November 18th, 2011 | City

Esserman takes office as NHPD chief

Dean Esserman is New Haven's top cop.
Dean Esserman is New Haven's top cop. Photo by James Lu.

The Elm City officially has a new top cop.

Dean Esserman was sworn in as New Haven Police Department chief at a ceremony in City Hall Friday afternoon, becoming the department’s fourth chief in four years. His arrival has been anticipated since Mayor John DeStefano Jr. announced his appointment on Oct. 18, and will coincide with the department’s return to community policing strategies in a bid to tamp down violent crime.

“Actions will speak louder than words, so let me tell you, the New Haven Police Department is returning fully to the neighborhoods of our city,” Esserman said to applause from the crowd of 200, which included several police chiefs from around the nation.

William Bratton, who has headed police departments in Los Angeles, New York and Boston, called Esserman the “living embodiment” of the community-policing model, a man who understands that police cannot combat crime alone without community input and intelligence. This insight, Bratton explained, came in part because Esserman served on patrol while he was NHPD Assistant Chief between 1991 and 1993.

With Esserman’s return to New Haven, Richard Epstein, the chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners, said he is looking forward to the “rebirth and rejuvenation” of the NHPD.

Also on hand at the ceremony were Yale Police Department Chief Ronnell Higgins and Associate Vice President for Administration Janet Lindner, who oversees the University’s police operations.

“We’re looking forward to a strong partnership with the new Chief, we’re excited to welcome him back to New Haven, and we’re all just ready to move forward,” Higgins said.

Lindner, who served as the city’s chief administrative officer in the early 1990s when Esserman and then-NHPD chief Nicholas Pastore introduced community policing tactics, said the vision of policing Esserman articulated was “music to [her] ears.”

Esserman’s contract as NHPD chief runs through Feb. 1, 2014.