Police Poet Puts Down Pen

Markeshia Ricks PhotoOfficer David Hartman — a public face of New Haven’s police department since 2011 — retired Friday after a quarter century in uniform and seven years of elevating law enforcement’s literary standard.

Hartman has served as the official police spokesperson since 2011. In that role he has been ubiquitous in print and on TV informing people about murders, car chases, and hour-by-hour updates on breaking stories like the 2015 discovery of a severed torso near the train station. A city native, he has always been passionate about policing and about his city.

Police Chief Anthony Campbell has named Capt. Anthony Duff as Hartman’s replacement as department spokesperson. (Read more about Duff’s background here.)

A former patrol cop, Hartman also headed the hostage negotiation team.

In all his roles, Hartman has served as “the model of what a police officer should be,” Chief Campbell said Friday. “He has helped the department to get through some difficult times. He has helped me get through some difficult times,” including the time in 2006 that a fleeing suspect in a Dodge Intrepid almost took Campbell’s life.

Hartman “was with me the night I got hurt. He helped me get through the recovery process,” Campbell said. “He has been that member that keeps us all together and makes sure the truth we speak is not just amongst ourselves but shared with the community, so they can really know who we are and what we’re about.”

Parting Press Advice: Start Smoking

Hartman penned a farewell to the media in a statement released on his last day of work Friday. It read:

Here I am. Sitting at my desk under bright fluorescent lights. I’ve always hated the cold, sharp greyness of fluorescent light, but as my five small table lamps are sitting in boxes in the hall, I’ve no choice but to endure this offense to my eyes for the remainder of the day. I think though, this is fitting one’s last day at work as a cop. When I was hired over twenty-four years ago, I entered into a world of proverbial fluorescent light. The only warmth a police officer sees is from family and brother and sister officers. The rest, the work, is cold, sharp and grey. Those are the temperatures, affect and shade of what we see day to day and year to year – for rarely, if ever, do folks call the police when things are warm.

Though I’d love getting back much of my time as the department’s Media Liaison, I wouldn’t trade a second of my career working with my brother and sister officers.

The public will never know or understand the impact of what you see, the pressures of what you can’t understand and how damaging nationwide anti-police sentiment is to your human souls. To the officers in New Haven and our partner agencies – keep your eyes open and your sensibility honed. As long as you remain honorable, you will be cherished – even by those who won’t show it.

To my friends in the press, It’s been an interesting ride. I wish you all the best. Similarly, as long as you remain honorable, you will be cherished. Russell Baker said, “It is fitting that yesteryear’s swashbuckling newspaper reporter has turned into today’s solemn young sobersides nursing a glass of watered white wine after a day of toiling over computer databases in a smoke-free, noise-free newsroom”. My advice, switch to scotch, take up smoking and chase your stories the old fashioned way.

New Haven, Thank you. See you on the block. Peace.

Humility At Work

We in the press trusted him and respected Hartman. We will miss our daily updates, upbraidings, picker-upper humorous tales, and overall deep, soulful sense of humanity.

Most of all, this reporter will miss Hartman’s carefully crafted prose — at times Chandleresque, at other times Thompsonesque, always tone-appropriate to the subject and worth the read.

He mastered the art, for instance, of the closing line. Such as this one to a 2012 release about the arrest of a thief and securing of stolen goods after a Crown Street bottle shop got hit: “The wine was placed into evidence in a cool dark area of the police property room.”

Hartman’s prose sometimes reached the level of poetry — and in fact, Hartman turned to poetry to issue a release warning of online dating dangers. Here’s how the release read:


A composition by Officer David Hartman

All over the world, people look to find love
In coffee shops, bars and such places thereof
The new trend, however – no more than a click
On a cellphone or device with a memory stick

The love you may seek just might come with a price
From a criminal element well-seasoned in vice
Should you trust a match-maker from the “the cloud” up above
Or rely on tradition to truly find love?

Your excitement at romance will be quickly undone
When Brenda is really a dude with a gun
Be cautious, warn cops, when looking for fun
So the criminals, you won’t have to try to outrun

The rendezvous spot should be chosen with care
In New Haven – perhaps it’s a well-lit town square
Just no darkened driveways – chose someplace elsewhere,
Like a place you’d be proud to spark-up your affair

How embarrassed you’ll be when your wallet gets robbed
By Brenda – who’s really a delinquent named Bob
The match you are seeking should be carefully picked
Just be certain to avoid being conned, robbed or tricked.

Finally, here’s an example of longer-form Hartman, originally published here during 2013’s Winter Storm Nemo:

She Took My Shoveled Space

By Officer David Hartman

Nemo brought out the best in me — until I came home at 3 a.m. to find another car in the spot I spent four hours shoveling.

In communities throughout New Haven, neighbors have been out in force being, well, neighborly since the historic snowstorm that buried the city last weekend. Those who could took care of those who couldn’t. Folks were introducing themselves to people who’d lived a house or two away for years.

“I live in the yellow house over there,” said a woman who’d approached me about borrowing my shovel. With the assistance of others, we got her walkway shoveled. A few minutes later, she brought us bagels.

