Union votes no confidence in police chief

City police officers voiced resounding displeasure with New Haven Police Chief Francisco Ortiz, voting overwhelmingly that they had no confidence in the chief Thursday at the department’s headquarters, New Haven Police Union president Louis Cavalier said.

While 37 members voted in favor of Ortiz, 221 voted no confidence in the chief, Cavalier said. The vote of no confidence against Ortiz is not meant to cause his resignation, Cavalier said, but to address the problems brought up by the union’s general membership so he may correct them.

“This vote is not to unseat him, but it does raise very serious concerns,” Cavalier said. “I think this is something we want to work out because it benefits the rank-and-file. We’ve got to get back on track.”

Ortiz could not be reached for comment Thursday. Cavalier said the chief has stated he will comment on the outcome of the vote today and that Ortiz is ready to address the issues raised by the union’s membership.

He said the union’s executive board, made up of seven members, plans to meet with Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and the chief in the next few weeks to discuss the issues that led to the vote of no confidence, including the chief’s handling of recent police shootings and his management tactics.

“Our job as a union is to try to bring these issues to the chief, so he can boost the morale,” he said. “Once he recognizes this, then we can correct some of the problems here.”

Cavalier said he expects the mayor to suggest changes in the police department in response to the union’s vote.

“The mayor is going to have to offer some solutions,” Cavalier said. “He has reached out already, and he wants to do something.”

DeStefano said he feels concerned about the outcome of the vote but continues to support Ortiz and believes in his ability to fulfill the duties of his office.

“There’s obviously some level of concern in the rank-and-file about the relationship with the chief,” DeStefano said. “The concern should be seriously considered and looked into by the chief. Having said that, I want to be clear that I have complete confidence in the chief and the ability of the chief to do his job, and I think he has done a good job.”

“He’s acknowledged to me that he’ll make some changes,” Cavalier said.

The vote came as a result of a meeting of the general membership held on Jan. 19, in which the 40 members in attendance decided to bring the vote to the general membership, union treasurer Anthony Zona said.

“It’s important to realize that it was the membership that brought it to our attention. It was the membership that wanted it,” Zona said.

Cavalier said two other votes of no confidence have been brought against New Haven police chiefs in the past 37 years — Edward Morrone, who served until 1981, and Nicholas Pastore, who served until 1997. Neither of these votes resulted in a resignation.

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