Police protest layoffs

After 16 police officers were laid off, over half of the New Haven Police Department — nearly 250 officers — took to the streets Thursday in protest. The protest began at Union Avenue and concluded at City Hall.
After 16 police officers were laid off, over half of the New Haven Police Department — nearly 250 officers — took to the streets Thursday in protest. The protest began at Union Avenue and concluded at City Hall. Photo by Kamaria Greenfield.

New Haven’s growing budget gap led to the layoffs of 16 New Haven Police Department officers Wednesday night. In response, nearly 250 officers — over half the entire police force — took to the streets in protest Thursday.

The protest, which lasted over three hours, began at the NHPD headquarters on Union Ave and ended at the foot of City Hall. It represented the culmination of weeks of budget tensions that began with Mayor John DeStefano’s call to reevaluate the city’s pension plan and ended in the dismissal of 16 officers. Following the march, union leadership squared off against the mayor in a closed-door meeting in his office for over an hour in a last-ditch effort to save the jobs. But the two sides could not resolve their differences, and the protest ultimately failed to prevent the layoffs — the 16 officers handed in their guns and badges later that afternoon.

“This is one of the hardest days of my career,” NHPD Chief Frank Limon said. “The [laid-off] officers are not happy and they don’t like the way they’ve been treated … They weren’t treated with a lot of respect.”

He criticized the way the city handled the layoffs, and said that he would like to keep every officer.

The march started at 9:30 a.m. and ended at City Hall, where DeStefano stood by his decision to lay off the officers.

After nearly a week of speculation about whether cuts would be announced, the 16 newest hires in the NHPD were called at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday night and notified that their position had been terminated, said Lou DeCrescenzo, one of the officers who lost his job.

The union met to discuss their dissatisfaction and planned a response later that night. The next morning around 9:30 a.m, a crowd of off-duty officers began to form around the NHPD building, police union treasurer Sgt. Anthony Zona said.

Instead of handing in their badges at 10 a.m., the 16 officers and other rank and file members questioned Limon and New Haven Chief Administrative Officer Robert Smuts ’01, NHPD spokesman Joseph Avery said.

But when this conversation did not satisfy the crowd, the 16 officers and union leaders led a procession of nearly 250 down the street to City Hall, where they protested until 1 p.m., Zona said.

“When we were at the police department and didn’t get the answers from Smuts, we decided to come here,” Zona said. “We came here to get some answers from the mayor.”

As the police congregated on the steps of City Hall, DeStefano invited the union executive board and its attorney Richard Gudis into an impromptu meeting, Zona said.

At the meeting, Union President Sgt. Lou Cavaliere said he proposed a plan to save the 16 jobs which included allowing the officers to work for two months while the union and the city came to a resolution. He added that the union was anticipating between 30 and 50 retirements in the coming year and was also open to temporarily working unpaid, both of which could help the city’s budget problem.

But after considering the offer for 30 minutes, DeStefano declined and demanded that the officers hand in their badges that day,

Cavaliere said that the mayor’s refusal will be bad for the NHPD and bad for the city.

“When calls for help come in, it will be a serious problem for the residents who are all paying such high taxes,” Cavaliere said. He explained that the police force is already understaffed. He has even told officers to always wait for backup if there is a dangerous call, a move that will significantly increase the police response time to calls for help.

City Hall was quick to respond. In a 3 p.m. press conference at City Hall, DeStefano was quick to refute that undermanning the police force would make it more dangerous for the officers and residents.

“Union leadership doesn’t have a sense of reality yet,” DeStefano said .

The mayor pointed to the historical NHPD staffing level as evidence that the NHPD will be able to function without the 16 officers. Although the firings will decrease the work force from 450 to 434, DeStefano said the average number of officers has not exceeded 435 in the past decade.

DeStefano added that Thursday’s workforce reductions are merely returning the department to its normal levels. But Cavaliere told the News after the press conference that New Haven has become more dangerous than ever and that the mayor’s 2010 plan to raise the department to 490 badges shows that the mayor does not believe this change is justified.

“How could you be so cruel?” Cavaliere said, adding that there were five shootings in the past day, and one even took place while the union was meeting with DeStefano.

The mayor said in his press conference that there had not traditionally been a strong correlation between the size of the police force and the crime levels, and he said that any attempt to say New Haven will become less safe is “inaccurate and irresponsible.”

At the mayor’s press conference, Limon expressed discontent with the city’s handling of layoffs. Limon said he had been fighting for the officers but ultimately had to give into the mayor’s plan to combat the city’s budget gap. But, he said, he has now “drawn the line” for the mayor and will not accept any more workforce reductions.

But he added that he had been contacted by other Connecticut police departments such as West Haven and Norwalk, and was aware of at least 25 job openings for those officers.

Several union officers said they wished the chief had taken a stronger stance for his department.

