The New Haven Board of Police Commissioners named Cpt. Francisco Ortiz as the city’s assistant police chief Tuesday, filling the void left by Friday’s resignation of Assistant Police Chief Douglas MacDonald.
Ortiz, 43, is a 24-year veteran of the New Haven Police Department and currently heads the patrol division, the department’s largest division. Ortiz, who is considered by many to be the heir apparent for the chief’s job, will begin working as assistant chief on March 3.
“He has the knowledge and expertise to take the department forward,” Police Chief Melvin H. Wearing said. “Cpt. Ortiz in his position is pretty much in a deputy chief position. He did the work and helped promote community policing. He was a good supervisor and he had all the qualities that I was looking for.”
MacDonald announced he would retire from his post at the NHPD at the end of the month to accept a job in the corporate security department with the Knights of Columbus, a New Haven-based Catholic fraternal organization. MacDonald will work under the supervision of former NHPD Lt. Everett Nichols, who retired last year to become the director of security at the Knights.
MacDonald, who was one of three candidates in the running last year for the job of police chief in Providence, R.I., has served as assistant chief since 1997. Ortiz praised MacDonald’s service and said he was “a champion for youth at risk in this city.”
“I have been so fortunate to be the recipient of your good friendship,” MacDonald said. “We’re on the top of the mountain but I’m sure that in a couple years now that will be looked at as just a foothill because we are going to continue to progress.”
Ortiz, who will become the first Hispanic assistant chief and the highest-ranking Hispanic in the history of the department, promised that “better days lie ahead” in New Haven.
“New Haven is a city of firsts,” Ortiz said. “[It] clearly believes in diversity and inclusion. I’m honored to be the first to be in that position and I clearly recognize that I will not be the last. The department mirrors the community and we have diversity in all ranks.”
Mayor John DeStefano Jr. was not available for comment Tuesday evening.
Wearing said Ortiz connects to the community and praised his ability to get along well with people. He said Ortiz would be able to teach the young officers a lot about public service.
“It was an easy choice for me,” Wearing said. “He had done the work and he had been loyal. He’s exactly what I want in an assistant chief.”
Also considered for the job was Lt. Bryan Norwood, 36, a 13-year veteran of the NHPD and head of the detective division.
“It’s just an honor to be considered,” Norwood said hours before the official announcement. “I’m sure [Wearing] has some confidence in me. I’m still very young on the job and I have plenty of time left in my career to aspire to be chief.”
Ortiz said he recognizes the importance of his new position and emphasized Wearing’s record of leadership.
“He is our role model, our mentor,” Ortiz said. “Make no mistake about it, we still need to have role models and mentors, especially in a community like New Haven where there are a multitude of challenges.”