Less than a year into the tenure of New Haven Police Chief Frank Limon, the police rank and file union plans to hold a no-confidence vote on the department’s leadership.
Limon and Assistant Chiefs Thomas Wheeler and Tobin Hensgen will be the subjects of the vote on Feb. 3, after union members at the Marchegian Club on Cedar Street decided Wednesday to hold a referendum on the state of the department. This marks the second attempted no-confidence vote in four months, and continues a pattern of resistance against the three top officers who came from Chicago between April and June 2010.
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If the Feb. 3 no-confidence vote is passed by the rank and file union, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. will be forced to face a disgruntled police force in a city that saw its murder rate nearly double in the past year, although the NHPD’s murder closures have increased since Limon became the head of the department. A projected $52 million budget deficit for New Haven in 2011 does not leave room for large-scale changes, but representatives of the police union are still making demands.
“There are things going on in this department that are not being handled appropriately,” said Arpad Tolnay, an executive board member of the local 530 union and an NHPD patrolman. “[These problems] will affect the officers greatly. If not directly, then through morale which is already happening.”
The major complaints against the NHPD management are the general mismanagement of some departments and the risk of decreased pensions, Tolnay said. The delay of new bulletproof vests and AR-15 rifles was also raised as a concern by the union, the New Haven Independent reported.
James Lewis, who was the NHPD Chief from 2008 to 2010 and is now the interim head of the Yale Police Department, originally ordered the new rifles and bulletproof vests when he was chief, but declined to comment on the current status of the equipment.
Although they believe their claims of departmental mismanagement are warranted, police union members are aware that some may criticize the move for a no-confidence vote.
“People call us crybabies,” Tolnay said. “But it is something that affects us tremendously. There are people who have been been planning their lives around their [now-threatened] pensions.”
Tolnay likened the reduction or elimination of pensions to the dissolution of Social Security, saying that police pay into the system their entire careers and expect to reap the benefits when they retire.
The union last threatened to hold a no-confidence vote on Sept. 15, 2010 when union president Louis Cavaliere claimed that Limon’s policies — locking officers out of meetings if they came late and requiring detectives to wear neckties — were hurting morale.
Limon and the assistant chiefs declined to comment through NHPD spokesman Joseph Avery.
In an interview two days before the September vote, Limon told the News that he would not back down from his policies.
“It’s a question of principle, of being professional,” he said at the time.
Limon is under contract with the city until 2014.