After a bitter campaign against Mayor John DeStefano Jr. in September’s primary, Anthony Dawson was appointed to the Board of Police Commissioners Friday.
Although Dawson, a lieutenant in the protective services department at Yale-New Haven Hospital and a former 16-year alderman, unsuccessfully challenged DeStefano in the mayoral primary on a platform of correcting the mayor’s policing and public safety blunders, DeStefano appointed the Hill resident to the six-person Board of Police Commissioners. After dropping out of the mayoral race after a poor performance in the Sept. 13 primary, Dawson endorsed the mayor’s candidacy 10 days before the general election. City officials stressed that there was no connection between Dawson’s endorsement and the mayor’s decision to appoint him to the board.
“As a longtime member of the Board of Aldermen, a member of Yale-New Haven Hospital’s protective services team and a tireless advocate of New Haven residents, Tony will be a great addition to the Board of Police Commissioners and support to Chief Esserman,” DeStefano said in a Friday press release.
In endorsing DeStefano, Dawson lauded the mayor’s focus on community policing strategies and other methods to improve public safety, despite criticizing his leadership on these same issues while campaigning against him.
At the May 14 press conference announcing his mayoral candidacy, Dawson said he would strengthen the city’s police force, which he said had been “gutted” by DeStefano’s administration for several years. Dawson also levelled charges of “patronage and corruption” against DeStefano, pointing to the rotation among city boards and commissions of mayoral appointees.
But at the Oct. 28 press conference in which he endorsed DeStefano, Dawson retracted his past criticism and acknowledged that DeStefano had “reset” community policing strategies by bringing in Esserman as NHPD chief.
“What I said then was a political statement that I was making at the time,” he said at the press conference. “After the primary, people felt that we should pull it together.”
In selecting Dawson, DeStefano looked for people who would bring a diverse group of talents and perspectives to the role, City Hall spokesman Elizabeth Benton ’04 said.
Richard Epstein, the current chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners, said Dawson will bring his longstanding community involvement and interest in the Elm City’s policing to the board.
Dawson said he has been a “supporter” of the New Haven Police Department since he worked in the department’s summer youth program at age 16, and looks forward to working with rank-and-file officers and NHPD Chief Dean Esserman.
Dawson’s decision to endorse DeStefano was unrelated to his appointment to the Board of Police Commissioners, Benton stressed.
“Anyone who suggests this is something that is simply based on political support does a disservice to Mr. Dawson,” Benton said. “I think if you look at his record he’s someone who’s certainly well-qualified to serve on the board.”
Dawson will replace Bishop Theodore Brooks on the six-person board, and his term will last until Feb. 1, 2015.