We’ve all seen flocks of birds that seem to turn en masse simultaneously. All of them. In unison. As soon as the owner of a buried car plunged his or her shovel into the tremendous pile of snow, the same fascinating phenomenon would occur. The shovel-wielding flock would fly right over to help, as if some electromagnetic communication or even “thought transference” had been involved.

I was up a bit earlier than most last Saturday morning. The man who has the snow removal contract for my condominium complex hadn’t touched it. As it turned out, we wouldn’t see him for days.

My neighbor Mike and I had about an hour’s worth of shoveling before we could even get to our cars. As the morning went on, others emerged and with looks of disbelief, dug in as well.

I think awesomeness of the storm kept me distracted enough to prevent me from becoming pissed off at having to spend all morning shoveling. Four hours later, my back was aching, but I’d cleared a walking path around my SUV. I was physically drained but somehow satisfied.

My friend’s brood of little ones were busy building an igloo, and neighborhood dogs were having the time of their life. My spirits were up. I showered and helped a few others on the block before escaping to work behind a monstrous payloader.

Before leaving, I joked with Mike about what we’d do if someone parked in the spaces we’d struggled for hours to clear.

“They’d better not,” Mike said.

“No one could be that cruel,” said Karen.

Chachi piped up, “It’s an unwritten law. You shovel it – you own it”.

I spent 17 hours at work, some of them dry in an underground Emergency Operations Center, but mostly, I was driving officers to calls around New Haven. (The NHPD has very few 4WD vehicles, so officers were trudging through waist deep snow for blocks to help people). It was an
exhausting day for me, and I can only imagine worse for the many officers, firefighters, EMTs, public works and parks department staffers who’d put in around the clock hours.

I was dreading Sunday, when I knew the hours would be as long, and this time with just a few hours of sleep in between.

Psychologically, snow may affect people who have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  Studies have shown that during snowstorms people tend
to be affected by the darkness and can not produce enough serotonin to counteract the feelings of depression. Other studies discuss ions in the weather.  If there are positive ions in the atmosphere, people become cranky.

I was OK. Those studies didn’t apply to me.

That is until, at just before 3 a.m., I forged down my street and spotted some other car in the spot I’d cleared.

Nemo had brought out the best in me all day. In one moment, that would disappear.

I was boiling with anger as I tried to find a spot to park, finally settling for one blocks away. But instead of just cursing the situation in my mind, I sank to a deplorable low. I went inside and got on the computer. In the largest font size I could find, I wrote a profane two-word greeting to the car’s owner, followed by a one-sentence, slightly less profane explanation. With scotch tape in hand, I returned to the car and posted my feelings on the windows.

The next day, the car was gone, and I had an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was bothered all day by what I’d done.

When I returned home, there was a note left for me. It was stern but kind. The woman who wrote it (Ann) offered to give me four hours of her time if I’d accept her help, while scolding me for the use of profanity.

Ann, I can’t undo what I’ve done, and apologize sincerely for leaving the note. The good deeds done by my neighbors all day were punctuated by my bad deed, and I’m sick over it. That’s not me.

I’ve kept your note as a reminder and am a better person for having it.

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Commenting has closed for this entry


posted by: Bill Saunders on January 4, 2019  2:28pm

Captain Duff is a great replacement— I had some dealings with him last year when he headed up IA, and I found him to be ‘a good face’ on that department.

And I guess it is time to welcome David Hartman to the New Haven Arts Community!
Keep Writing, Man!!!  It’s one of those ‘lifetime sports’!

posted by: street disciple on January 4, 2019  11:15pm

Great working with you Hartman! You are a true professional with a great sense of humor- you could always be counted on to be collaborative and supportive. Look well to your retirement and I hope you find your kayak! (inside joke). See you at the gym.

posted by: Dennis Serf on January 5, 2019  2:25am

I enjoyed receiving the police blotter reports and his commentary/whit/sarcasm. Good luck!

And if Officer Hartman is reading, I’d like to hear more about his ideas on how the City/NHPD can save money. I think this is his post in the NHI:

posted by: hartman on July 6, 2018 11:47am
Want a couple million a year? I’m blue in the face trying to find the right person to pitch this to.

I’m all ears. Every couple of million counts in my world! Heck, I’ll even buy you lunch. Please email me. Please…

Dennis Serfilippi
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

posted by: Stu71 on January 6, 2019  12:23am

Best of luck with your future endeavors. You’re a true professional and a class act.

posted by: chapillsbury on January 6, 2019  5:15pm

David, I have known you for over 40 years, since we were neighbors on “little” Everit. It has been a pleasure to watch you develop into the extraordinary man and public servant you have become, and I look forward to seeing what you do next with the many talents and skills you have. Your father, were he still with us, would have been proud of you and your career, and your mother who is doing well, I’m sure is. And I’m proud to call you not only a former neighbor, but also a friend. I hope our paths continue to cross and godspeed. Charlie

posted by: thecove on January 7, 2019  12:23pm

Good Luck David.  One of the last of a dying breed.