Illegally Secret Cop Drug Policy Released

Christopher Peak PhotoFormer pot smokers, ravers and drunk drivers are all welcome to join New Haven’s police force.

Former steroid-taking bodybuilders, acid trippers, cocaine sniffers, and recovering opioid users need not apply.

Those categories of disqualifying drug use are set out in a policy that the police department illegally discussed behind closed doors and then illegally withheld from the public for more than a year.

The police department released it to the Independent on Thursday afternoon following an order to do so by the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission.

The rules themselves in the “Employment Drug Policy,” which took effect in January 2018, officially codify New Haven’s move away a “zero tolerance” approach to applicants’ past drug use, especially for marijuana.

Background investigators can now be much more lenient about candidates’ past toking, as the department tries to recruit more racially diverse classes of cadets. That change came out of a recommendation by the mayor’s community policing task force.

“In recent years this culture has grown more accepting of marijuana use –  in palliative care, for medicinal purposes, and increasingly, in a trend toward its decriminalization,” Mayor Toni N. Harp said in a statement. “I think new standards applied to potential police department recruits in New Haven could be seen as a reflection of marijuana’s new legal status in particular.”

Aside from bringing that one aspect up to date, the rest of the policy (all of which appears in this story in italics, and can be downloaded here) has gaps.

It doesn’t set specific rules for whole classes of commonly abused substances, uppers and downers.

It singles out a medication that’s rarely abused.

It equates drunkenly breaking the law with legally getting high.

And it may even violate state law by discriminating against medical-marijuana patients.

Board of Police Commissioners Chair Anthony Dawson called the policy a good first step. He said the board may need to revisit some of its specifics, including to clarify the policy for abuse of prescription drugs.

“At a later date, we may review some of the broader issues,” Dawson said, because raiding medicine cabinets wasn’t among “the issues we were faced with.”

“Some of this stuff is brand new,” Dawson added. “We went through it just to revise the policy. I know we didn’t dot our I’s and cross our T’s. But other departments are nowhere near as flexible as we are.”

Assistant Chief Racheal Cain, who drafted the policy, said the department revisits the policy each time there’s a new civil-service list to keep it up to date with “social expectations and new laws.”

The Policy, Annotated

The New Haven Police Department does not condone any prior unlawful drug use by applicants, but it realizes that some otherwise qualified applicants may have used them at some point in their past. Each applicants drug use will be viewed on a case-by-case basis.

While Dawson said the initial policy isn’t as fleshed out as it could be, it does give a “guideline to assess the situation.” And commissioners still do have discretion to make exceptions, as they take up-or-down votes on whether to keep applicants who dabbled in drugs in the past. 

“Some of them were young people in college experimenting,” Dawson said. “Maybe it was something they did while they were young and didn’t think about the implications for their future jobs.”

Miguel Pittman, a member of a community policing task force who also leads a study group for police applicants, said that the board should set clearer guidelines on when it’s going to forgive past drug use, rather than having the rules be applied inconsistently based on what’s said behind closed doors.

“The board can use its discretion on any of the items, but that does not stop the background officer from disqualifying you, forcing you to go before the board,” Pittman said. “The only way you could get past that is for the commissioners to override the background officer. That only happens if you go into executive session; if you go into open session, they’re not going to override them.”

Narcotics: Hard Drugs & Their Treatment

Markeshia Ricks PhotoThe following guidelines detail illegal drug use that is grounds for disqualification:

1. The applicant will be disqualified if she/he has used any illegal narcotic, such as: Heroin, Methamphetamine, Morphine, Methadone and Cocaine.

2. The applicant will be disqualified if she/he has ever sold, manufactured or distributed any narcotic listed in DEA schedules I, II, III, IV or V.

From the top, New Haven’s policy equates a drug used to treat opioid addiction with hard street drugs.

The policy starts out by referencing the guiding federal legislation on illegal drugs, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. That law lists five categories of drugs: narcotics for pain relief; depressants for sedation and sleep; stimulants for energy and alertness; hallucinogens for mind-altered states; and anabolic steroids for muscle-building.

