In a letter to the mayor on Monday, New Haven Police Department Chief Francisco Ortiz tendered his official resignation, effective April 12, when Assistant Chief Stephanie Redding will take over until the city selects a replacement for Ortiz.
City officials reached an agreement with Ortiz in January under which he would stay on with the department until mid-April. Ortiz’s last year with the NHPD has been marked by the arrests of four officers on federal corruption charges, as well as efforts to restore the effectiveness of and the public’s confidence in the department.
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About 30 candidates — none of them NHPD officers — applied to become New Haven’s top cop, said City Chief Administrative Officer Rob Smuts ’01, who is overseeing the city’s search for a new chief. He said he has a sense of a “narrower range” of candidates but declined to say how many people remain in the running. Few details about the search and interview process have been released to the public.
“We’re still on target for the original timetable, which would have called for an announcement in late April,” he said.
Ortiz announced in November that he would be stepping down to take over as senior director of public security for Yale West, the 137-acre plot of land that the University purchased from Bayer Healthcare last September.
Ortiz originally planned to leave the department at the beginning of this year, but after the unexpected retirement in January of former Assistant Chief Herman Badger, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. asked Ortiz to stay on for a few more months. Ortiz agreed to remain the chief of police until the spring, when the mayor anticipated he would have selected a new chief based on a search conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum.
Ortiz’s departure is part of a larger shake-up of the department. The city hired the Police Executive Research Forum — a group of policing consultants — after a Federal Bureau of Investigation sting operation last March resulted in the arrests of then-head of the NHPD narcotics unit Lt. William “Billy” White and narcotics detective Justen Kasperzyk.
White pleaded guilty in October to charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and theft of government property. Kasperzyk pleaded guilty to a civil-rights conspiracy felony and a theft of government property misdemeanor, and Detective Jose Silva pleaded guilty to a deprivation of an individual’s civil rights misdemeanor in October. Det. Clarence Willoughby was arrested and charged with larceny and forgery in February.
Over the past year, Ortiz and city officials have pledged and begun to enact the final PERF recommendations, which include reorganizing the internal affairs department and filling promotional holes.
Although Ortiz served as chief during the federal investigation of the NHPD’s narcotics unit, he has never been accused of any illegal activities. Public criticism toward Ortiz over the past year has generally been focused on his management of the force, in light of the scandal and recent increases in non-fatal shootings, despite an overall drop in crime.
Deputy University Secretary Martha Highsmith told the News in November that the University is happy to be adding Ortiz to its security efforts.
“We had many conversations, and Yale officials have worked with Chief Ortiz for many, many years and have the highest regard for him,” she said after Ortiz’s initial announcement.
Redding said she is proud to be following Ortiz as chief.
“It has been an honor to serve under Chief Ortiz. I wish him well in his new position,” Redding, the highest-ranking female officer in the history of the NHPD, said in a statement Tuesday. “In this interim role, I look forward to working with the dedicated men and women of this department to deliver the public safety services that New Haven residents deserve and expect from us.”
After almost 30 years with the NHPD, Ortiz will not have much time to take a breather. He will report to work on April 21, his first day as a Yale employee and only 10 days after officially departing the NHPD. Smuts said he “very much appreciated” Ortiz’s agreement to stay until April.
“He might have agreed to stay on a bit longer if it looked like our search was going to go on for a while, but we’re in good shape,” he said.
Had she applied, Redding would have been a strong candidate, Smuts said, but not a single officer from within the department applied for the post. Redding joined the NHPD in 1986 as a patrol officer. She has previously served as the second-in-command of the Patrol Division and as a district manager for the East Shore/Morris Cove police district.
In 2006, Redding was promoted to assistant chief, becoming the first woman to hold the assistant-chief position in NHPD history.
The Board of Aldermen approved a pay hike for the new chief Monday night. The salary the city was empowered to offer the chief was previously capped at a maximum of $127,000, but the new chief will be eligible for an annual salary of up to $160,000.