replicate that program. That strategy has now spread to cities across the country. Under the High Point experiments, police work with federal agencies, probation, family members, and social services to offer two choices to the small group of violent drug-gang members responsible for the majority of homicides in a community. They amass mountains of evidence to lock them up—with a commitment to follow through. But they also offer them a chance to avoid jail and get help to straighten out their lives. The approach has targeted open-air drug markets as well as gangs engaged in deadly ongoing beefs. New Haven officials promised to bring it here a few years ago, then didn’t. (Read about that here, here, and here.)

That strategy is now definitely coming to New Haven, Esserman said.

Will the cops go along—with the whole package?

Civil War

The question emerges because of what happened in the early 1990s, when Esserman and his then-boss, Chief Nick Pastore, brought community policing to New Haven for the first time.

They established walking beats. They indeed visited gang leaders in the hospital when they got shot—and then, with the help of a new neighborhood-fueled intelligence unit, put them and their fellow gang-bangers behind bars for more than a decade. They brought cops up on charges if they brutalized citizens—and then held firm when white cops went on a 48-hour “blue flu” and jammed police radios amid a flurry of shootings. Cops accused the new regime of coddling criminals and opposing police.

As New Haveners have called for a return to the old community-policing approach, that part of the happy story usually gets left out.

In some of the initial reaction to Esserman’s appointment, some of the old refrains have emerged. Someone claiming to be a Providence cop blasted Esserman in an Independent comments thread for visiting a shot gang member in the hospital. (When Nick Pastore did that with a gang leader named Montez Diamond, cops erupted in outrage. Diamond’s gang was one of the ones the cops eventually dismantled.)

“To the gang bangers and murderers: Don’t worry; if you find yourself in the hospital with serious wounds, Esserman will be by your bedside holding your hand and telling you that you are safe now,” the person wrote.

“Talk about a slap in the face,” a veteran New Haven cop wrote about Esserman in the same thread. “The ship will definitely sink.”

Eventually, Pastore succeeded in overcoming resistance to community policing. It became the city’s policy for more than a decade. Violent crime plummeted. The strategy began to unravel over the past five years. In the past few years, especially in this year’s Democratic primary campaign, people throughout the community called for a return to walking beats and bike beats and reestablished community ties. In response, the mayor recently announced a small return to walking beats, albeit not with cops regularly assigned to a neighborhood, but with temporary moving teams of overtime officers from across the city.

Mayor John DeStefano Tuesday predicted Esserman won’t face resistance in instituting New Haven Community Policing 2.0.

“We know it. There’s a foundation here,” DeStefano said. “The men and women [on the force] just want to serve. This is not going to be foreign and alien to them.”

“There won’t be a war. These cops want it. And Esserman, his policing strategies are tried and true. He’s a professional. he knows what he’s doing. And he’s going to be here,” agreed Officer Shafiq Abdussabur, who joined the force in round one. “The officers are excited.”

One longtime cop described how his own thinking changed, and how he turned from a Pastore resister to a community policing advocate.

“When you’re a young rookie on the job, you want to get in the car and put on the siren and make an arrest. When you mature, you realize if the community trusts you there isn’t anything you can’t solve,” he said.

He predicted Esserman will succeed.

“I’m happy we have somebody who is going to bring real community policing,” he said. ” A lot of guys don’t know what it’s like to walk and shoot baskets with kids and go up on people’s porches and have iced tea. They just might like what they see.”

“Don’t forget there was a lot of resistance with him because of Nick Pastore. The majority of those people are gone—the people who were older on the job when Nick was here. Listen, at this stage of the game, we’ve got a guy who’s going to come in here and truly be a leader. People are going to get stuff [promotions and assignments] here based on merit.”

However, this veteran officer said he disagrees with Esserman’s call to visit shooting victims in the hospital. “Don’t you think that’s a little much? If two guys get involved in a gunfight and one guy gets shot, do you go and say, ‘Are you OK?’ As a citizen, I don’t think we coddle criminals.”

DeStefano also noted that Esserman is not bringing in a crew of out-of-town deputies. Esserman made a point at Tuesday’s press conference of praising the existing four assistant chiefs and vowed to rely on them. He also spoke of how he made his “first call” en route to New Haven to police union President Arpad Tolnay (at left in photo). At that point in the press conference, Esserman left the podium to shake Tolnay’s hand.

“Thank you for taking my call, brother,” Esserman said as cameras rolled.

Afterward Tolnay said they’d had a good conversation.

“He seems very dedicated about coming here and working with everyone,” Tolnay said.

One veteran officer who remains critical of the Pastore/Esserman era to this day said wariness remains of Esserman’s bonafides. “We know he was never a street cop and never made a pinch,” said the officer, who for obvious reasons preferred to remain nameless.

The officer said that nevertheless, he sees two differences this time around. First off: Esserman “was always pro-cop. It didn’t seem like he came as an adversary to the cops. ... Pastore was despised by the rank and file.”

Second: “People in New Haven like community policing. A lot of the newer generation cops like community policing. It fell by the wayside, like all things in New Haven, like the bicycle patrol.”

A Guru’s Prediction

Bringing the High Point strategy in particular to New Haven—where gang violence is believed to be behind a record pace-setting string of murders this year—will prove easier than in Providence, predicted David Kennedy (pictured). And Kennedy said he has no doubt Esserman will bring it to the city.

Kennedy, a John Jay College professor, devised the High Point strategy. The U.S. Justice Department hired him to help departments across the country implement it. He has worked with Esserman for 30 years, he said.

“Dean has been one of the national leaders in embracing this new way of doing the work and making it concrete in his city,” Kennedy said in an interview Tuesday.

“There is a new breed of police administrator in this country, the style that Bill Bratton first modeled in New York. Police professionals take over their agencies with the idea their police departments will actually do something powerful and dramatic about crime. They’re not looking for 5 percent improvement over last year. They’re looking for really big improvements.”

Don’t Shoot, Kennedy’s new book on the strategy, includes a chapter highlighting Providence’s force under Esserman as a shining example of how it can work. So have newspaper articles around the country, such as this one.

