Twenty New Haven Police Department officers were promoted to the rank of detective Tuesday afternoon in City Hall’s Aldermanic Chamber. The move represented another step in the city’s efforts to reform the department following a scandal in the Narcotics Unit last spring that eventually culminated in the release of a 120-page report from an outside consulting firm on proposed internal reforms.
The upgrade is also likely to alleviate the NHPD’s staffing shortage in the Investigative Services Division, which has been understaffed in the past, several officials said. The promoted detectives hail from a number of units within the NHPD, including the Narcotics Unit and the Family Services Division.
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“These promotions will help us build a foundation for the NHPD to become one of the best bureaus in the Northeast,” NHPD Chief Francisco Ortiz said, adding that new detectives will allow the department to handle cases more efficiently.
The promotions are consistent with recommendations made in November by the Police Executive Research Forum, a panel of law enforcement experts hired by the city in March to advise the NHPD in the aftermath of the arrests of two members of the NHPD’s Narcotics Enforcement Unit by federal and state investigators.
PERF issued its final report late last year, recommending reforms ranging from adding new positions to creating a Professional Standards Bureau.
“These promotions were long overdue,” said Ward 13 Alderman Alex Rhodeen, chair of the Board of Aldermen’s Public Safety Committee.
The PERF report suggested the NHPD determine the number of officers needed “to fill vacant investigations positions.”
Plans to add more permanent members to the Investigative Services Division have been in the works for almost a year, Ortiz said. But, he said, the PERF report reinforced this decision.
“Right now, we’ve been really short-staffed,” said Detective Omaida Nieves, who has worked at the NHPD since 2000 and was one of the 20 officers promoted Tuesday. The ISD expansion, she said, “will bring us up to speed.”
Before these promotions, Nieves said, there were only about 40 permanent officers in the division.
In the past, officers could only be transferred to the Investigative Services Division for “five or six months at a time” before they were forced by police statute to return to their original positions in other departments, Ortiz said.
“We were moving officers like rotisserie,” Ortiz said of the previous way in which officers were assigned.
During Tuesday’s ceremony, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said the 20 new detectives will join the five captains, seven sergeants and 16 lieutenants who have also been recently promoted within the NHPD. In addition, DeStefano announced, 45 new recruits will enter the NHPD in April.
In order to receive the promotion, the 20 new detectives needed to pass a 100-question written examination and an oral evaluation, newly promoted Detective Samuel Brown said. The promoted detectives hailed from a diverse backgrounds, ranging from the Narcotics Unit to the Family Services Division.
Ortiz announced last November he will be stepping down as chief in order to take over as head of public security for Yale’s new West campus. He had originally planned to assume his new post last month, but he announced last month he will not assume his responsibilities until the spring.