Starting this week, 19 newly promoted New Haven police sergeants will go back to school to learn about leadership and department command structure.

At a Feb. 1 promotional ceremony, hundreds of relatives, colleagues and friends gathered in the auditorium of the Career High School at 140 Legion Ave. as the New Haven Police Department swore in these 19 officers and detectives to the rank of sergeant. The promotions represent the first step toward what Esserman defined as “the rebuilding of the NHPD’s leadership team.” The 19 sergeants appointed last Friday will be the first to attend the department’s “Command College,” a new leadership and crime-fighting training program for police supervisors which was developed in partnership with the University of New Haven and the assistance of Yale University.

“The department has been running a strong recruitment effort,” NHPD Chief Dean Esserman said in a statement. “Equally important to recruiting more officers is promoting those who will lead them.”

The 19 new sergeants come from a variety of previous positions in areas such as the Narcotics and Major Crimes Division, the Investigative Services Unit and the School Resource Officer Program. In order to qualify for promotion, the sergeants had to fulfill the Civil Service requirements and pass several rounds of interviews with the Board of Police Commissioners in January.

All of the newly appointed sergeants have served in the NHPD for at least five years, with the most senior officer having spent 24 years in the city’s Police Department.

“With great authority comes great responsibility,” said Sgt. Anthony Campbell ’95 DIV ’09, who runs the New Haven Police Academy, as the newly appointed sergeants lined up under the stage to receive their brand-new badges.

As Campbell called their names one by one, the 19 sergeants ascended the stage steps and shook hands with Esserman, as well as with Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and members of the Board of Aldermen who were presiding over the ceremony.

“The rank does not make us believe in the officers, but rather it’s the officer that makes us believe in the rank,” Esserman told the group of sergeants.

As he congratulated the newest sergeants, DeStefano recalled his first time attending a NHPD ceremony in 1962 when his father was sworn in.

“I grew up in a police family,” DeStefano said. “I know what these men and women do is extraordinary and incredibly important to the people who live in this community.”

Announced last December, the Command College program these sergeants will attend is designed to train future police chiefs “on ways to get the community engaged as partners in the policing process, which helps reduce crime rates,” according to a statement released by the University of New Haven. One primary goal of the program will be to help police executives partner with research organizations and apply policing research to issues seen in the field.

“The evolution of policing in the United States has historically been of a noncentralized and largely unplanned nature,” said program head John DeCarlo, an associate professor of criminal justice at University of New Haven who served as the chief of the Branford Police Department until 2011. “The situation often leads to excellent investigators being elevated to management roles with incomplete skill sets.”

While enrollment in the program will officially begin next May, the Command College already opened its doors to the newest NHPD sergeants this Monday. For the next two weeks, the group of 19 sergeants will take classes in leadership and community policing.

The NHPD plans to hire about 100 officers over the next two years, Esserman said. In addition, 40 new police officers will soon be assigned to walking beats around New Haven.

“What you do, what you are part of will shape this department and this city for years to come,” DeStefano told the newest sergeants at Friday’s promotional ceremony.

The Command College program is funded by a two-year, $350,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.