But New Haven’s policy inaccurately clumps everything together under one heading as a “narcotic,” misclassifying methamphetamine, which is an upper.

The policy never references any other guidelines for stimulants and depressants specifically.

Prescription drug abuse isn’t covered by the guideline, Cain said, but she said background investigators would pick up on that later on.

Given how narrow the policy is, it’s particularly odd that the policy calls out methadone, said Benjamin Howell, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale who focuses on harm-reduction strategies for opioid use disorder.

“It is weird to see [methadone] on that list,” Howell said. According to the federal government’s annual survey of drug use, “it looks like misuse of methadone is exceedingly uncommon.”

SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that 346,000 Americans misused methadone in 2016. That’s dwarfed by an estimated 11,517,000 Americans who misused other prescription narcotics, most commonly hydrocodone products like Vicodin and Lortab or oxycodone products like OxyContin and Percocet.

Currently, methadone is the most effective treatment for when misuse of those painkillers becomes addicting, yet the drug is heavily stigmatized.

“It is not ‘replacing one addiction for another.’ It is an appropriate and well accepted treatment for opioid use disorder,” Howell said. “it does cause physical dependence, but physical dependence is not the same as a addiction, which is a common misconception.”

Cain said that methadone was included to effectively double down on prohibiting heroin use.

Ecstasy & Coke: Same Party, Different Result?

Christopher Peak Photo3. The applicant will be disqualified if she/he has ever used any hallucinogenic substance, such as LSD, PCP or Mushrooms. This excludes the use of Ecstasy provides such use has not been within seven (7) years of application deadline.

Mayor Harp’s appointed community policing task force, in recommendations to the department, said that ecstasy should be included on the prohibited drug list. The department did that, but it also gave the party drug a timeline for acceptable use. Aside from marijuana, ecstasy is the only other illegal substance that can be automatically forgiven without being reviewed by the police commission.

That struck Pittman as unusual, given the racial demographics of who’s taking ecstasy. He said there should be a clearer amnesty date for other common drugs like cocaine, too, rather than just having one exception for a drug that’s common among white ravers.

“I really don’t understand why ecstasy doesn’t fall under harsh drugs like heroin,” Pittman said. “Who really uses ecstasy? It’s definitely not people with the African-American community. It’s out in the suburbs. Why would they be lenient on that? The person that came up with that ecstasy rule definitely doesn’t look like me. I don’t do drugs, period, but it’s not done in the community where I live.”

A 2007 survey of 4,850 undergrads at a Midwestern college found that African-American students had the lowest incidence of ecstasy use within the previous year. White students, who were the common users, were 2.7 times more likely to have partied on ecstasy than African-American students.

Marijuana: Half-Way Acknowledgement

4. The applicant will be disqualified if she/he has ever illegally sold, produced, cultivated or transported any controlled substance. This excludes legally transporting, producing and cultivating Marijuana for personal use during the time that an applicant resides in a state where recreational Marijuana is legal and Medical Marijuana prescribed by a licenses physician.

5. The applicant will be disqualified if she/he has illegally used any controlled substance within twelve (12) months of the application deadline, or is currently prescribed Medical Marijuana by licensed physician. This does not exclude the recreational use of Marijuana in a state where recreational Marijuana is legal within twelve (12) months of the application deadline.

In the most significant update, the policy now recognizes that recreational marijuana is now legal in 10 states, with many more considering a shift, including Connecticut.

“I’d prefer that they not use any drugs, but in today’s society, people experiment and still want to become police officers,” Dawson said. “We’re trying to be a bit flexible. We no not want to limit ourselves to some good candidates.”

Still, it’s not a free-for-all, Cain added. “Marijuana is not legal here in Connecticut,” she said. “If you want to be a police officer, you must adhere to the laws that are in place within the jurisdiction that you will be serving.”

The policy continues to be behind the times, however, on medical marijuana — possibly in violation of state law, even it conflicts with federal mandates.

The draft version makes an exception for any use of “Medical Marijuana prescribed by a licensed doctor.” But the final version says that too is prohibited.

