NHPD faces lawsuit

A 27-year-old New Haven man filed a civil rights lawsuit Monday alleging that three former New Haven Police Department officers, former NHPD Chief Francisco Ortiz and the city of New Haven fostered an environment that led to his unlawful arrest and imprisonment.

The three former officers named in Norval Falconer’s suit — Lt. William White, Det. Justen Kasperzyk and Det. Jose Silva — were all imprisoned earlier this year on corruption charges. But this is the first time Ortiz, now the director of public security at Yale’s West Campus, or any official higher up in the police department’s hierarchy, has been formally implicated since corruption in the NHPD’s narcotics enforcement unit was revealed in March 2007.

“The pattern of abuses in the narcotics unit was widespread, blatant and of long standing,” Falconer’s attorney, Diane Polan, said in a statement. “This corruption went beyond Billy White and his crew.”

Falconer is suing for $10 million in damages stemming from his false arrest two years ago, the month he spent in prison, and the subsequent loss of his apartment and job. In failing to supervise White — who led the narcotics enforcement unit — Kasperzyk and Silva, Ortiz and the city of New Haven tacitly approved the “practices and policies” that led to Falconer’s unlawful arrest, the lawsuit states.

The Associated Press reported that Polan said practices of planting evidence and falsifying warrants and police reports were effectively official NHPD and city policy. She admitted, however, there was no evidence of Ortiz asking an officer to commit a crime, according to the A.P.

Ortiz did not reply to an e-mail request for comment Monday evening. But Robert Smuts ’01, New Haven’s chief administrative officer, defended the former police chief.

“I have not seen the lawsuit itself, but from what I understand there is no question that these three individuals — White, Kasperzyk and Silva — engaged in illegal, unconstitutional and indefensible behavior,” Smuts told the News. “But there’s no reason to believe, and in fact reason not to believe, that the corruption went any higher.”

Smuts said the transcripts of the detectives’ trials show “it’s very clear that they were motivated by greed, not to try to be super-cops and enforce narcotics laws.”

In addition, Smuts cited the FBI’s criminal investigation and the department’s own internal investigation, both of which, he said, found no evidence that corruption went any higher than the three detectives.

White and Kasperzyk were both convicted of stealing money from crime scenes.

After White’s arrest in March 2007, then-Chief Ortiz dissolved the narcotics division. An independent consultant group, the Police Executive Research Forum, was brought in to make recommendations about how to overhaul the department to prevent future corruption.

At the end of September, Ortiz’s successor, NHPD Chief James Lewis, appointed Lt. John Velleca to re-establish the narcotics division.

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