“Limon didn’t do anything,” Cavaliere said.

The lowest police staffing level in the past decade was in 2008-2009 when the department had 400 officers. That year, the city saw 23 murders.

Comments

  • bjfair

    If anyone else behaved in this manner they would have faced arrest, posting bail and awaiting arraignment on breach of peace, disorderly conduct, obstructing traffic, inciting, causing a disturbance and more. This is exactly why few have respect for this department. Thousands are laid off every day and we have to accept it as adults do. This is called “life”. Guess what, i woke up this morning and the sky had not fallen in because 16 officers were laid off yesterday.

  • joey00

    True true..Well, it’s not like they were busy or doing anything anyways … Average wait time for a cop in NH is like 2 -3 hrs.. And you will watch them drive right past you while your waiting..

  • AlteredStates

    If you think the NHPD has problems, take a look at what Camden, N.J. had to do to close their budget gap. http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/01/mass_police_layoffs_being_in_c.html

    This is just the beginning. There are forces at work in this country that are hell bent on destroying unions – all unions. And, the perps. in charge are the Koch Brothers – along with the Tea Party who are backed by billionaires. They are part of an ultra conservative group that wants to turn the U.S. into a “Banana Republic”.

    And, why is this so? With unions reduced to an ineffectual flaccid force, they will be at the mercy of the “powers that be” – the State. Within the State there are groups of people who want complete control of every city and state budget through the governors office. On the other end of the “scale” they are attacking the federal budget with domestic cuts to cities, and state agencies and forcing the local property owners to make up fall the “short fall” with increased property taxes, fees, and other taxes on goods and services.

    With weakened unions, the unions won’t be able to make as many demands and their voting power will also be reduced so that “their” (Neocon Conservatives) candidates can win. Some on the national level are called “Neocons”. And, to a Neocon any war is a good war. That’s where all our money is going – to the Military/Industrial Complex. Their goal is endless war. Why? To feed the War Machine – which they own. And, which companies are in on “the deal”? Halliburton, The Carlyle Group, and American politicians in the highest positions of power.
    http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article3995.htm

    The Bush family and other world dictators follow the same game plan.
    http://www.counterpunch.org/madsen01312003.html

    Bush Family and Hitler.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_K2F4-iaxo

    Even with Bush gone from the Presidency, his war policies are still being followed. So, you see, this monster is bigger than any political party.

    The New Haven and Camden police departments are at the bottom of the food chain and are expendable. When unions are being left with no real power. “Management”, (the State), will dictate terms to its’ subjects – the unions. This is just the beginning. Three years ago I said that this country would look like a Banana Republic within five years. With two years left to go, maybe by the end of 2012 my vision of America will be realized. It’s not a good vision but, never the less, it seems to be coming true – right on time!

  • Andreology

    Unfortunate, but necessary.

  • AlteredStates

    P.S. To my comments about the NHPD and Camden PD and their unions. Glenn Beck is decidedly against unions. He thinks they are a Communist Conspiracy or the workings of the Muslim Brotherhood to setup “in this country” a Caliphate. Is this guy nuts or, what?
    Glenn at his best/worst:
    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Elections/Vox-News/2011/0212/Why-is-Glenn-Beck-freaking-out-over-Egypt-and-a-caliphate

    If you will notice Glenn includes the AFL-CIO as part of the plot to overthrow the U.S. Government.
    Hey, Glenn. I think you ought to up your Prozac a bit. On second thought, setup an I.V.

  • dalet5770

    There can be no coherent strategy to wind the minds and hearts of Yale/New Haven using precision guided weapons like the Frisbee when they put Basket balls in our hands and expect less than a mouthful

  • dalet5770

    JUST SAW THE NEW HAVEN REGISTER AND NOTHING EVER CHANGES IN THE STATUS QUO BUT THE PERSONELL – BRING OUT THE VOMITORIUMS

  • dalet5770

    If you have swallowed something you shouldn’t have or need to vomit after an evening of too much alcohol, it is possible to induce vomiting. If you need to upchuck and fast, then follow these steps to help rid your body of something harmful. There are several ways to make yourself vomit. For other great first aid tips, check out the Emergency First Aid Guidebook.

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  • harbinger

    It appears the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

  • joey00

    Where’ve you been for the past 14 yrs or so Harbinger ? What’ya live under a rock ?
    Lunatics ruled the roost, and screwed it up so bad. It’s called “A Machine”, A democratic machine,benefiting only those in higher office,some union directors board make themselves important

  • harbinger

    Dear Joey, I was commenting on the uptick in posts by persons who seem mentally unbalanced at best. But if you’d like to expand on your conspiracy theories I be more than happy to hear them.

  • joey00

    I know you. Your a classmate of Susanne Jovin

  • harbinger

    No you don’t, and I’m not. Now back to the subject matter.