Connecticut’s medical marijuana law, the Palliative Use of Marijuana Act, states that employers cannot discriminate against “qualifying patients” who’ve been prescribed marijuana for “debilitating medical conditions,” including post-traumatic stress disorder.

The law states that employers can prohibit getting high “during work hours,” but they cannot “refuse to hire a person” or “discharge, penalize or threaten an employee” solely based on their medical needs.

The one exception is for employers who are required to reject medical marijuana users as “required by federal law or required to obtain federal funding.” That might be the case for law enforcement agencies.

In 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said that federal law prohibits any “unlawful user” of a controlled substance from carrying a firearm and ammunition. “[T]here are no exceptions in Federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes, even if such use is sanctioned by State law,” the letter reads.

However, the law is still being tested. Last fall, a federal judge in New Haven said that federal law doesn’t preempt the Palliative Use of Marijuana Act.

Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer said that a nursing home had been wrong to rescind its employment offer to a women who takes synthetic cannabis pills at night for PTSD. He said that state law still prohibits discrimination against qualified patients, even if the reason why they’re being discriminated is based in federal law.

Judge Meyer also rejected the nursing home’s argument that it was required to bar the woman because it receives federal funding. “This argument borders on the absurd,” he wrote in the ruling. “Because the act of merely hiring a medical marijuana user does not itself constitute a violation of the [Controlled Substances Act] or any other federal, state, or local law, defendant is not exempt.”

Steroids: In Or Out?

Thomas Breen Photo6. The applicant will be disqualified if she/he illegally used anabolic steroids.

The police department’s draft policy originally allowed the illegal use of anabolic steroids if it was limited to one cycle of six to twelve weeks. But commissioners removed that exception from the final policy.

The idea that it might not have been disqualifying worries Barbara Fair, an activist against police brutality who’s speculated about why some cops are so aggressive in their interactions.

“For them to at least want to put it in there, that makes me think they knew that officers were using but they don’t want them to lose their jobs,” she said. “That’s very interesting that it was acceptable to them, despite the warnings about steroid abuse.”

Cain said that the department conducts randomized drug testing once a month, though she wouldn’t disclose what drugs the screenings cover.

Booze: No Biggie

7. The applicant will be disqualified if his/her driver’s license has been suspended for DUI, and the case has been disposed of less than one year prior to the application deadline. 

8. The applicant will be disqualified if his/her driver’s license has been suspended for DUI on more than one occasion.

The department’s policy sets the same one-year amnesty for both drunk drivers and pot smokers.

Dawson said that policy needs to be looked at again.

“I don’t know the specifics of why that was so similar,” he said. “That really could be very dangerous if a guy was involved in a DUI. We’ll probably revisit that one.”

FOI Violation

In violation of state law, the police commission and top cops kept the policy secret for more than a year.

Last month, upon reviewing an appeal submitted by the Independent, the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission (FOIC) ruled that both the police department and police commission had broken the law at nearly every step of the policy’s development.

In a unanimous vote at their Jan. 23 meeting in Hartford, the commissioners approved a decision that said the police shouldn’t have kept the draft secret, the commission should have discussed it in public, and the police should have released a copy in response to a public-records request.

(Click here to read the decision.)

The commissioners didn’t buy the advice city attorney Michael Wolak gave the commission. It wasn’t the first time that Wolak, the senior assistant corporation counsel, has advanced novel legal interpretations in the quest to shield the police department from accountability; when he sought to get a police-misconduct lawsuit thrown out of courts because the press had covered the case, a federal judge reprimanded for not understanding the First Amendment.

To remedy these latest violations, the FOIC ordered the department to turn over both the draft and final versions of the drug policy.

Initially, on March 1, 2018, when the police commission first considered the drug policy, it kicked an Independent reporter out of the room. Wolak, the board’s lawyer, said they could not discuss a draft in public.

The FOIC said it’s true the document was in draft form, but that didn’t mean that it could be taken up behind closed doors. The Freedom of Information Act states that drafts can be withheld only if there’s a special reason.

