Stephanie Redding, who has been with the New Haven Police Department for almost 25 years, has seen the city change. When she started in 1986, the downtown area was an “unlivable” waste where crime was rampant; now, the area is resurgent. The leadership of NHPD Chief James Lewis, she said, has revitalized the police department and is making the city the safest it has been in decades, with a 10 percent decrease in crime and 1,000 fewer victims of serious crimes — which include murder, assault and theft — from 2008.
But with a turning point for the city on the horizon (Lewis is leaving his post this Friday), a portion of the responsibility for continuing this revitalization is landing squarely in Redding’s lap. When Lewis leaves, Redding will be the only police executive left in the department. City Hall is currently interviewing applicants for the chief’s job, and Redding will have to make the transition to a long-term chief a smooth one. She says she can handle the pressure.
Q. How are you preparing for the transition this weekend?
A. I’m just making sure that everyone knows their roles and that they don’t change just because the leadership changes. The department’s in a different place now, and we just want to make sure it stays there and there’s no trouble. Neither Chief Lewis nor me, nor any chief, made a single arrest, but crime went down anyway. The point is that the officers are doing the real job and that won’t change during the transition, and it’s my job to make sure it doesn’t.
Q. This is second transition you have had to go through by yourself, isn’t that right?
A. Yes, it’s me again. I was the only assistant chief in the transition before they got Chief Lewis [in 2008]. That went fine, and I expect this transition to be smooth. I think this one will be shorter, they already have great applicants for the job.
Q. Ward 23 Alderman Yusuf Shah and others have said they’ve talked with you and encouraged you to apply for the chief’s position. Did you give any thought to that?
A. I am a great admirer of Yusuf, and I take that as a great compliment. But I haven’t applied. I’m fine where I am.
Q. As head of the administration division of the NHPD, you’ve overseen not just a drop in crime but also a sharp drop in police expenditures. How did the department do both at the same time?
A. Yes, we did cut $1.5 million in overtime costs. We just focused on areas and activities that needed to be targeted and were very careful in our spending. These are difficult economic times, so it helps the city whenever it doesn’t have to worry about our budget.
Q. Will you be changing any of Lewis’ policies? Some have blamed him for being too aggressive and moving away from community policing.
A. I will not. Those peoples’ perception of community policing is seeing a cop walking a beat. But community policing has evolved, and we’ve moved way beyond that. I don’t know any aspect of community life that police aren’t involved in. People know their neighborhood cops, know the officers, and we’re the first people they call when planning events. That’s the true sign of community policing. Chief Lewis knows that, and he was the absolutely right person at the right time.