Mayor seeks end to police schism

Mayor John DeStefano Jr. brought police representatives together in a closed-doors meeting last week to discuss a number of union concerns, mayoral spokesman Derek Slap said.

The meeting was DeStefano’s first attempt to build a compromise between union leaders and Police Chief Francisco Ortiz in the aftermath of a resounding no-confidence vote in the chief.

“It was a productive meeting,” Slap said. “The mayor was encouraged that they were all definitely going to be able to work together … It’s been a few weeks since the vote, so I think people had time to kind of decompress a little bit and come to the table.”

Issues discussed during the meeting ranged from training and personnel issues to potential improvements to the infrastructure within the Police Department building, Slap said.

Though no follow-up meetings have yet been scheduled, the mayor plans to stay involved in working toward a resolution, Slap said. But Slap also made it clear that DeStefano does not plan to “micromanage” Ortiz.

“It’s something that the mayor’s going to stay on top of,” Slap said. “He definitely wants to see the relationship between the chief and the rank-and-file improve. He has confidence that the chief is going to be able to do that.”

DeStefano has repeatedly reaffirmed his belief in Ortiz’s ability to continue on in his role as chief despite the no-confidence vote. In his State of the City address last week, the mayor reiterated that support and said he intended to reappoint Ortiz to his post.

During the same speech, DeStefano presented a four-part plan for improving the city’s commitment to public safety, addressing the recent controversy over police shootings by outlining plans for investment in less-lethal technologies and training in policies for the use of lethal force.

Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04 said he felt bringing all the sides involved together for an open discussion was the right thing to do to resolve the situation.

“When people get in the same room and actually talk out their issues, they manage to find solutions that work,” Healey said. “The mayor, the chief, the police union and the police officers all want to have a safe city where the neighborhoods and the citizens and the residents feel that they are protected and in which our cops feel good about the job they’re doing.”

Healey also expressed optimism that a resolution would soon be found.

“The no-confidence vote is a tactic used to demonstrated unhappiness, but it doesn’t mean the relationship is broken as far as I can tell,” he said.

New Haven police officer John Magoveny said the chief’s office could not comment on the meeting.

“Normally these closed-door meetings are not released to the press because they could be concerning a security issue and/or an ongoing investigation,” Magoveny said.

Union representatives could not be reached for comment.

Comments