Police pulled the body of a deceased man from the Quinnipiac River early Tuesday afternoon, according to a New Haven Police Department press release.
At about 1 p.m., members of the NHPD, New Haven Fire Department and a United States Coast Guard boat crew arrived to investigate a report of a body in the river, east of the Grand Avenue Bridge. The body was located by New Haven’s Marine Unit 1 and was recovered by divers from the NHPD’s Underwater Search and Recovery Team.
According to the NHPD release, the deceased man is white and probably in his 50s, with a scar on his sternum and gray and brown facial hair. He was found wearing camouflaged pants, an olive-colored jacket, a green T-shirt, and gray and brown sneakers.
“Police suspect they know who this man is but are nevertheless investigating recent missing person reports,” the press release stated. “His identity will only be released once it has been confirmed.”
Police detectives are treating the case as a potential crime, though as of Tuesday evening, there was no further information available on where, when and how the deceased man had ended up in the water, according to the release.
The body has been taken for autopsy by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the man’s fingerprints were taken for examination by the NHPD Bureau of Investigation.
In the press release, the NHPD urged anyone with information pertinent to the investigation to call 203-946-6304.
A new initiative to foster communication between New Haven police officers and the communities they serve could be as simple as a tool in their back pockets: cell phones.
At the end of September, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp announced a plan to issue city cell phones to officers in each district so that residents can directly contact specific officers, city spokesman Laurence Grotheer said. He noted that although the idea has been considered for years, the program is still in its infancy, with funding sources and specific policies yet to be determined.
“[The initiative] has been part of the landscape for as long as the mayor has been in office, which is two and a half years,” he said. “Whether a specific proposal was made right away, I can’t say, but it has been part of the mayor’s desire to expand community policing and to make neighborhood beat officers more accessible to residents and business owners; so, while the issue of cell phones is still not universal, it has been a goal for some time.”
A tight municipal budget is the proposal’s main obstacle, Grotheer said.
Grotheer said giving citizens direct contact with officers would make it possible to have an officer on the scene much faster. He added that residents should not expect officers to give out personal cell numbers, so a city-issued cell phone number would allow for more direct contact without compromising the privacy of officers.
Lieutenant Joseph Murgo, a public information officer at the East Haven Police Department, expressed the same concern about privacy. When officers use their personal phones while working, they could be subject to court subpoenas, he said.
There is precedent for a program similar to the cell phone initiative. Former New Haven police officer James Naccarato, now deputy chief of police at the East Haven Police Department, said New Haven officers in the 1990s had city-issued pagers for residents to contact them directly. Naccarato added that the program led to quick responses to routine calls, as citizens were able to bypass dispatch services.
The program was “by no means intended to replace 911,” Naccarato said, but residents were more likely to call officers with neighborhood concerns, helping the police communicate more effectively with community members. Although the pager program ended after New Haven police chief Nick Pastore retired in 1997, Naccarato said it was useful at the time.
Nearby, East Haven is now implementing a program similar to that proposed by Harp. East Haven currently gives city-issued cell phones to commanding and supervising officers but plans to expand the practice to include more officers, Naccarato said.
Grotheer said Harp’s proposal reflects her commitment to community-based policing because it allows residents to more easily contact police officers.
“[The initiative] includes police officers on walking beats getting to know community members and earning the trust and the confidence of community members so that the New Haven Police Department can become a part of each neighborhood and a larger community,” Grotheer said.
The New Haven Police Department’s patrol fleet has received a long-awaited upgrade, with 16 new Dodge Chargers slated to go into use in the next few weeks.
The addition will help revive a fleet that has long needed improvements. Earlier this year, the New Haven Police Union filed a complaint with the state labor department, alleging that the patrol cars were unsafe for use, according to the New Haven Independent.
Many of the current patrol cars are in “deplorable condition,” suffering from the wear and tear that comes with being driven during back-to-back eight-hour shifts every day, NHPD spokesman David Hartman said.
“These new cars will instantly become a vital part of the equipment deployed all day long and all night to help men and women of the New Haven Police Department keep this city safe,” Mayor Toni Harp said at a press conference outside the NHPD maintenance facility on Friday.
Thirteen of the new cars arrived two weeks ago, with three more on the way.
These 16 cars will be assigned to the uniformed patrol division, according to Hartman. They will replace current patrol cars that will be reassigned to less demanding tasks such as administrative and detective work.
“They’re a very ugly, dirty environment to work in. For a patrol officer, that’s their office,” he said, adding that with the new cars, “Morale should definitely improve, and we have the pledge of the city administration to get more new cars. There’s no reason a police car should be on the road with over 140,000 miles on it.”
The new cars, now parked in the department’s garage, still need to be outfitted with special features before they become police cruisers. According to Hartman, the customization of these cars — which includes adding electronics, radios, audio components, computers, prisoner dividers and graphics — will be a lengthy process spanning the next few weeks. The additions will be made by the NHPD’s maintenance facility staff, which is also responsible for maintaining the current patrol cars. Hartman noted that the size of the staff has diminished over the past few years.
The additional cruisers will join a police fleet of 349 vehicles, which includes about 130 patrol, detective, laboratory, forensic, Police Academy as well as traffic and patrol support vehicles, according to a Friday NHPD press release. The department also employs a range of specialized vans, SUVs and trucks, which are assigned to the bomb squad, SWAT, underwater search and recovery, hostage negotiation, canine and command and control field operations.
For Chief Administrative Officer Mike Carter, the new patrol cars are not only a necessary upgrade, but also reflect careful financial planning by the city. He said the cars are a part of a five-year capital planning process that began last year.
“The police union identified the need for vehicles to be replaced last year, but the amount of funding at the time was not sufficient,” Carter said.