The police didn’t establish that, the FOIC said. “The respondents failed to prove that they have determined the public interest in withholding the draft employment drug policy clearly outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”

Because the draft shouldn’t have been withheld at all, the police commission also shouldn’t have discussed it in private, the FOIC added. The police commission “conven[ed] in executive session for an impermissible purpose,” the FOIC ruled.

Even after it was approved, the police department continued to withhold the policy, saying that it was exempt as “testing material.”

The FOIC found that just because the policy might relate to a questions that could be asked about candidate’s past does not make it a test, especially when it’s obvious that candidates will be asked about their past drug use already.

Here’s what the FOIC wrote:

“The Commission is not persuaded that asking an applicant about his or her drug use is an ‘examination for employment,’ within the meaning of [the Freedom of Information Act].

“The Commission notes that the respondents’ argument is that knowing the acceptable drug use limits for applicants to the police department may cause those applicants to lie, not that applicants will not already know an acceptable answer.

“Unlike a situation where the applicant may be unaware of the questions that will be asked, such as in a polygraph examination, and where the applicant’s reaction to the questions is measures and observed, there can be little doubt that applicants are aware that they will be asked about previous drug use.

“The department may also have policies regarding the age of applicants, their height and weight, their arrest or conviction history, their residency, or their race, all of which the applicant may expect questions about.

“Applicants may expect these questions, and lie in their answers, but that does not make the questions part of an examination for employment.”

Despite worrying that making the document public would encourage dishonesty, Assistant Chief Cain this week said she still thinks there are “pros and cons” to having it out there. She said she hopes that it clarifies what wannabe cops need to do before they send in their application.

“Obviously we want people to apply. But it’s a long process that we don’t want people to have to go through and pay fees if they’re not qualified,” Cain said. “I’m hoping that by making it public, those individuals who may not qualify will know what they have to to meet the standards that the New Haven Police Department has set.”

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posted by: ShadowBoxer on February 8, 2019  6:56pm

This seems like a reasonable policy, w/ the exception of including cocaine which was pretty big and common in the many nightclubs in New Haven.  I don’t know many people who didn’t indulge in coke in a New Haven nightclub back in the day.

Governor Lamont should look to this and also support “Clean Slate” legislation which will be put up for a vote this year.  This legislation would automatically expunge non-violent misdemeanor convictions after ten years if the offender has remained crime free.

“Second chance” society is thrown around a lot but people have NO CHANCE if they have a criminal rap sheet for shoplifting, pot smoking or a DUI.  The pardons process is cumbersome, capricious and bureaucratic process.  It is time to stop stigmatizing self-medicating, and experimenting w. alternate states of consciousness which have been features of human society for millennia.   

This is one policy that I think the city can be proud to be progressive on, provided the body cams are also on.

posted by: Callisto on February 8, 2019  8:35pm

“This sounds serious. Now where did I put my keys….”

posted by: Hill North on February 8, 2019  9:28pm

Rachel Cain in her leadership violated the law and expect everyone else to follow the law. Smh

posted by: Patricia Kane on February 9, 2019  10:22am

The Nixon drug laws that targeted blacks and activists continue to make schizophrenics of us all.
  Drugs were always around, but it took a political agenda to criminalize 2 new groups of people to reduce their voting and their influence.
  Generations have been brain-washed about the effects of marijuana, despite the long standing medical evidence. It has been total hypocrisy - and bad law- to criminalize drugs, while alcohol (another failed experiment in control) takes a higher toll in public health than do drugs.
    While releasing all the political prisoners of Nixon’s political agenda does not appear on the horizon, institutions like the NHPD appear to have tried to mollify the draconian effects of a zero tolerance policy. Hiding the changes in policy was just wrong. While some people will still argue for banning all drugs, most of the public is ahead of the law and the legislators.
    Again, look at how European countries have handled the same issue. Portugal’s elimination of its drug laws saw both crime and drug use go down. The few hard core users get health treatment and supervised access to drugs. The savings in law enforcement and prisons is enormous, not to mention that fewer lives are interrupted and fewer families disrupted.
    The City is a repeat offender when it comes to the FOIA. In my suit against the Mayor’s Commission on Police and Community, I asked for, but didn’t get, an Order mandating FOIA training for all members of Boards and Commissions. The Board of Alders does have its own training, but it remains voluntary for everyone else and that is not working. See recent reports of the Board of Ed violations in plain view.
    Back in the 1970s, I watched as the criminal court calendar exploded with stupid, mostly low level drug charges. They completely overwhelmed the courts. I remember prosecutors laughing about pot charges as we all recalled our own experiments.
    We should weep for the needless damage inflicted on people.