Kerekes Isn’t Sold; Graves Optimistic

Paul Bass PhotoJeffrey Kerekes, who’s running as an independent in the Nov. 8 mayoral election, offered a more skeptical view Tuesday.

At a press conference outside police headquarters, he blasted Mayor DeStefano’s decision to hire a new chief 20 days before the election.

“He’s very arrogant to think he’s still going to be mayor,” Kerekes said.

The selection of Esserman should have gone through a “proper vetting process,” Kerekes said.

“He might be the right person for the job,” he said, but “a cloud” hangs over him from Providence.

Esserman has endured widespread criticism from some cops in Providence who disagreed with his approach to policing, as well as from critics such as jailed former mayor-turned-talk radio jock Buddy Cianci, who relentlessly slammed him on the air.

Kerekes noted that Esserman lost a no-confidence vote from the Providence police union and later stepped down—just as Chief Frank Limon lost a no-confidence vote from New Haven’s union and subsequently left the job.

“Why aren’t we hiring a chief from within” the department? Kerekes asked. “We have some good people here.”

Clifton Graves, who also ran against DeStefano this year, attended Kerekes’ press conference as a spectator. Afterwards he said he agrees with Kerekes’ criticism of the hiring process. But he praised the choice of Esserman.

Graves noted that in his Democratic mayoral primary campaign this year, he called for a return to ‘90s-style community policing under the direction of an experienced leader. He said Esserman could be that guy.

“I had a chance to meet Esserman when he was the architect of community policing” in New Haven, Graves said. He said Esserman did a good job.

Mayoral spokesman Adam Joseph argued that “the mayor of New Haven has a responsibility to act in the best interests of public safety for all the families of the city. It is incumbent on the mayor to act swiftly and decisively to fill leadership at the top of the department.”

“Family Cops”


In a recent speech, Esserman offered an expanded version of his philosophy of community policing.

He spoke at a “summit” sponsored by a group called the Business Innovation Factory. Click on the play arrow to watch.

And click here to read about Esserman’s bout with colon cancer—and how his experience in the hospital spawned an idea to replicate the “medical” model in making police departments “teaching” places.

“The new family practice in America is policing. The neighborhood doctor who makes house calls might be fading,” Esserman said at the Business Innovation Factory forum. “But the police officer who makes house calls and walks the neighborhood and is part of a neighborhood and a community is ascendant.”

“Most crime is little crime, not big crime,” Esserman said. But, he said, it can become big crime—and police need to reestablish a trusting relationship with the public in order to address it.

Esserman comes to New Haven at a time that many in the community have called for a return to the style of community policing he helped usher in during the 1990s along with his then-boss, Chief Nick Pastore.

Esserman spoke to the Business Innovation Factory with, among others, Ben Berkowitz of New Haven’s SeeClickFix. Berkowitz, who was has been outspoken on police issues, came away impressed with Esserman.

“I go to every funeral. .. I go to every wake. I go to every hospital room,” Esserman said. “I expect my people to have no life. I expect them to work.”

He spoke of his “report cards” for his officers.

“If the community loves you and they’re hugging and kissing you, and murders are going through the roof, you are not going to feel my love,” he said.

“At the same time, if you are doing remarkable work and you have alienated the community, you are not going to feel my love.”

“You need to be connected to the community. They are the ones who give you your authority ... At the same time, you have to do what you are given your oath to do, which is ... to make it a safer community,” Esserman said.

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posted by: Mike on October 18, 2011  9:24am

I like the guy so far. I hope he actually lives here and isnt gone 3 out of 7 days a week like Limon was.

posted by: Noteworthy on October 18, 2011  9:35am

Before we have a jouranlistic orgasm because Esserman embraces community policing, his record should be closely examined. In the other article, under the comments section, there are those who reveal another side - budget explosions, crime data manipulation, fireside chats in hospital rooms that threaten prosecution and a serious question mark as to the validity of crime reduction. I’m just saying, there ought to be a more robust vetting of this guy before he becomes the next rabbit pulled out of DeStefano’s desperate political hat.

posted by: PPD on October 18, 2011  10:10am

What a nice little film clip of a gentle, understanding Police Chief. Now I see why most people are suckered in by his BS. Here’s the real deal straight from eight years in Providence:

You would feel Esserman’s love as long as you kept your district crime stats low: BY ANY MEANS POSSIBLE. Crime in Providence was reduced, not by great innovative programs, but rather by combing over every police report and downgrading crimes whenever possible. It didn’t take long for the beat officers to realize that their district boss needed less crimes reported and thus the street cops learned how to placate the public into not reporting most minor crimes.

Esserman often touted his computer tracking of crimes (COM-STAT Program)to predict future crimes. However, when crimes are often downgraded or not reported at all, there can be no crime tracking.

As for Esserman responding to the hospital for every shooting victim, that is true. It was priceless to see the look on the faces of these hardened gang-bangers, many of whom we knew where murder suspects themselves, when they would awake to find Esserman holding their hands and telling them that they were safe now. Most of them chuckled and wanted out of the hospital for some pay back! On several occasions our detecives complained that Esserman’s “bedside chats” with these victim/killers would jeopardize our cases against them. Even our Attorney General warned Esserman several times to refrain from speaking with these suspects in the hospital.

Another little insight into Esserman can be gleamed from his bout with colon cancer. It was a very trying time for him and even his enemies within the department were praying for his recovery. He was absent from the job for just over six months, with the exception of a few phone calls to the Deputy Chief, and despite not having enough sick/vacation time the City continued his pay checks (something the City would do for any Police officer or Firefighter). However, his enemies went ballistic when he returned to work and later that year he had the gall to cash in his remaining vacation and sick time as per his contract. He should of had no time to cash in.

If you thought this video presentation was delightful, wait until you see his speech about,“I LOVE POLICE OFFICERS”. What a joke!

posted by: robn on October 18, 2011  11:08am

Sounds appealing, but also too good to be true.

The NHI should examine some of the allegations made by (ostensibly) Providence officers in the comments section.

