Dean Esserman is the New Haven Police Department’s new chief.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr. announced at a Tuesday press conference that Esserman, a former NHPD Assistant Chief in the 1990s and most recently the chief of the Providence Police Department, will lead the NHPD after Frank Limon’s departure Nov. 15. The mayor’s announcement comes just a day after he confirmed Limon’s exit. and follows a weekend of speculation that the previous chief was on the way out.
“My job as mayor is pretty straightforward….to recruit the best people to the task,” DeStefano said. “The decision to hire Esserman made itself.”
Esserman, the department’s fourth chief in four years, will take the helm of the NHPD from Nov. 16 under a contract that runs through Feb. 1, 2014. He served as an assistant chief under Chief Nicholas Pastore from 1991-93 and headed the police department in Providence, R.I. until June, when he stepped down after controversy erupted following reports of underage drinking at his daughter’s graduation party.
DeStefano said he selected Esserman after two weeks of discussions with Limon about the chief’s resignation and replacement, adding he has been in contact with Esserman for “one or two months.”
“Thank you for bringing me home,” Esserman said at the conference. “My marching orders are firm: address the violence and connect to the community.”
Esserman returns to the NHPD during a year in which homicides are at their highest rate since 1994 — the murder count for the year sits at 27. Still, New Haven’s overall crime rate is down 9 percent over the past year, and Esserman is no stranger to cracking down on the city’s crime. He was the architect of New Haven’s community policing model, a strategy he replicated in both Stamford and Providence, DeStefano said.
In Providence, Esserman cleaned up a “scandal-ridden department” and pushed for community policing initiatives to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in the city, according to a report in the Providence Journal. His focus on community policing comes at an opportune time for the Elm City. The department announced a new strategy of foot and bike patrols Oct. 6, one which DeStefano said would improve police-community relations and reduce the incidence of crime.
“Good cops know their community and the community knows them,” Esserman said. “You get a lower homicide rate a couple of ways….[one is] by having relationships with the community.”
Esserman’s appointment did not come as a total surprise to those in the Elm City’s police establishment.
One “knowledgeable source” told the New Haven Independent Esserman would get the top spot Sunday, while NHPD Union President Arpad Tolnay told the News Monday that Esserman’s name was the only one he had heard discussion of to replace Limon.
Tolnay said while he did not personally know Esserman, he looked forward to the new chief working with the union.
Until Esserman arrives, NHPD Assistant Chief John Vellaca will serve as the department’s acting chief.