posted by: EPDP on February 9, 2019  8:58pm

The unanimous ruling of the Freedom of Information Commission stated in it’s decision:  “The Agency may not abuse its discretion in making the decision to withhold disclosure.  The Agency must therefore indicate the reasons for its determination to withhold disclosure and those reasons must not be frivolous or patently unfounded.” According to Rule 3.1 of the Rules of Professional Responsibility: “A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous….”  In his over the top defense of the Police Department, at the expense of public access and input into a very important issue, not to mention the First Amendment, Attorney Wolak, as a Connecticut licensed attorney, may have violated the Rules of Professional Responsibility.  Attorney Wolak’s impassioned defense of Police Officer Daniel Conklin got him in trouble with a Federal Judge.  The Town of Westport considered Conklin a liability and refused to hire him. Wolak is a liability for the City of New Haven. The City should get rid of him, just as the City got rid of 20 year veteran City attorney Martin Echter. If not, the City will find itself paying court sanctions due to Wolaks mistakes, as well as defending Wolak against complaints and grievances.

posted by: unprotected on February 10, 2019  8:45am

The City also releases information illegally or without following protocol.  Usually to the benefit of one particular individual or the City as an entity.

posted by: 1644 on February 10, 2019  9:41am

EPDP:  You know, of course, that attorneys also owe their clients loyalty and a zealous defense.  As an attorney who has practiced before the FOIC, always arguing for disclosure, I do not find the arguments put forth by the NHPD to be frivolous.  In reading the reporting here, we need to realize that NHI and Peak have buried their own disclosure of bias:  Peak personally, and the NHI, were named plaintiffs in the action.  Thus, the over-the-top triumphalism in the headline and article. NHI and the NHPD has an honest difference of opinion as to the application of the FOIA.  They went to the FOIC for a decision, and the FOIC rendered one.  I the NHPD wanted, it could appeal.  Not surprisingly, the FOIC is biased towards disclosure, and courts not infrequently reverse its decisions.

posted by: ethanjrt on February 10, 2019  12:20pm

“Some of them were young people in college experimenting,” Dawson said. “Maybe it was something they did while they were young and didn’t think about the implications for their future jobs.”

This type of comment betrays the comically circular reasoning that underlies a lot of these drug policies. It goes something like, “Past drug use is disqualifying because it shows that you weren’t responsible enough to think ahead and consider the possibility that it might be disqualifying.” How generous of you to make accommodations for silly college students, though, Mr. Dawson! *facepalm*

posted by: EPDP on February 10, 2019  3:22pm

1644:  These are the facts:  City Attorney Wolak argued against public disclosure at the Police Commissioner’s meeting.  The NHI was subsequently contacted and told that there would be no disclosure.  The NHI filed an appeal to the FOIC.  Wolak failed to file any response to the NHI appeal.  The FOIC unanimously ruled against the City.  Wolak never filed an appeal of the FOIC’s unanimous decision.  Wolak’s failure to file any kind of response to the appeal or to the unanimous FOIC decision can only lead to two conclusions: 1. Wolak is incompetent and missed the deadline for filing documents. 2.  Wolak knew that he was going to lose the appeal and thus didn’t want to waste his time preparing a response. Either way, the actions of Wolak clearly demonstrate that he is unprofessional and a liability for the City of New Haven to keep on as an attorney, regardless of the motives or bias of the NHI.