Since he/she has nothing to lose by going public on a a departed chief, if PPD wants to do a public service, he/she should consider going public immediately. Until then, its hard to determine if you have integrity or sour grapes. Remember that libel only occurs when someone lies with the intention of doing another another harm.

posted by: dkr on October 18, 2011  11:42am

the nhpd,..just steeped back in time 20 years,...esserman was in bed with pastore and destefano back then,.....his appointment will drag moral down farther than it already is,...his track record speaks for itself,..not to mention that he NEVER WAS A COP AND NEVER WALKED A BEAT…with 15years on the job,..perhaps it’s time to take a lateral transfer…my brother and sister officers,..some of whom i don’t even know TRUST ME,..when i say we are in trouble,...

posted by: confused on October 18, 2011  1:04pm

I am confused.  Just yesterday people wanted to know direction of department NOW.  Seems like the initial intention was to wait until after election to act on this… people asked for answers now are saying that decisions were made to quickly. Just further proof that the loudest complainers are just complaining to complain about something.

posted by: Noteworthy on October 18, 2011  1:16pm

Adam Joseph:

If it is incumbent upon the mayor to do the best thing for city residents - first, he should get out of the way of the police department and quit micro-managing and manipulating it for political gain. Second, he should issue an apology for lying about Limon. Third, he should put Esserman through an honest (know that’s a foreign word to City Hall) vetting. Fourth, DeStefano would quit making decisions and taking actions that cost taxpayers millions of dollars in settlements, no-show contracts and hush money.

And a final note: Prior to Limon and during the national search by the PERF fiasco, word from DeStefano then was this will take 2 - 4 months. Residents were told not to worry about that time frame - we have an acting chief. There is no rush.

Now there’s a rush? Ugh…what cold be causing that? POLITICS and DeStefano’s direct actions for which he can’t blame anybody else. It’s tough to say it’s the state, the feds or the guy behind the tree on this one.

posted by: Cedarhillresident on October 18, 2011  1:32pm

@ confused

It was about the fact that the mayor lied to his bosses (Us). Made the choice with out consulting the appropriate people and going threw the proper channels. Can we really afford another Lemon? That is what people are complaining about. The shadyness that keeps happening.

posted by: mitch on October 18, 2011  1:51pm

Why haven’t Dawson and Graves endorsed anyone?

posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on October 18, 2011  1:57pm

@Cedarhillresident—What proper channels do you suggest the mayor should have gone through regarding this choice?

You raise an interesting point. I think a new level of expectation regarding public engagement is developing. We see it in the Occupy Wall Street movement, the DeLauro monument, the Engine 8 debates, even the 55+ public meetings on Downtown Crossing. I’m not sure where I stand on the issue, and I’m probably inviting fire by grouping these issues together, but I do think it’s interesting that what used to be considered “proper channels” is no longer sufficient. If it’s not sufficient, what is the new standard for public engagement? How should a mayor or city official invite and include public commentary and suggestions, while still reserving the ability to make decisions and lead at the end of the day.

posted by: Mister Jones on October 18, 2011  2:13pm

Any protege of Nick Pastore is going to have some controversy.  Paul Bass put Pastore on the cover of the Advocate calling him “Saint Nick” but some of the rank and file couldn’t stand him [not a cop’s cop, allegedly ratting out his colleagues during the old wiretap scandal…] but from what I remember, community policing worked because it put cops on the beat, in the neighborhoods.

posted by: Cedarhillresident on October 18, 2011  2:44pm

@ New Haven Tax Payer

Good point, I was not even thinking about that channel :) I was wondering if the BOA the Higher ups at the NHPD the Police Commission and yes at least a public statement that this was happening should of happened…maybe it did. I don’t know because it was a secret.  We were told on Friday that the chief was not going any where (but a trip home) monday he quit with a $10,000 a month paycheck. Shady to me is all I was saying.

I can name several officers that work within the PD that,in my opinion can do a great job. They may not have all the bells and whistles. But in my life I have learned that sometimes the will and hands on experience can far exceeded the bells and whistles. But that is just me and I in no way, know what it takes to run the PD. BUT…. I sure as heck know that over the past decade and a half the chiefs (all but Lewis) have not really known how to either.

I do agree that to much public engagement can hinder progress to some extent. But no public engagement is not what our country is about.

posted by: robn on October 18, 2011  2:45pm

Lets keep in mind that “mayor” Buddy Cianci is a two time felon and that Esserman was brought in to purportedly fight the corrupt force that was inherited by Cianci. Nevertheless, two thoughts linger.

1) Mayor DeStefano should have waited 20 more days until the election was over before appointing an new chief. Doing it this way is a publicity stunt that could leave a successor with a turd in his pocket.

2) The allegations against Esserman of statistic rigging should be investigated before he’s hired.

posted by: Kevin on October 18, 2011  2:50pm

David Kennedy,

How will this “approach” be easier than in Providence? Because New Haven has ~3/4 the population? I’m no expert, just an observer, yet I’m familiar with both, have compared and contrasted them demographically, “hardness”, and what not, and don’t quite buy this.

The main reason for this is because New Haven has intense, distinct neighborhood allegiances which often contributes to the most crime. Perhaps it will be easier because this is obvious so easier to target. The criminal element who make up these neighborhoods are largely black and Hispanic (mostly Fair Haven) and assimilate with “hardcore hood life” and have pride towards it. New Haven also has a roughly 26/22 ratio to Providence of % people living below poverty level (from city-data so not positive).

Providence just seems to be more of continuous urban sprawl of similar, super dense, A-frame neighborhoods. Most of this criminal element consists of mostly Hispanic/Portuguese/little Italian, some black, and, although I can’t help to laugh even if they could be wreckless, Asian/Cambodian sets which are arguably most numerous. Even most suburban kids around there seem to have a more urban/“tough guy” attitude than around New Haven with their very popular Jordans, edge-up haircuts, and style. Maybe this is just a developing trend amongst youth but I think it has more to do with their, like Boston’s, attempt to overly prove their “toughness”; RI being the smallest state, demographics, culture, and with RI/Boston being geographically secluded.

