The officer in charge of the Elevate raid, New Haven Police Department Assistant Chief of Operations Ariel Melendez, announced his resignation on Thursday. The announcement was made amidst ongoing internal investigations into multiple incidents in which Melendez was involved.
Both the Oct. 2 raid on the Morse-Stiles Screw at Elevate and a Sept. 25 incident involving the arrest of a citizen for filming police officers are currently under investigation, and Melendez was the ranking officer at both incidents. NHPD spokesman Joe Avery said Melendez is retiring of his own volition. One of three Assistant Chiefs in the department, Melendez is the only one who was not recently brought from Chicago by Chief Frank Limon.
Melendez was the highest ranking officer present at the Elevate raid where Yale students were held for over an hour by a SWAT team and were not allowed to use their cellphones to either make calls, take pictures or record videos. Multiple students reported officers discouraging phone use, and at least one was arrested for “interfering with a police officer” for an incident stemming from him using his phone.
Within a week of the incident, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. released statements questioning the use of a SWAT team, and affirming every citizen’s constitutional right to videotape police actions.
Several weeks later, the issue of video recording police again entered the news, with Melendez at the center of the controversy.
In November, reports surfaced of a Sept. 25 incident in which, according to a police report, Melendez ordered a man arrested for recording a police arrest from 25 feet away on his iPhone. According to the New Haven Independent, the man, Luis Luna, later said that when he received his phone back, the footage had been deleted.
NHPD Internal Affairs is still investigating both incidents, and no official statements have been released by the Department in either matter.
Neither scandal had any relation to Melendez’s retirement, Avery said.
“It had nothing to do with the incidents downtown,” he said. “He just feels that it’s time, and it’s his own personal decision.”
There is no official date for Melendez’s final day, Avery said, and he did not know when that announcement would be made.
Melendez will be receiving a pay increase because of is retirement. He will leave the NHPD with a $124,500 annual pension, according to the Independent, a pension which exceeds his current salary of $105,000. The pension is augmented by his over 30 years of service to the police force.
The wealth of experience differentiated Melendez as an officer, said Ward 12 Alderman and Vice-Chair of the New Haven Public Safety Committee Gerald Antunes. Melendez served under Antunes, a former NHPD district manager, for 30 years, first as a patrol officer, then as a detective and a sergeant.
“[Melendez’s] retirement will be a great loss to the city,” Antunes said. “He is an excellent officer.”
Antunes said he had not spoken to Melendez since the retirement announcement, but added that he did not believe it was connected to any incident.
Melendez began as a patrol officer in the Elm City 33 years ago and was promoted to his current post seven months ago, City Hall Spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said in a press release. She added that, in addition to his duty with the NHPD, Melendez has served in the Marine Reserves for the past 15 years.