Union Chief Slams Police Experiments

The police department is trying out new strategies for deploying cops and vehicles on the street. The police union’s president isn’t happy.

Melissa Bailey File PhotoPolice Union Local 530 President Louis Cavaliere Jr. (second from right in photo) registered that dismay by filing a grievance this week to protest the decision not to “backfill” some daytime patrol positions that opened up over the past month.

Traditionally, when daytime patrol spots open up, they have been “backfilled” with officers who work overnight and want to switch.

For now, the department, which faces a serious shortage of cops, has kept officers on overnight rather than fill the several spots that have opened up in day shifts.

Cavaliere argued Wednesday that the failure to fill the spots endangers public safety. He also called it a “slap in the face” of veteran officers eager to be home more at night and “see their families again.”

“This has been [in place] for 30 years,” Cavaliere said. “People know if they’re on nights, they’re next in line.”

Asked about the grievance, Assistant Police Chief Luiz Casanova said the department needs the officers at night right now because that’s when more crime happens. The department, which was down 50 officers over the past year, has been moving swiftly to refill its eviscerated ranks: It has just sent 40 rookies onto the street and plans to graduate another 67 officers over two classes this upcoming year.

Melissa Bailey File PhotoCasanova (pictured) noted that no contract provision or department policy requires backfilling.

“I’m going to work with the union” on the issue, Casanova said. “We’re going to move things along. We have a great understanding.”

He said the same about a second complaint Cavaliere raised: The department’s decision to cut down on the number of prisoner transport vans it puts on the road.

The department has for years had two vans on the road per shift. It recently switched to one per each of three daily eight-hour shifts (8 a.m. to 4 p.m., 4 p.m. to midnight, midnight to 8 a.m.); with an additional van on the 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift, meaning that at the busiest times of night a second van will still be on the road.

The decision compromises public safety, Cavaliere argued. If cops are busy transporting arrestees in a van on one part of town, officers on another side of town will have to wait longer if they a have a group needing to be locked up.

“There have been two wagons [per shift] as long as I’ve been here,” said Cavaliere, an 18-year veteran of the force.

Casanova said police brass studied the stats and discovered two vans weren’t needed all the time. That money could be better spent on more cops patrolling the streets, he said. “A lot of times the wagons are sitting around idle.”

Under the new system the department has reassigned some tasks traditionally carried out by prisoner-van drivers—like picking up some arrestees to appear in court or delivering paperwork to court—to beat officers, Casanova said.

“This is an experiment,” he said. “If this works, it gives us more cops in the streets.”

Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry


posted by: romeo wise on January 10, 2013  10:10am

The Union chief wants to back fill the day shift because that’s the way the department has done things for “30 years.” Why is that a good reason?

Is the Union chief happy with the crime rate? Does he think that will change without changing police tactics (including staff schedules)?

He wants to continue the practice of taking veteran officers off the night shift (when more crime happens) so they can work the day shift. Why would any police chief assign veteran officers to the shift with the least crime?

Bravo to the police chief who is ready to try something new.

You can’t keep things the same and make them better.

posted by: Curious on January 10, 2013  10:51am

How does Cavaliere argue against the stats that show the extra van isn;t needed at all times, or that crime is worse at night?  His arguments seem to be just, “We’ve always done it this way, and otherwise compromises safety”.  It sounds like the stats show the opposite of what Cavaliere is arguing.

posted by: anonymous on January 10, 2013  11:43am

This is ridiculous.  Given the crime rate per hour, the entire police force should be on duty during the 7PM to 3AM shift. 

When will residents, not private interest group unions, control our police force again?

posted by: Fairhavener on January 10, 2013  1:59pm

Union Leader more or less says “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!” Problem is, it’s pretty broke.

This is the classic let’s not improve for fear of ruffling feathers mentality that we must all fight against day in and out in our local political scene.  However, it seems New Haveners—the ones that really do care about this community—are sick of it.

posted by: Solid45 on January 10, 2013  2:13pm

It did not take not long for Luis Casanova to start sounding like a numbers crunchers instead of a cop.  Remember Casanova, it hasn’t been that long ago.  Listen to the radio between 3:00 - 7:00pm.  How quickly you forget.

posted by: Ex-NHPD on January 10, 2013  3:17pm

While sitting in an Ivory Tower, and looking at the move to one prisoner wagon per shift, it sure makes sense…on paper.  Two prisoner wagons are like an insurance policy; no one notices how much they need it until they need it.  For the amount of pick ups per shift and miles covered, there will be enough times, every day, to prove that one wagon is insufficient to carry the load.

How does this free up more cops in the street when cops in the street will be taking up the slack when the one wagon is busy?

How long will it take one wagon, during the day (most traffic on the streets) to get to East Shore to make a pick up, then go to Westville to make the next one, and get them all to 1 Union?  With one wagon, and multiple pick ups needed, a prisoner could be in the wagon for HOURS (handcuffed) waiting to get to 1 Union.

I wonder if anyone calculated how many prisoner transports are done each day, along with the wagons going out of town to make a pick up.

Each prisoner van has just a driver; 2 vans, 2 cops.  That is because of the security of the prisoner being safely separated from the cop.
Anytime a cop transports in their patrol car, it is two cops.

If this is truly an experiment, and those in charge of it view the results objectively, it should quickly result in them seeing it did not attain the goals they had hoped for.

posted by: Curious on January 10, 2013  5:34pm

I’d just like to thank the current and former members of the NHPD who are vocal about their thoughts and feelings on policing in New Haven on this website.  It is very educational and enlightening to hear your input on these issues.

posted by: Invictus on January 10, 2013  10:51pm

@curious we actually comment quite a bit but unfortunately our comments don’t fit the liberal agenda of this site.. So we take a van off the street and tie up Officers waiting for the one van or we just use 2 Officers to transport… Great idea!

posted by: Kevin on January 11, 2013  12:21pm

@ex-NHPD and Invictus

Do you have any actual data on how often both vans are being used?

posted by: Invictus on January 11, 2013  1:09pm

@ Kevin every time someone is arrested other than summons

posted by: Curious on January 11, 2013  3:56pm

To Officer Cavaliere and the other supporting officers, you need to play the same game as the admins, then.

Ask to see the stats supporting the experiment to go down to just one van, and ask for how this will be rolled out and evaluated.

There should be some proposal, such as “We will go down to one van for two months, then reevaluate the stats”.  Check the amount of time that cops wait on the van during the day, and any dip in crime in the areas where the cops who would have been in the van are on the street instead.  If there is no convincing argument that crime is lower in those areas, or that cops are having to stand around waiting too long for the van, then make your arguments to put things back the way they were.

The burden of proof, however, should be on the administration.  They should know the stats before, during, and after this experiment, and be open and honest about them, otherwise this isn;t an experiment at all, it’s just a rationalized policy change.