If crime from New Haven’s neighborhood rivalries can be reduced, then perhaps New Haven will be drastically safer.

posted by: Concerned on October 18, 2011  3:16pm

Good luck Dean Esserman, New Haven needs stability.

posted by: Shema Lema Ding Dong on October 18, 2011  3:16pm

You have only like 12 years on the job, what do you know about Esserman?

posted by: Curious on October 18, 2011  3:51pm

What are the terms of Limon’s “consulting gig” for which he is getting paid $90,000,000?

posted by: PPD on October 18, 2011  4:53pm

It took me a while to figure out what this successful “High Point” gang-fighting technique was in Providence that Esserman claims credit for. WHAT A JOKE!

Providence had a small low income housing complex (two block area) that offered open air drug dealing. The reason the drug dealers set up shop at that location was because the PPD had cleaned them off the corners in several nearby neighborhoods just prior to Esserman’s arrival. No doubt the PPD would have cleared them from that location as well and they would have simply moved to yet another nearby area (That’s what drug dealers do!!)

Well, Esserman comes in and spends an unbelievable amount of money in police overtime. He has round the clock coverage by our uniform and undercover drug units to help identify 144 drug dealers. Of the 144 dealers arrested, Esserman offers 7 dealers a second chance to avoid jail time; if they promise not to sell drugs in this two block area. He tells them he will find them jobs and training and financial support for their families.

Well, fast forward one year, and you have the now famous news conference where the 7 dealers are to be showcased as a success story.  Oops!
Of the seven drug dealers, one was arrested several times selling drugs one street outside of the “two block” no drug zone; three dealers took the microphone and claimed Esserman had lied to them and that they recieved no follow-up assistance,two dealers failed to show for the conference and I believe they were wanted by the PPD for drug dealing, and YES; one dealer had left the drug world and had a steady job. SUCCESS? SUCCESS?

That two block area no longer had open-air drug dealing ( just like the other three drug areas we cleaned up) because the 107 other drug dealers where either in jail OR selling drugs in another part of the City. The same results could have been reached using far less money and much fewer resources from other parts of the City.

“ROBN” ....Contact the Providence Journal or to fact check all of my claims.

posted by: lance on October 18, 2011  6:12pm

Community policing is a complete waste of taxpayer money.  You end up paying a cop 65k a year to be the functional equivalent of a walmart greeter in most cases.  All you really need to do is hire more cops like that getner kid (the one who they tried to stick it to with a bogus dui pinch) and let them pull these new haven thugs over on motor vehicle violations and see what they come up with.  Once you get the guy with the small bundle get him to turn on a few people then take those cats down without sticking out your informant. Esserman never pushed a patrol car to the best of my knowledge.  New Haven needs intelligent cops with balls and street smarts not nerds with masters degrees that think the classroom is where cops are made.  It starts with the selection of good candidates and the field training process.  i’ve seen countless instances in which the government spends hundreds of thousands on a wiretap while one good officer makes way more arrests and seizes way more drugs, guns and money during the same period at 1/50th or less of the cost.  Groom Getner for chief and swear him in at the earliest convenience if you really want to take a bite out of elm city crime.

posted by: Citizen of New HAven on October 18, 2011  6:41pm

For a moment forget the qualifications or lack of them of Limon and Essermen speak of the honor and respect of the Mayor. A historical perspective. At the end of 1989 the then mayor Ben Dilieto was leaving office, he at the time had the opportunity to name a new police chief, it was know that the then Chief, and ally Chief Farrell was following him into retirement. The chief could have retired prior to the mayor leaving office and allowing the Mayor to name a successor of his choice, both the Mayor and Chief believed that the incoming Mayor John Daniels should have the chance to develop his own team.  The Police Department was in excellent shape, one respected nationwide and efficiently running. They were Honorable and Honest men who respected the institution of the Police Department, the officers that served there and the citizens of the City. Little did anyone know that the man named would be Nick Pastore who altered the course of the Police Department that ultimately left it in the condition it is now.  That course can be and has been discussed, argued before and will be again, but this about honor and respect, but ultimately Nick Pastore dishonored the City, the Police Department, the Citizens of New Haven and his family.
In the recent days and apparently weeks at the least John Destefano has again been dishonorable, he has at the very, very least mislead the Officers of the Police Department and the citizens of the City, more to fact he has out and out lied. He had the opportunity to not name a Chief on the off change he is not elected and let a successor name a person of his choosing and develop a team of his own. But John Destefano unlike his mentor Ben Dilieto opted to do the dishonorable action once again. He has once again dishonored and disrespected the Citizens of New Haven, the Police Department and its Officers and all those who mentored him in the past and helped him become Mayor in the beginning and again and again, most off all he continues to by his own actions to dishonor himself.

posted by: Mike on October 18, 2011  7:34pm

A ton of things should have been done before hiring a new chief, maybe they were and Mayor John has been looking for quite some time without telling us?

@robn- Statistic rigging is nothing worth investigating with the new guy, its been a common practice for a long, long time now. I doubt the Mayor would hire someone who WOULDNT rig the stats, I cant blame him with the crime here in New Haven.

posted by: Yimski on October 18, 2011  7:58pm

@PPD - sounds like you have one hell of an axe to grind with our new police chief.  Obviously you two weren’t golfing buddies. 

