Posted Monday 11:00 p.m. New Haven Police Department Chief Francisco Ortiz announced Monday that he will retire his post in January to direct public security for the University’s new Yale West campus.
After 30 years of service with the NHPD, including five years as chief, Ortiz said at a Monday afternoon press conference that he is leaving his post to allow someone else to oversee the rebuilding of the department — a task that was outlined three days ago by the Police Executive Research Forum, which was hired by the city in March. Following his resignation, which is effective Jan. 18 of next year, Ortiz will become the senior director of public security for the new Yale West campus and special assistant to Yale Police Department Chief James Perrotti, Deputy University Secretary Martha Highsmith said.
City Hall Spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said Ortiz resigned for personal reasons. His new job at Yale, which he will take up on Jan. 20, will afford him more time with his family because of its “Monday through Friday, nine to five” nature, she said.
“He has done a terrific job protecting our city and leading the police force for the past five years,” Mayorga said. “We’re looking forward to his future and the future of the police department.”
Following Ortiz’s resignation, a new police chief will have the opportunity to completely oversee the implementation of the PERF report recommendations, Mayorga said. The reform process could take two to three years, she said.
The committee’s 127-page report, which was issued Friday, outlines numerous points of reform, many of which the PERF committee suggested should be implemented within twelve months.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr. will appoint the new chief of police following a national search process, which could take roughly two to five months, Mayorga said. Candidates from inside and outside the NHPD will be considered for the department’s top post and, she said, but the appointment is ultimately up to DeStefano.
Richard Epstein, chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners, said Ortiz’s resignation is a loss for the NHPD. But he said Ortiz’s retirement creates an opportunity to better implement the PERF report recommendations.
The city ordered the $130,000 PERF report after a Federal Bureau of Investigation sting operation resulted in the arrests of then-head of the NHPD narcotics unit Lt. William “Billy” White and narcotics Detective Justen Kasperzyk.
White pleaded guilty late last month to charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and theft of government property. Kasperzyk pleaded guilty to a civil rights conspiracy felony and a theft of government property misdemeanor and Detective Jose Silva pleaded guilty to a deprivation of an individual’s civil rights misdemeanor at an Oct. 7 hearing.
Ortiz has never been tied to the corruption.
Criticism directed toward Ortiz since the FBI arrests and the disbanding of the narcotics unit in March, including at public forums, has generally been focused at his management of the department.
The PERF assessment team, which is composed of “nationally recognized experts,” interviewed members of the NHPD and the New Haven community and conducted a review of the department’s standard policies and procedures, according to the final report. The PERF team reported to an Independent Accountability Team composed of various New Haven officials appointed by DeStefano including city aldermen, members of the Board of Police Commissioners, city clergy and a representative from the State’s Attorney’s office.
Among the report’s recommendations is a call for the NHPD to hire two new assistant chiefs of police – one to oversee the Investigative Services division, and one to oversee a new Professional Standards bureau, which will be responsible for maintaining the quality of police officials during the department’s overhaul.
PERF also recommended that the NHPD promotes officers to fill vacant upper-level positions and re-establish an anti-drug unit in the wake of the NHPD’s defunct narcotics enforcement unit.
Ward 25 Alderman Ina Silverman said she thinks the lack of rotation of police officers and poorly handled civilian complaints are the biggest issues the NHPD faces. Both issues are addressed in the final PERF report.
As one of two aldermen on the Independent Accountability Team, Silverman said the IAT brought forward issues that New Haven residents wanted to see addressed and also made suggestions to the PERF team after the initial report was drafted in August.
“I don’t think [a new chief] is necessary,” Silverman said. “But I think that generally putting in new blood is a good idea.”
Although Ortiz served as Chief of Police during the federal investigation of the NHPD’s narcotics unit, he has never been tied to any of the illicit activities of the charged officers. Highsmith said Yale administrators have no qualms about hiring Ortiz.
“We had many conversations and Yale officials have worked with Chief Ortiz for many, many years and have the highest regard for him,” Highsmith said. “It was a rare opportunity to add his expertise to our resources.”
YPD spokesman Sgt. Steven Woznyk said the YPD is looking forward to working with Ortiz in the coming months. Woznyk, who served with the NHPD for 17 years before retiring as a sergeant and moving to the YPD, said he is glad to have his former chief back as a colleague.
“He’s a person that’s been involved with the city for 30 years, and he comes with extensive credentials,” Woznyk said. “There’s no doubt he’ll be an asset to the University.”
Ortiz will direct the planning of public safety services at “Yale West,” the 137-acre plot of land that stretches across West Haven and Orange and has 550,000 square feet of laboratory space, Highsmith said. The University purchased the space in late September from Bayer HealthCare for $109 million.
Yale President Richard Levin previously told the News that the University will not actively use the property until at least the summer of 2008. Though there is no major construction or renovation necessary for the laboratory buildings, Highsmith said, the University needs to consider safety and security issues as it begins to move its operations to Yale West.