posted by: 1644 on February 10, 2019  6:00pm

EPDP:  Reading the FOIC regulations, NHI & Peak filed a complaint, not an appeal.  If there is a decline for a response, I am not seeing it.  It seems every non-frivolous complaint is scheduled for a hearing.  A hearing was held, at which time and place the NHPD presented evidence and legal arguments.  If some deadline for a response had been missed, there would have been no hearing on the merits, just a summary decision.  As for the NHPD’s not appealing to the Superior Court, lots of things are not appealed, for many reasons.  One is, yes, the likelihood of a decision being reversed, but cost, and frankly, how much the losing party really cares is another.  The recent decision of Branford’s P&Z not to appeal a trial court decision on affordable housing is one example of the latter. (The question was whether a super-majority was needed for a zone change for affordable housing.  The town found no caselaw either way, went to court, lost.  Given that a majority had voted to approve the zone change, it’s hardly surprising the commission didn’t want to spend money appealing.)

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 10, 2019  6:26pm


What are you talking about ‘attorneys owing their clients a zealous defense’?  In the private world, yes!

In this case we are talking about a City Attorney who made a another bad call on behalf of the City, and couldn’t even defend himself (or the City)  as part of the Official Inquiry!!! 

The Defender of the action is the Offender in the complaint!

The FOIA Decision is but a minor victory.  The silence from Corp Counsel was deafening.
If there were some ‘real teeth’ in the statute, maybe everybody would pay more attention!

Maybe not.

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 10, 2019  6:33pm

There will be a transcript of the hearing available (on CD) if you request it from the FOIA Commission.
That public record will answer all questions and allegations ...

posted by: 1644 on February 11, 2019  6:06am

Bill, no, the complainants and the respondents are not one and the same.  The complaints are a self-selected individual and organization appointed by and representative of no one but themselves.  The respondents are the police commissioners, appointed by the Mayor,  who is elected by the electors of New Haven to govern them.  That’s the way things work in a representative democracy.

posted by: Patricia Kane on February 11, 2019  9:49am

@1644. I’m totally confused by your slam against Peak and the NHI (The complaints are a self-selected individual and organization appointed by and representative of no one but themselves.) and your apparent support of the NHPD and Attorney Wolak’s violation of the FOIA.
  You know the Press is included in the First Amendment because that’s how important having access to information is to a functioning representative democracy.
    Now that the policies are disclosed, inconsistencies have been revealed and the NHPD is revisiting certain decisions.
    Is that not a good thing?
    Would it have happened without the public disclosure?
    Our horrendously wrong policy on drugs has created this mess and we are just starting to dig out from it. Changing policies in the workplace is just a small part of what has to happen.
    First and foremost should be remedying the damage done to the individuals and their families from this politically motivated targeting of voter groups. If this happened in some dictatorship, no one would be surprised. But now people just glide over the fact as though it were insignificant.
    The NHPD is struggling to come up with a rational policy, but chose to violate the law rather than trust having the public provide its input.
    There are a zillion exceptions to disclosure under FOIA, but Attorney Wolak’s decision didn’t fall under even one of them.
    “Transparency” is a great buzzword at election time, but between the NHPD and the Board of Ed, it’s clear that it is a slogan and not a reality.

posted by: EPDP on February 11, 2019  10:01am

1644:  According to my info, the NHI filed an appeal / complaint challenging the decision of the Police Commission.  The City filed no response.  The FOIC issued a unanimous decision against the City, and issued an opinion which you can read in this article.  The City did not file any paperwork, ie., request to reargue, an appeal, etc… to challenge the decision.  There was no zealous defense of the City’s position.  There was no defense whatsoever.  We will never know why the City Attorney’s office initially denied the request by the NHI and then failed to challenge the decision appeal / complaint filed with the FOIC.  All we can do is speculate as to the City’s silence, which Bill Saunders notes is deafening, on this very important public issue.