I’m no criminologist and have no experience in law enforcement, but Esserman’s ideas sound interesting and maybe what this city needs to stop the vicious cycle of drug and gang-based violence and crime.

posted by: R.Alfred Gibson on October 18, 2011  8:27pm

Ninety-thousand dollars of New Haven taxpayers’ money could pay for several new teachers, policemen, firemen or librarians.  New Haven definitely cannot afford to give away that amount of money to pay a Chicagoan to be a long distance consultant to the New Haven Police Department.
The people of New Haven would be fools if they sit silently and let the Mayor of our city give our money away.
Has the Mayor, for political reasons, orchestrated the removal of an unpopular,controversial, part-time police chief at the expense of the taxpayers in a desperate attempt to hold on to power less than a month before the next election?
Does the Board of Aldermen have any power or authority to stop the Mayor from making such deals?
Do the people of New Haven have the courage to exercise their own power and authority to stop the direction our city is going?
Now is the time for the people of New Haven to take charge of their City!  Now is the time for a revival of true democracy here.  For the first time in more than 20 years the people of New Haven have a real choice in this mayoral election.  The one-party oligarchy must end!  The people must get out and vote for new leadership, new vision and new direction for New Haven.  Make Election Day, November 8, a day of liberation for the people of this City from the same old lackluster leadership.
Jeffrey Karekes for mayor!

posted by: Wowspeechless on October 18, 2011  8:32pm

I’m speechless. I want to see his record as a STREET COP! Because all I see and hear right now is a politician. He doesn’t want us to have a life other than work? That comment alone tells me what kind of cop he was. Community policing works when the community wants to work with the police. A lot of us have great relationships with the communities we work in. Unfortunately we are bogged down by politics and hindered in doing our jobs by the administration and mayor. There has been very few promotions by merit or hard work. With him here there is going to be a lot less, morale at zero….

posted by: StateSt on October 18, 2011  9:10pm

@PPD—I tried to look up the news conference you mention but cant find it, all I found was this Providence Journal article:
which says 6 out of the 7 got services and were doing well, and only 1 was rearrested

posted by: Gener on October 18, 2011  9:22pm

Along with this “community policing,” it would be nice if the New Haven Police could be a little more approachable, perhaps have some “social skills” seminars. I have never had a single pleasant encounter with a New Haven cop, and I’m a respectful guy!

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on October 18, 2011  10:00pm

There is a new breed of police administrator in this country, the style that Bill Bratton first modeled in New York. Police professionals take over their agencies with the idea their police departments will actually do something powerful and dramatic about crime. They’re not looking for 5 percent improvement over last year. They’re looking for really big improvements

Bill Bratton didn’t model a thing ,He learn from a man by the name of Jack Maple.

Now the new system is call the Santa Cruz experiment.

posted by: observor1 on October 18, 2011  10:35pm

so we are back to square one for programs that esserman started and the mayor put a halt too..what irony that the mayor gets caught lying and goes back to what he apposed to save his butt now because of the lomon lies!!I find it hard to believe vthat one of the higher command people don’t get the nod for chief..Please Mr Bass put up on your paper all the qualifications including esserman and let us see who can do the job.Let the taxpayers see unless of course you are protecting the mayor from further embaressment

posted by: brigante on October 18, 2011  11:51pm

Wow, here we go again. Well I am happy for two reasons and sad for one. Happy that ... is gone. As a 20 year veteran officer of this department I have never seen such an incompetent chief as the last person appointed by the mayor. I voted No confidence and it remains NO CONFIDENCE! Second I am very happy that The mayor still has a brain and didn’t pick ... Velleca. However The mayor continues to think that we have no leaders in our department. If he would just get to know his leaders within the department he would know and come to realize that the man or woman for the job is already here and has been since cisco left. Well Esserman has one vote of no confidence against him already, whats another one.

posted by: richgetricher on October 19, 2011  12:24am

Esserman may be a good pick, we’ll have to see. But the quick action by the Mayor is just desperate damage control. I’m still flat-out stunned by his lying in the face of all evidence - insisting that Limon was only away to visit family and for a conference in Chicago. Away on indefinite leave. He had no choice but to act quickly to change the headlines and do a bait and switch. Limon quit and the Mayor wasn’t going to tell us!! He was going to let the city and police dept. muddle through in limbo until after the election. And he even paid off Limon $90,000 in taxpayer hush money to keep him quiet. Monitor how much “consulting” Limon does from Chicago. I’m stunned. This stuff has got to stop. It’s time for a change! We all know that.

posted by: Paul Martin on October 19, 2011  12:51am

One of the first things he might want to do is clean house.

Everyone I know - and I mean EVERYONE - who has ever had to interact with the NHPD has found them to be rude, arrogant, and incredibly unhelpful.

I was walking back to my office today after lunch, and - not the first time I’ve seen this - a woman pushing a baby in a stroller is in the crosswalk and has the right of way. The NHPD car makes a left on the red, nearly hits her, and the cop blows his horn (baby starts screaming-crying) and rolls down his window to yell at her.

He called her a “whore” as he drove away.

posted by: Noteworthy on October 19, 2011  5:51am

The picture is getting clearer - We are getting a new top cop who believes in coddling the criminals and cooking the crime stats. Sounds like he will fit right in with DeStefano, Kimber and the Hug A Thug Program.

posted by: alexey on October 19, 2011  8:20am

Okay, this is funny—I read through the whole article to find out who this Tsuris character is, the person apparently being fired or shoved out the door. (Headline:  Change Minus Tsuris).  No mention of Tsuris in the article at all.  So, I looked it up.  Learn something new every day.

posted by: insider3 on October 19, 2011  8:21am


I have heard the rumors of your past at the Providence PD and whether it is true or not, you are our Chief now and we have no choice but to give you a chance. I am glad to see a Chief come to the NHPD who seems not to be a push over like Limon and Lewis.

When Limon and Lewis came here you had many officers whose actions were protected by him…. There will be certain officers who will run to you, and try to get on your good side. I am sure you know this already.

The morale in the PD has been terrible because we have lacked a strong leader who would allow such behavior and I think that officers who bully or demean others should be dealt with properly. Talk to your officers directly instead of getting advice from your A/C’s about officers like Limon and Lewis did. We have a voice and we do not need them talking for us. Some of us did not even know what Limon looked like because he was never out there in the street.

