The question of succession has led New Haven Police Department Chief Francisco Ortiz to stick around for a few months long, delaying his transition to a job with Yale.
City spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said in a press release issued Dec. 28 that Ortiz will remain as head of the recently-scrutinized department “until sometime in the spring.” In the midst of a nationwide search, City Hall officials have not yet found a replacement for Ortiz, who announced his retirement in November for a job at Yale. The declared retirement of assistant police chief Herman Badger, set for Jan. 16, has only added another search.
“With the departure of an assistant chief and the anticipated time needed to hire a new chief, I asked Chief Ortiz to remain in his position a few months longer to provide a continuum of command and control within the department,” Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said in the press release.
Badger resigned due to “personal reasons,” Mayorga said, and his position may not be filled until the new chief is appointed.
Ortiz announced his retirement at a press conference in City Hall on Nov. 19. The first Latino Connecticut police chief, he said he would vacate the position Jan. 18 to allow for a new chief to run departmental reform, recommended by a report issued by the Police Executive Research Forum three days prior.
At the conference, Ortiz said he will spend more time with family and felt “confident” that the department would move forward without him.
But with Badger’s leave, two of the three highest-ranking positions in the NHPD would have been vacant within a week. And the City also plans to fill two new assistant chief positions recommended by PERF, within the next couple of years.
In order to “maintain a continuum of control and command” within the department, DeStefano approached the police chief, Mayorga said.
“What’s best for the city [is] that we have strong leadership as we work to find new leadership,” she said.
Ortiz “graciously” agreed to stay until DeStefano has appointed a new chief with the help of PERF, the mayor said in the press release. Mayorga said the City hopes to find a replacement by late March or early April.
The December announcement of Ortiz’s retirement came at the heels of the release of the final PERF report evaluating the NHPD. The report made numerous recommendations for restructuring the department and its leadership.
And as Ortiz continues his position as police chief, he may consider enacting some changes requested by the PERF report, which was released days before Ortiz announced his retirement, Mayorga said. But no plans for moving forward with the PERF recommendations during his extended tenure have been set in stone.
By having Ortiz stay, the NHPD may not be able to implement specific PERF recommendations that “should be done by the new chief,” Ward 12 Alderman Gerald Antunes, a member of the aldermanic public safety committee member and a former NHPD captain said.
Though the PERF report said its recommendations should be fulfilled within a year, Mayorga told the News shortly after Ortiz announced his retirement that the process could take two to three years.
Antunes said it may take more time for the city to enact the PERF proposals because the department is “dragging it longer.”
Ortiz and Badger have never been tied to any of the corruption charges that instigated the PERF review. But Ortiz has been criticized for his management of the department in public hearings since March.
After his leave, Ortiz was slated to join Yale Jan. 20 as senior director of public security for the Yale West campus and special assistant to Yale Police Department Chief James Perrotti. Now, officials must wait several months before Ortiz can “assume his responsibilities,” Mayorga said.
“They understand the situation we’re in,” she said. “They were courteous enough to oblige [our request].”
Until Ortiz takes his position at Yale West, University Security Director George Aylward will oversee things at Yale West, Deputy University Secretary Martha Highsmith said. She said she expects Ortiz to come by mid-March.
University President Richard Levin previously told the News that no one will actively use the 137-acre complex until at least this summer. Highsmith told the News in November that no major construction or renovation is needed for the laboratories on the campus.
But the University needs to consider security and safety issues now, Highsmith told the News in November. Several Yale officials had told the News in November that they were glad to welcome Ortiz to their security team.