Harp supports Esserman

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Photo by Jacob Geiger.

Though the early stages of Mayor Toni Harp’s term have brought some changes, this week she made a call for continuity within the New Haven Police Department by pushing for the reappointment of Chief Dean Esserman.

On Tuesday, Feb. 18, Harp submitted a recommendation that Esserman be given an additional term as NHPD Chief to the Board of Alders. The Board will convene and vote on Esserman’s reappointment. Esserman is expected to speak to the Board before the vote is held, but early indications point to the request going through.

Since her mayoral campaign, Harp has voiced support for the increased implementation of the community-policing model championed by Esserman since he took over for former Chief Frank Limon in Nov. 2011. Harp has cited this approach to public safety as a major reason for the reappointment in numerous statements.

“I am most confident [in] Chief Esserman’s credentials and commitment to the City of New Haven [and] that he will continue to be an asset to an administration,” Harp said in a letter to the Alders.

A successful reappointment would leave Esserman in charge for another four years, through Jan. 31, 2018. Under the contract, he would earn $162,000 per year.

New Haven City Hall spokesman Laurence Grotheer said Harp’s decision to keep Esserman was influenced by two factors: a proven track record of reducing crime in New Haven over the past two-plus years and a common philosophy with the Mayor, centering on community policing.

Grotheer cited various statistics from Esserman’s term, including lowered shots-fired, nonfatal shooting and homicide rates, which decreased by 46.6, 48.9 and 41.2 percent, respectively.

Brian Wingate, Ward 29 Alder and the chair of the Board’s public safety committee, agreed that Esserman has been a successful police chief, and said he will support the reappointment.

Wingate added that keeping the same leader in place for an extended period of time will yield many intangible benefits, particularly in a department like the NHPD, which has seen four chiefs since Feb. 2010.

“I think that what the city of New Haven needs in the police department is consistency of leadership,” Wingate said. “There has been turnover in the past few years. I think Chief Esserman should continue the job.”

Grotheer added that Esserman’s presence, and the resulting department continuity will facilitate Harp’s broader vision for public safety.

He stressed that Harp plans to address crime reduction through means other than policing. In particular, he said, she is working to improve the socioeconomic standing of its citizens through work, education and youth program opportunities — an approach also championed in the past 20 years by former Mayor John DeStefano, Jr.

“The Mayor’s approach is already a comprehensive one, in terms of providing activities for young people and in terms of economic development,” Grotheer said.“It’s a proactive approach, and the way the Mayor likes to put it is ‘it puts crime prevention on equal footing with law enforcement.’”

NHPD spokesman David Hartman said the transition has been smooth, and that the two offices have enjoyed a positive work dynamic so far. He added that the department is well-positioned to continue its work in keeping the Elm City secure. Esserman said in an email that he look’s forward to being a part of Harp’s team.

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