Over the course of the year, Harp worked with Interim Police Chief Anthony Campbell to increase the police fleet’s budget from $300,000 to $450,000, Carter said. Once that allocation was approved on July 1, Campbell and Tim Hatch, the NHPD fleet supervisor, placed an order for the new cars in early August.
“Because we’re in a better financial position than three years ago, we could set aside more money not only for the police, but all departments,” Carter said.
Carter added that City Hall is hoping to implement a regular replacement plan for the police cruisers, which would entail replacing a certain number of vehicles every three to four years. He said that any repairs would not come out of the police budget, but would rather be covered by the terms of each car’s three-year warranty.
The new cruisers will be deployed in batches, with the first hitting the streets next Friday. And even more may soon be added. On Thursday, the Board of Alders Finance Committee approved the master lease, which includes a proposal for additional vehicles that could arrive as soon as February. This order would include six police cars, two vehicles for building inspections and a snow truck.
The proposal will be brought to the full Board of Alders for approval at their upcoming November meeting.
Joining their counterparts at the East Haven and Hamden precincts, officers in the New Haven Police Department could be patrolling the city with body cameras next year.
New Haven is currently applying for a state grant that would provide $500.000 in funds for body cams on all members of the police force, which numbers over 450. This development comes after a 90-day pilot program last fall, during which 27 police officers equipped themselves with body cams for a 90-day pilot program. If the grant goes through, the NHPD could have the cameras by spring of 2017, said Chief Anthony Campbell in a recent statement.
Still, NHPD Media Liaison David Hartman said, these plans are in their infancy, and the department has established no formal protocol regarding the camera’s usage.
“There are [no body cameras yet] purchased nor has there been a policy implemented on their use,” Hartman said.
The move by the New Haven department runs parallel to a recent nation and statewide effort to introduce police cameras. Last May, President Barack Obama and the United States Department of Justice launched the Body-Worn Camera Pilot Implementation Program, which allocated New Haven $90,000 of a $20 million national grant to implement such technology.
Nearby, the East Haven Police Department first began using body cams two years ago, and now uses 53. According to Lt. Joseph Murgo, the EHPD’s public information officer, officers are recommended to use them on routine calls and investigations. And during motor vehicle stops and calls leading to a possibility of arrest, officers must switch their cameras on.
“The overall sentiment is that the body cameras are a god send and we can’t believe we didn’t adopt the technology sooner,” Murgo said. “It has helped us in our investigations, and it has helped mitigate complaints. It also ensures both officer and civilians’ behavior is documented in an unbiased way.”
Footage from the cameras, which can be accessed with a Freedom of Information request, has been used in court disputes by both police and civilians. The footage also assists officers in providing an accurate police report and helps supervisors monitor the force’s behavior.
Still, members of the department were hesitant when first adopting body cameras, though officials as a whole now embrace them. Several local police departments have also already put body cameras in place or are in the process of acquiring them, such as in New Haven.
“Body cameras will be the norm in every police department in the next five to 10 years and soon we won’t know life without them,” Murgo said. “Once officers realize there are way more pros than cons, they will accept them.”
But according to a statement in August by the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management, only 12 of the over 100 law enforcement agencies in the state have applied for a state grant to pay for body cameras, suggesting that many departments are not yet ready for the change.
Nationwide, nearly 95 percent of major police departments plan to implement body cams in the near future, according to a survey conducted January by the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association and Major County Sheriffs’ Association.
The Hamden and East Haven police departments use the Taser brand of body cameras.
After more than a year of negotiations, New Haven Police Department officers have voted in favor of a new five-year contract with the city.
The voting — which took place Wednesday from 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the NHPD’s 1 Union Ave. headquarters — ratified a new deal between the city and the over 400 unionized NHPD officers who have been working without a contract since the previous contract expired on June 30, 2011. The contract will include a wage increase and long-term changes to pension and health benefits.
“We brought back the best package that we feel we could right now,” police union President Louis Cavaliere Jr. told NBC Connecticut yesterday.
The turnout was high: More than 86 percent of the 413 officers eligible to vote participated in yesterday’s balloting, with 247 votes in favor of the new contract.
The approved contract — which will begin retroactively on July 1, 2011, and will last until June 30, 2016 — will raise the pay of New Haven cops by 9 percent over five years while allowing the city certain long-term changes in health and pension benefits. Under the contract, officers’ pay will rise by 3 percent in the current fiscal year, 0 percent next year and 3 percent in the years 2015 and 2016, while monthly health premiums will rise for officers who retire after 2014. Instead of a flat $135 monthly health premium, all retirees will be required to pay the same premium they were paying at the time of retirement, with a 6 percent increase a year. Medical premiums will also increase by 7 percent for current officers.
The new contract will also reduce the number of annual sick days from 15 to 12. However, current police officers will maintain their right to retire after only 20 years on the job, which was one of the major points of contention with the city. The 20-year retirement benefit will not hold true for new police officers, who will have to spend 25 years in service before retiring under the new contract. New hires and current cadets will also be denied some of the benefits enjoyed by current police officers, Cavaliere said.
The new contract comes after months of uncertainty during which the police union seemed unable to settle on a contract with the city. Negotiations appeared to have hit a dead end, as the city pushed for pension and medical benefits concessions that Cavaliere described as “unfair” in August 2012.
A tentative agreement between the city’s police union and the city was reached two weeks ago, on Jan. 24, when Mayor John DeStefano Jr. called the deal “fair but competitive” in an official announcement.
“It will allow us to attract the best and the brightest to the New Haven Police Department by compensating them fairly, while saving the taxpayers of the city money,” DeStefano said.
Upon reaching an agreement with City Hall, Cavaliere organized a “double meeting” last week with a union attorney and medical experts to explain the details of the contract before yesterday’s ratification vote.