The New Haven police union is voting today on whether to hold a “no confidence” vote on New Haven Police Chief Frank Limon, who took office five months ago.
Over the past week, union president Louis Cavaliere has been publicly accusing the chief of lowering morale by introducing overly harsh, counterproductive rules. In an interview with the News on Monday, Limon defended his leadership style and policies and said his primary responsibility is keeping the public safe, not accommodating the union.
One of the union’s principal charges against Limon is that his approach to penalizing tardiness is unreasonable. For example, Limon locks officers out of meetings if they arrive late, he said.
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“I expect people to show up on time,” he said. “If you’re late, you don’t have to come, but don’t walk through the door when the door is closed.”
Supervisors showing up late sets a bad example for officers, he said, and will not be tolerated. Late attendees have to wait downstairs and get notes on the meeting, he said, adding that he will continue enforcing the rule.
The disagreement with the union has been worsened, Limon said, by misinformation circulating within the department, such as that Limon was planning to eliminate the police canine unit and sell the department’s rifles. Still, Limon said he has been working with the union to address its grievances.
Limon arrived in New Haven in April from Illinois, where he served for 30 years in the Chicago Police Department and for about 18 months as police chief in the suburban town of River Forest.
The union has also criticized Limon’s decision three months ago to recruit two of his former colleagues from Chicago to be his assistant chiefs, a move that made some community leaders uncomfortable.
“When all three are from that far out of state, it starts to feel like a coup,” said Ward 12 Alderman Gerald Antunes, who serves on the aldermanic public safety committee.
Limon’s management style has also been an issue, Cavaliere told the New Haven Register, calling it too insular and a departure from the open and honest style of former NHPD Chief James Lewis, now the interim head of Yale Police.
Cavaliere did not return multiple requests for comment, and Lewis declined to comment for this story.
Even if the police union decides today to hold a “no confidence” vote, it will carry no official repercussions. The NHPD last held a “no confidence” vote in 2005, when Francisco Ortiz was the police chief. Ortiz remained in that position until 2008 and is now director of guard operations for Yale Security.
As the vote approaches, four aldermen said they support Limon and think he should have time to put his policies into action.
Antunes said he would like to see the union make a greater effort to discuss their concerns with the chief before resorting to a “no confidence” vote. He also said Limon’s rule that all detectives wear a suit and tie at all hours while on duty seems reasonable.
At a meeting with the black and Hispanic caucuses of the Board of Aldermen Monday night, Limon continued to defend his efforts to increase the department’s professionalism.
“If I go down in history for requesting people to look professional and show up on time, then that’s what I’ll be remembered for,” he said.
During the meeting Ward 20 Alderman Charles Blango and Ward 24 Alderman Marcus Paca said the chief’s community outreach efforts should be commended.
“I’ve seen you make an effort to interact with civic organizations and general folk in our city,” Paca said. “It’s very positive, and people really appreciate it.”
Limon is under contract with the city until 2014.