There are so many good officers out there who have been looking for a strong and fair leader for years. If you can accomplish this here you will have a dedicated police department.

posted by: ozzie on October 19, 2011  8:50am

I’d like to know how cops are going to go on foot patrol when you don’t have enough cops to respond to calls for service. It’s bad enough now that people have to wait hours for the Police to respond to their complaints. The only way Esserman and Destefano are going to pull this off is by opening the check book and hiring an awful lot of cops on overtime. Because with “Community Policing” the officer assigned to one area can not leave it to respond to another part of the City to handle a complaint. And where will the money come from ? The taxpayers ! Can’t wait to hear the taxpayers screaming about not getting a cop and they have to foot the bill for the overtime costs, 
    They City has no recruit class in training and are just starting a recruitment drive,your talking at least a year before they could possibly put 30 new rookies on the street. Also I didn’t see to many District Managers or ranking members of the department (just the 4 Assistants) at the press conference to introduce the new Chief . Where they at the Pension office checking their numbers ? As for jamming the police radio during a blue flu wasn’t one of the now Assistant Chief’s a big Union backer back then before being made Sgt. by Pastore. Maybe you could ask him about that night. And last I’m glad to see that Shafiq was at the conference he was always a big proponent of Community Policing , didn’t he alledgedly give his gun to a relative that was later used in a murder during the Pastore regime, Can’t wait to see how thing turn out . Stay tuned

posted by: concernedwestvilleres on October 19, 2011  9:27am

First- give Esserman a chance.  Providence is a different city than New Haven and he may do very well in the city.  Limon was a bad choice as we know so be glad he is gone.  He came with good credentials but he was unable to lead the police department.

Second-as to Kerekes’ comment regarding the Mayor’s arrogance thinking he’ll be mayor.  The new chief starts November 16.  The election is November 1.  Should Kerekes win the election (a remote possibility at this point) then Kerekes can demand the appointment be withdrawn.  It isn’t arrogance- it is filling a position that is open and it is the Mayor’s right to fill the position.  I didn’t hear Kerekes give any names he thought would do well- just mentioned the PD has good leaders in the department.  Just because someone excels in one job doesn’t result in success in another job.  And if you move them from one to another do you have someone capable of taking that position.  There are many different factors in the hiring process which you learn if you run a business or work in a position which requires hiring.

I see people complaining about visits to gang leaders in the hospital.  Does anyone know what is actually said in the hospital?  Does he hold the gang-leader’s hand and say “your safe” or does he go in there and whisper in the ear “you better stop what you’re doing or the next bullets will be from a cop’s gun and I’ll be visiting you in the morgue”?  Unless anyone knows what was actually said then panning these visits is useless.

People are panning the choice saying we have people in the department who could do the job.  People are panning the process.  People are panning the mayor.  Yet, I have not heard what anyone would do differently.  I have not heard a name of a local person who could do the job and why he could do the job.  I have not heard how people would handle the process differently.  I haven’t heard what people would do about Limon (who if he didn’t resign would be here 29 months longer at more than $90K or if he was fired would have sued for the rest of his contract plus legal fees which are much more than $90K).  I saw someone post that $90K could go to several teachers.  Really?  How much do you think teachers make with benefits?  How many more teachers does New Haven need?  The money would have either been spent on Limon’s contract or consulting. It is a savings.

When will we see positive constructive comments instead of demeaning and name-calling of the Mayor?

posted by: poopstick on October 19, 2011  9:45am

State St, PPD is right.  I’m not sure how accurate that article is.  It was only 1 kid being a success.  The rest have been re-arrested numerous times.

posted by: robn on October 19, 2011  9:56am

The only thing dumb about appointing Vellecca to chief is that it would pull him off the street where he and his crew have done what others can’t; solve crimes.

posted by: Sunday on October 19, 2011  10:06am

Word of advice to all “nay-sayers” give Esserman a chance. With all the violence that’s taking place in this community anything is better than what we had. To the disgruntles if you don’t live in the city “zip it”. To the front-line troops that have been in law-enforcement “way” to long and got your time in,
retire. If you don’t like the “process” then don’t interfere with the “progress.” It’s time to stop this madness in this city and I belive Esserman is the one to pull it off. He did it in the pass and I’m sure he will do it now. Give hope a “chance”. There is life after “Law-Enforcement” so enjoy it.

posted by: NH Skyline on October 19, 2011  10:43am

I’d like to know where the Board of Police Commissioners were in this decision.  Several stood behind him at the press conference but half of them don’t even show up for meetings.  I’m sorry, I forgot; they were hand-picked by City Hall.

What about the contract for Limon?  Where are the legal eagles (NH corporation counsel) when hiring an out-of-towner?  Why aren’t they protecting the city with a “get rid of” clause?  What about a residency clause?  The deal for a $90K buyout is a small price to pay for getting rid of a mistake.  It could have been 2 years pay for Limon who did not even try to adapt to New Haven life and was never accepted by the community or the police force.

Mayor J - I hope you’re taking a look at our recent history and why NH has trouble keeping a Chief of Police.  Your meddling and micro managing has been overwhelming.  Lesson learned??  You are not only harming the statistics of NH but destroying the morale in the NHPD and putting residents lives second to your ego.

Mayor J - Stop with the schools.  It has not helped the graduation percentage nor to keep these inner city kids out of trouble; they do need the after school programs but they also need some weekend programs to give them purpose and activities to keep them from wandering the streets.  You can easily tout all the programs but they are reaching too few.  Too much money spent on too many schools which means too many teachers and not enough substantial programs for the masses.

