Nineteen newly promoted New Haven Police sergeants were sitting in a seminar room of the University of New Haven’s Saw Mill Road facility on Friday afternoon when NHPD Chief Dean Esserman walked in, followed by his four assistant chiefs, bearing freshly minted diplomas.
The group of sergeants had just finished taking their final examination for Sergeant Supervisory School, a new leadership and crime-fighting training program for police supervisors developed by the NHPD in partnership with the University of New Haven and Yale University.
As Esserman called their names one by one, the sergeants rose from their seats and received from him a framed certificate testifying the completion of the 80-hour intensive program.
For two weeks, the 19 policemen — who were promoted to the rank of sergeant at a Feb. 1 ceremony — took classes in a variety of fields, including leadership development, corruption control, police legitimacy and media relations.
“This program is the first of its kind in the nation,” said program head John DeCarlo, who served as the chief of the Branford Police Department before becoming an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven in 2011.
“These sergeants have been taught what can be considered the most cutting-edge policing philosophy in the United States,” he added.
During the two-week training, about a dozen academic professors and former police chiefs came to share their research and experiences with the sergeants. Teachers included Yale Law School professor Tom Tyler, Yale psychiatrist Steven Marans, former New Haven Police Chief Nicholas Pastore and former Boston Police Department Senior Administrator Jim Jordan.
The syllabus — covering fields such as psychology, special incident and event planning and cognitive bias — was designed to educate the new sergeants in “problem-oriented policing,” said Christopher M. Sedelmaier, an associate professor and coordinator of the Crime Analysis Program at the University of New Haven.
“This approach takes police and city resources and brings them to bear on a problem within the community,” Sedelmaier said.
NHPD sergeant Marco Francia was one of the 19 officers who graduated from the Sergeant Supervisory School. A 24-year veteran of the NHPD, Francia said the training program helps sergeants “create an inclusive environment” and develop “a sense of ownership” in the community.
“It’s really the beginning of a change of trends in the department,” Francia said.
DeCarlo said he has received positive feedback from the sergeants who entered the training program. Some recommendations, he added, included devoting more time to subjects like general supervision and corruption control.
The Sergeant Supervisory School is only the first stage of the Center for Advanced Policing, a new NHPD initiative designed to train future police chiefs by integrating the latest developments in policing research and practical applications of community policing. The Center for Advanced Policing, announced last December, will fully roll out this summer with the executive-level training school, but the NHPD is currently creating lesson plans for programs targeted at future lieutenants and captains, DeCarlo said.
“What we are trying to effect is systemic change in policing in the U.S.,” DeCarlo said, adding that he hopes to launch a model that will be emulated nationwide.
DeCarlo added that in the coming weeks the police department will bring together all of New Haven’s top officers — 47 sergeants, nine lieutenants, one captain, the four assistant chiefs and Esserman — to discuss “the philosophy of the department” in a “one- or two-day long management retreat.”
The Command College program is funded by a two-year, $350,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The sergeant program was partially paid for by the grant, but several instructors volunteered their time for the program, DeCarlo said.