NHPD places officers on leave

Three New Haven Police Department officers have been placed on paid administrative leave after an off-duty shooting incident outside the State Street bar Christopher Martin’s Sunday morning.

NHPD Chief Dean Esserman said at a Sunday evening press conference that he asked the three officers to surrender their guns, badges and police identification Sunday afternoon after the department launched an Internal Affairs investigation into the incident.

“No one was shot at, no one was hit, no property was damaged,” Esserman said. “The actions of the few do not speak for the many. The New Haven Police Department holds itself accountable.”

Officers responded to a report of gunshots around State and Pearl streets at 2:27 a.m. Sunday and found evidence of gunfire, said City Hall spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton ’04, who is serving as acting police spokesperson in David Hartman’s absence.

After the gunmen were determined to be off-duty officers, supervisors, assistant chiefs and Internal Affairs agents were notified and took over the investigation, Benton said. Sunday evening, Esserman said the investigation had been going “all day” and was expected to continue “all day” Monday.

While Esserman declined to give details about the incident, the New Haven Register reported that two officers, Charles Kim and Larry Burns, fired their guns into the air while the third officer did not fire his gun.

Esserman told the Register he did not believe Sunday’s undermined his efforts to revive community policing in the Elm City. Since he took office in November, Esserman has embarked upon an ambitious effort to revive community policing in New Haven, implementing a series of changes that emphasize improving community-police relations such as the reintroduction of walking beats in the city’s 10 policing districts.

Ward 29 Alderman Brian Wingate, who chairs the Board of Aldermen’s public safety committee said “it’s all accusations right now” and declined to comment on the off-duty shooting incident until the NHPD releases more information.

If anything, he said, the NHPD has demonstrated its professionalism and accountability throughout the past few days in its response to the incident.

“What I can say is that the chief has moved swiftly,” Wingate said. “And if the accusations are true, I’m confident [Esserman] will deal with the situation as it should be dealt with, because that’s the sort of chief I am confident he is.”

Esserman said he intends to “move rapidly” and expects to be “making some decisions this week” in response to the incident.

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