I’ve read all the comments regarding now-Chief Esserman and all we can hope for is, 1) that he can get more officers, 2) his commitment to the city and 3) his success.

posted by: ozzie on October 19, 2011  10:44am

Would like to hear a comment from M.A.D.D.about this hiring. Here’s a Mayor who hires a Chief who condones underage drinking at his home. If a street cop had a party at his house with kids involved they would try to hang that cop

posted by: pat on October 19, 2011  10:45am

The change of strategy and police chief took too long. Just look at the city’s death toll.
      Crime is largely a product of problems generated by poverty and perceived inequities. The root causes will remain, unless addressed.
      The so-called War on Drugs is an abysmal and costly failure, as was Prohibition. It’s time to decriminalize, regulate and tax drugs like marijuana and take the profit motive out of drug dealing. This will reduce the incentives to deal street drugs and the turf wars, as well as thefts to get money to buy drugs.
      We’ve filled up our prisons with drug users and dealers to the point where the system can’t afford to hold any more.
      Punitive policies have failed.
      When will society admit that approach failed and it’s time to look creatively at new solutions.
      Once again, the people are ahead of the politicians.

posted by: Walking Beats on October 19, 2011  10:59am

Back to square one “Get more POLICE!” this department always could have had walking beats but the new cops were put in cars instead of walking 7pm to 3am and they got spoiled believing they should always be in a police car. New officers should walk the first two years and earn the respect of driving behind a police car instead of smashing them.
i cannot believe this paper takes comments from officers with a cloudy past and speaks for other officers.
trust me i encourage the walking beats but dont agree with having a walking beat walk in severe weather .... summer time the streets should be flooded with walking beats. but the way this city runs it always after the fact. i have a secret ...crime will drop its getting cold…. next year lets get rolling and fight crime and protect our city. Voting out Johnny D will be a good start because i think he lost his mind.

posted by: Ellis Copeland on October 19, 2011  11:06am


Two slight corrections: the election is Nov. 8, not the 1st; the mayoral term begins Jan. 1. So should Johnny Boy go down his successor would not be able to withdraw the appointment.  I do agree that the chance of Johnny Boy getting the boot he deserves is remote because the occupants of this dive have proven they lack the self-respect to do so.  As to positive comments about Johnny Boy, there are none to make.  He is a disgrace.

posted by: robn on October 19, 2011  11:18am


But many commenters HAVE suggested a different approach for the mayor. That would have been to appoint an interim chief, continue private negotiations with candidates, and then hire a new chief AFTER the elction which is just DAYS away. The risk for the candidate is the same no matter what happens in the election…he/she either gets the job or doesn’t get the job.

posted by: anon on October 19, 2011  11:34am

Agree with Pat.  The crime rate has nothing to do with our police department’s leadership or tactics. 

Neighborhoods are only as safe as the number of officers who live in them, not the number who patrol them. 

All of the towns around New Haven have a far greater per capita number of police officers, even though they have fewer cops on the force. 

Provide housing and education incentives (like Yale does), maintain our parks and sidewalks, and stop destroying our neighborhoods with projects like the plan to widen Route 34, and the officers will come back to live here.

posted by: Noteworthy on October 19, 2011  12:33pm

Concerned Westvilleres:

I don’t have to give Esserman a chance. I’m the customer, the taxpayer and I’m paying dearly for a “public servant” who should have more experience arresting somebody, investigating a murder, and shooting a gun, than holding the hand of some perp in the hospital.

Limon was a bad choice? You’re right. Guess who selected him? The guy with 18 years and who has chosen 6 police chiefs. If DeStefano could go through a months long vetting/search process and come up with the wrong guy in Limon, what chance of being wrong again does a DeStefano selection made in political desperation without enough sleep or vetting have?

Sure it’s the mayor’s right to fill the police chief’s job. Kerekes’ point is just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. That you bypass vetting and go straight to decision making without a thorough background check and search is both arrogant and irresponsible. It’s like buying a used car because you like the color without looking under the hood or taking it for a drive. What the salesman tells you could be wrong or tainted.

It is not the responsibility of the people commenting here nor is it Kerekes’ responsibility to pick out people who may make a good police chief. That would be as bad as what our lying mayor just did. Kerekes laid out broad principles – you don’t make an important decision in desperation; you don’t saddle the next administration with a critical department head without knowing you are the next administration this close to an election; you don’t pick the first available warm body just because it’s there, within driving distance and his breath will fog a mirror.

Paying Limon $90K in hush money is not a savings. If it is, maybe I’ll hit the mayor up for my own consulting contract and I’ll quit writing here. The point is Limon was a mistake, but as the Yale Daily News pointed out, he wasn’t a total washout. Given less interference from DeStefano and more guidance, he may even have worked out at least until he chose to quit on his own without us paying for two police chiefs – one to shut up, and one that I fear never will.

I already wince at the thought of the media following Esserman into the hospital on his first fireside chat. Given television’s love affair with all things with flashing lights, it’s enough to make me gag in advance.

posted by: evelyn on October 19, 2011  1:25pm

I believe the one thing that can be agreed upon is that we have to stop handing over the reins of different offices to new people and expecting change over night. These people, just as president Obama are inheriting bunches of mess and are expected to fix up and clean up what has taken years to scew up. Im willing to give anyone a chance that is going to be about the business of making life better and not just paying lip service to the issues at hand.

posted by: PPD on October 19, 2011  2:16pm

The intent of my previous postings were to simply warn New Haven to be weary of the Esserman PR machine. I wish the Stamford PD had given Providence a similar warning.

However, it appears to this outsider that your local newspaper (NHI) will not protect Esserman like our local newspaper did and still does. That’s good for you.

TO “STATE ST” : I have the original article you linked me to, about the “High Point” project, but that was a first assessment with all the PR fanfare. The news conference of which I speak occurred approx. one year later as a follow-up (where are they now story).  Unfortunately, I’m still looking for the hard-copy.

TO “CONCERNWESTVILLERES” : Esserman’s bedside chats with these thugs were just as I claimed ,“Your safe now.” Here is one of the most memorable hospital encounters that truly upset our detectives:

Two rival gang bangers cross paths resulting in one being stabbed and the other being shot. Several hours later, they both respond to the same hospital and are placed in separate treatment rooms. Detectives respond to interview each suspect/victim only to hear they both have no complaint and cannot (will not) describe their attacker. Detectives are familiar with each party and believe they are good for some unsolved gang murders.

In comes Chief Shiny Badge (Esserman) and he consoles the stabbing victim telling him he is safe now and if he will give us a name we will arrest his attacker. The punk blows him off. Esserman then reaches into the suspect’s personal hospital bag and removes his Drivers license from his pants.
Then, Esserman goes into the shooting victims room and tells him he is now safe and that the police will protect him. He then asked the gang-banger if he could ID his attacker and the kid says: I don’t know who he is (lie) and that he’s never seen him before (lie).