posted by: 1644 on February 11, 2019  12:01pm

PK:  I wasn’t slamming anyone, just stating facts.  Mr. Peak is a private individual, and NHI a private corporation.  As such, they represent and are beholden to no one but themselves.  There is no democratic process for any one not on the NHI board to direct it what to do, what legal position to take, etc., and certainly not for Mr. Peak as a private individual.  On the other hand, the police commission is a creature of law, whose members are appointed by a public official.  If the people of New Haven disagree with decision they make, they can elect a mayor who will appoint different people with different views.

posted by: 1644 on February 11, 2019  3:35pm

EPDP:  I say again, the Police Commission appeared at the hearing, where it presented legal argument and submitted evidence in support of its position.  That’s all it was required to do.  Yes, it might have appealed the FOIC decision to Superior Court, but it did not. Without seeing the file, I cannot say what memoranda of law might have been introduced, but this was not a default judgment: the city argued its case before a hearing officer, and possibly again before the full commission.

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 11, 2019  3:58pm

.....and ‘transparency’ and ‘public oversight’ be damned, 1644!

Nice Solution!

FOIA is there for a reason.  It is a public process available for ANYBODY to use.
Unfortunately, it is not an ‘injunction’ or other such ‘immediate remedy’, but it is all the citizenry has.

City Hall knows this and routinely uses the ‘deadlines’, and ‘process points’ to draw things out when the outcome ‘don’t look good’ for them.

Hell, I remember back when I was on my FOI binge of the late oughts, Destefano hired 5 new attorneys do deal with the ‘recent uptick’ in FOI Filings.  I wear that as a badge of honor!

Compliance is easy!
Why does City Hall make it so difficult!

I’m with Patricia Kane—give ALL of these public servants the proper training, then let the ‘statutory compliance’ begin!!!!

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 11, 2019  4:17pm


If you haven’t used it to its completion, The FOIA Process is also pretty user friendly.

When ‘an individual’ files an FOIA complaint (after their ‘records request’ has been ignored or denied), The State assigns an ‘Ombudsman’ to work with you to resolve ‘the issue’.

Under statute, The City is required to provide the requested records within 3 business days.

In the past, I have given them much longer to ‘respond’.  In some instances it has taken over 90 days and 30 emails to get the requested information.  Part of the game is to wear you down!

After a complaint has been filed, it is my experience that The City will fork over ‘some records’, and the complaint will be withdrawn.  In the absence of resolution, it goes to The Commission.

The Hearing is the last stage.  That only happened once with me—the first time!
And again, the transcript is FREE and on CD.

I honestly believe that both you and City Hall view the FOIA as a ‘nuisance law’.

posted by: 1644 on February 12, 2019  3:35pm

Bill:  It’s a free country, or at least it used to be, where one can believe whatever they wish.  However, I certainly do not think FOIA is a nuisance.  As I stated earlier, I have practiced before the FOIC, always arguing for disclosure.  All told, I have probably been to a dozen, maybe twenty,  contested hearings.  My views on the frivolity of NHPD’s position and the character of its behavior are based on my experience at the FOIC and the FOIA caselaw I have studied arguing against agencies seeking secrecy.

posted by: Bill Saunders on February 12, 2019  3:54pm


How many of those cases involved The City of New Haven?

posted by: 1644 on February 12, 2019  4:34pm

Bill: None.  Most involved Middletown.

posted by: Sabrina-in-NewHaven on February 13, 2019  11:04am

Well considering people are finally starting to realize that drug use and alcoholism don’t belong to one race, ethnicity or economic group, it’s time to at least stop throwing people away because they’ve had an issue before. It was so easy to ignore when you are raised to believe all the black & brown people being locked up were just the WORSE. Because the news said so. Right? If a candidate can prove that they have lived a substantial and drug/alcohol-free life then I don’t see the problem.

How about we get more cops and give them great training? Support them, and not just when there is an issue? Give them sabbaticals? Make being an officer worthy of the respect it deserves? Form community partnerships. The US Justice Department has all the expertise needed. I still would like for them to add a policy that requires the police to use more discretion when someone calls the police on someone who is black and they insist on investigating when there is nothing to investigate. We need to be able to walk our dogs, fall asleep while studying and basically unlocking the door to our homes without some jerk assuming we are a criminal. How about that?