NHPD launches communication network

Police Chief Esserman hopes the new system
will aid in coordinating to stop crime.
Police Chief Esserman hopes the new system will aid in coordinating to stop crime. Photo by Jennifer Lu.

Last week, the New Haven Police Department announced the establishment of a regional CompStat system, which connects Connecticut police departments through an open and efficient network.

Every Thursday morning, NHPD officers and other New Haven officials gather at the NHPD office on Union Avenue to recap the week’s trends in crime and discuss strategies for addressing them. Now, the Department will spearhead an additional, expanded CompStat meeting focusing on crime across south-central Connecticut. The new meetings, to be held via conference call, will be remotely attended by state officials, federal officials, city police from nearby towns and University police department officials. The new system is intended to strengthen relationships and information-sharing between local police departments.

“The purpose of the forum is to share information regarding ongoing investigations, as well as to learn best practices from one another,” NHPD spokesman David Hartman said in a press release. “It is an expansion of the existing CompStat meetings, which focus on New Haven.”

Previously, inter-department work was handled on a case-by-case basis: if an officer in one city was looking for relevant information from the department in another, he would have to call a specific contact for help. These regional CompStat conference calls now centralize this information on a consistent basis. Because crimes that spill over from one department’s jurisdiction to another only happen “a couple times a month,” according to NHPD Chief Dean Esserman, these conversations are more geared towards sharing general information and public safety techniques.

Esserman said the Department first implemented CompStat in New Haven in 2012, and he has wanted to expand the technique’s reach to the region beyond New Haven once it proved successful in the Elm City. Several months ago, he sent NHPD Assistant Chief Achilles Generoso and Sergeant Al Vazquez to Boston to learn from that city’s police department about its use of a similar program. After months of meeting and planning with representatives from other departments, the first regional teleconference was held late last month.

“We look at what they’re doing in other communities, and, if it’s working, look to copy it,” Generoso said. “We do that all the time, and we want to be on the cutting edge of policing.”

Esserman said that, through the program’s first few phone calls, he learned about the advanced computer systems used by the Hamden Police Department. Information such as this is helpful because it demonstrates that departments across the state can pool together existing infrastructure to maximize the use of their collective resources, he said.

Now, he said, the NHPD could use the technology available at Hamden, rather than having to develop its own systems to perform the same tasks.

“All these departments have excellent resources that we can all share with another from time to time,” Esserman said. “But we need to know more about each other and need to build regular working relationships that are not born in the event of a case.”

Now that he has developed CompStat systems on the city and regional levels, Esserman said that the next goal is to connect Connecticut’s major cities — Hartford, Waterbury, Bridgeport, Stamford and New Haven — over their own statewide information-sharing network.

This project fits into Esserman’s larger vision of interconnecting the state’s law enforcement officials and crime research centers. In the future, he said, he would like to create inter-department exchange programs, a real-time regional crime center and a federally funded “joint-command college” with resources from the University of New Haven’s Criminal Justice Department and the Yale Law School and School of Management.

“I’m very grateful to my fellow Connecticut chiefs in the region for their willingness to try [regional CompStat] and partner with us,” Esserman said.

Hartman’s press release also announced the creation of a Forensic Investigation Program, through which officers are trained in fingerprint and evidence processing techniques.

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