To the astonishment of all officer present, Esserman then hands the punk the other punk’s drivers license and says’ “Is this the man who shot you?”

Wow! There goes any chance of a photo line-up standing up in court AND now the second punk knows the exact home address of his attacker or his attacker’s family.

Rookies would never make the same mistake this Police Chief and lawyer made that day.

posted by: Ex-NHPD on October 19, 2011  4:01pm

Some random thoughts about the newest NHPD Chief, Johnny D., and the NHPD..

Why didn’t anyone ask Johnny D.—
If he still believes walking beats are ineffective?  If he still claims to not recall making the statement, show him the proof.
When did he lose faith in Limon (despite New Haven being a better place because of Limon)and begin recruiting Esserman?
What will Limon’s duties as a Consultant be?
Will Limon ever physically be in New Haven in his new role?
Is Limon really a consultant to the NHPD, or is it just a severance package and he will not be consulting?
If Esserman was named this soon, didn’t Johnny lie to the Press, the NHPD, and the Public all weekend long about Limon still being the Chief?
Why isn’t Esserman taking over IMMEDIATELY, leaving the NHPD with another interim Chief for a month?

It will be interesting to see what Toby decides to do next.  His only allies, the Chicago crew, have left him behind.  He will either head west himself, or cozy up to Esserman and proclaim that he is the I.T./Stats guy who can roll out Dean’s Comp Stat model. However,  Toby never really overhauled NHPD’s version of that (TASCA) while he was here.

If the readers want to get a true insight into what makes Dean tick, they can google (or the NHI can find and post) the New York Magazine December 9, 1991 article written by Michael Daly that profiles “The Preppy Cop”, Dean Esserman. 
There are some priceless nuggets in it, all attributed by Dean himself.  He seems fixated on the notion of having both a badge and a gun (see where he had a police type gold badge made for himself when he was legal advisor for the NYC Transit Police).  The EMT uniform story is a bit creepy. The first night he got an official NHPD police jacket, he slept in it!  An armchair analyst might come to the conclusion he is an insecure cop buff who always dreamed of being a cop, but never thought he could hack it.  He then came in the backdoor, opened by Pastore, to get his “Police Certification”, and now sees himself as a “Jewish kid from the Upper East Side who became an Irish cop”.  Those are his words, not mine.

How does returning to a place that one spent two years or less of their adult life correlate into “returning home”?  He returned to his jumping off point of his Chief career, but it would take a big stretch to legitimately call New Haven home for him.

He may have the rank of Police Chief, but he is not a Cop.  Deep down, I think he knows that.

The stories posted by people from the Providence P.D. about Dean’s abrasive nature rings true with me from what I recall from his short tenure at the NHPD.  If you challenge him or his decisions/actions, he considers it disrespectful, rather than one trying to offer another option.

There are not enough cops assigned to Patrol to have dedicated walking beats in every neighborhood without blowing the lid off the overtime spending. Community Based Policing, in the manner he promises to roll out, requires more officers.  There is not another recruit class even close to being seated, much less graduating.  The supervisory ranks are thinning.  Their replacements are from the ranks below; draining more officers from walking beats and radio cars.

I am looking forward to watching the Esserman Era.  Everybody buckle up, it is going to be a bumpy ride!

posted by: Poopstick on October 19, 2011  5:49pm

Here is some interesting info on our new chief…..

posted by: Ex-NHPD on October 19, 2011  5:59pm

I was finally able to watch the “Family Cop” video.

Ask the NYPD cops if fixing a ticket makes a friend for life.

With or without Community Based Policing, calling 911 to report a theft of a bicycle, not in progress or with violence, is not appropriate.  Yet, he seems to say that is the appropriate manner to report the theft.

All his claims to have reduced crime should actually be “Reduced REPORTED Crime”, as he admits that many criminal acts are NEVER reported.  If they are not reported, how can you quantify that crime has been reduced?

Finally, it sure sounded like he refered to NYC in this recorded chat as his home.  So, which is it?  NYC or New Haven?

posted by: Ellis Copeland on October 19, 2011  9:02pm

We all know that if there is any city in the world more mobbed up than this one it is Providence. I’m glad he’s not a cop.  We need a non cop to clean up the mess

posted by: Noteworthy on October 19, 2011  11:10pm

Something is not right here.

Calling the union president on the phone on his way down is a good thing - calling him “brother” and publicly shaking his hand is a bridge too far. It’s like a piece of dessert that’s too sweet and you can’t eat it all. Then Esserman thanks the mayor for “bringing him home.” But one poster noted, Esserman only worked here for two years or less - that’s not coming home by anybody’s standard.

This is a case of two desperate men - DeStefano the lying, micro-managing mayor who got caught with his police chief down, and an ex-police chief trying to get it up again from the unemployment lines. This is not a recipe for success for the citizens.

posted by: current NHPD on October 20, 2011  12:46am

This guy is pretty funny!  He “rolls” on every shooting and goes to every wake/funeral.  It causes me to roll on floor laughing. Then he “expects” officers to go too!  Sorry Dean, police officers don’t go to gang banger/drug dealer funerals.  ...

Thanks PPD for filling NHPD in on this person. It makes his mentor Nick Pastore seem saner .  Dean will only be here for a couple years at worst and then he and ex-mayor Johnny D can both ride into the night

posted by: poopstick on October 20, 2011  9:01am

@ Yimski,

You promote Esserman yet you fail to realize one thing.  The articles you attached to your statement are about officers being arrested for drug dealing.  These officers did not do this prior to Esserman.  They did it under Esserman, right under his nose, in his 7th year as Chief.  Nice try though….

posted by: observor1 on October 21, 2011  5:59am

Once again we have a nonresident,non taxpaying person put in charge of our PD so he can take our money and run.At least Limon was shrewd enough to beat the mayor at his own game.Screwing people !!! Congrats FRank.
I understand that Esserman isn’t bringing his family with him either so we will get stuck with another traveling chief.At least Amtrak is cheaper.
If housing is included we can get him a tent on the green to practice his method of visiting people with the “Occupy New Haven” crowd.