NHPD unrolls new media plan

Lifelong New Haven resident David Hartman replaced 19-year veteran Joseph Avery as the NHPD’s public information officer Friday.
Lifelong New Haven resident David Hartman replaced 19-year veteran Joseph Avery as the NHPD’s public information officer Friday. Photo by YDN.

The New Haven Police Department’s new Public Information Officer had a slightly sordid introduction to local and state media: He announced the arrest of five female and two male prostitutes.

David Hartman, a life-long New Haven resident and son of Sterling Professor Emeritus & Senior Research Scholar of English and Comparative Literature Geoffrey Hartman GRD ’53, became the NHPD’s spokesman on Friday, replacing 19-year veteran Officer Joseph Avery, who said he plans to work a desk job until he can retire in January. Hartman, a 17-year veteran of the force, said he is already struggling with some of the technological demands of his new role, the main duties of which are sending press releases and being on call for media inquiries. Still, Hartman will be the face of the department’s new technological plan for better community and media relations, NHPD Chief Frank Limon said.

“Changes call for transition and the goal of the Department is to present a new, more inclusive, media plan geared toward transparency by emphasizing the use of social networking and an inclusive media approach which covers all facets of news reporting,” Limon said in an email to the News.

Yet despite the technological facets of his new position, Hartman was quick to admit there will be a learning curve for his computer skills, telling the News on Monday that he hopes there will be “some sort of course” on being a public information officer.

In fact, when forwarding along a press release about the weekend’s prostitution sting, Hartman joked that he may still have a lot to learn.

“Admittedly, I am inexperienced in this field and expect a few bumps in the road as I become acclimated in my new roll. The anticipated bumps will most likely be related to IT issues and repairing the Blackberry that I will be smashing with a sledge hammer — often,” he wrote.

Avery, the department’s former public information officer, whose 20th anniversary at the NHPD will be on January 25, 2012, said he plans to retire after the milestone. Until then, he said he will continue his work with the NHPD’s neighborhood services and block watch and other special projects for Chief Limon.

Hartman began his career in Westville as a patrol officer before moving to the downtown district for eight years, he said, adding that his most recent job was working as a hostage negotiator for the patrol and emergency services divisions. Despite this experience, he said he will be taking suggestions on how to more effectively operate the NHPD’s information department. Limon, however, said he has a clear plan for the new public relations initiative.

In order to improve police and community relations, he said, he expects that Hartman will use social media to keep the public more informed about incidents in a “timely and accurate” way — currently, when a non-homicide criminal incident takes place over the weekend, the police do not release any information until Monday afternoon. Hartman said that timely media updates should not be a problem.

“One of the things you’ll find with me, is that I’m very available,” he said. “I’m looking forward to meeting with the press, and foster[ing] a good and trusting relationship with them.”

Hartman attributed this willingness to be on call as an extension of his love for New Haven.

Although born in Iowa, Hartman moved to the Elm City as a three-month-old with his family. His father, who recently retired from the English and Comparative Literature departments at Yale, said he was surprised by his son’s love for New Haven.

“I took him on my academic journeys when I was invited by universities in this country and abroad thinking he would like the cosmopolitanism, but neither he nor my daughter have moved from the city,” Geoffrey Hartman said. “He just feels at home in New Haven.”

Hartman agreed with his father, adding that he currently lives, gets his hair cut, and grabs the occasional drink in the city.

An appreciation for his hometown coupled with a predisposition to be “very service inclined,” makes the new public relations post an ideal job for his son, Geoffrey Hartman said, adding that his son likes to talk to people and make friends.

Making friends is exactly what Avery said he liked best about his old job. Still, Avery said these friends sometimes abused their relationship.

“The worst part of the job was you guys [the press] bothering me at all hours of the night,” Avery said with a laugh. “But the best parts were the relationships I gathered along the way.”

Hartman, who has yet to report any shootings or murders, said he will try to be available whenever possible.

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