After six weeks away from the job, New Haven Police Department Chief Dean Esserman has officially announced his resignation.
Mayor Toni Harp said Tuesday afternoon that the resignation, effective Sept. 2, was a “mutual agreement” between herself and Esserman. Harp added that the decision aims to ensure “the best interests of New Haven remained first and foremost.”
In July, the New Haven police union voted 170–42 in a no-confidence vote against Esserman in response to what the union characterized as “poor morale, hostile work environments, intimidation, retaliation, lack of leadership quality and [Esserman’s] inability to make sound decisions” in the department, according to a union press release at the time.
Esserman went to NHPD Headquarters on Tuesday afternoon to break the news to the department. The former chief acknowledged the union leaders and “noted their importance,” according to an NHPD press release. Esserman said the union cared about the best interests of the officers “as much as [he did].”
Assistant Chief Anthony Campbell will continue to serve as interim chief of police, a role he has filled since July 25, when Harp announced that Esserman would serve a 15-day leave of absence, following accusations of inappropriate behavior at Archie Moore’s Bar & Restaurant on July 22. At the end of the 15 days, Esserman transitioned directly into an indefinite sick leave, and Campbell continued at the helm of the department.
“It has been a privilege to serve Mayor Harp and work alongside the remarkable men and women of the New Haven Department of Police Service, who no doubt have earned the title, ‘New Haven’s Finest,’” Esserman said in a statement Tuesday. “It has been my privilege to serve the wonderful people of New Haven — I am so very grateful for having had this opportunity to do so.”
He added that he is confident in the future of the department. Tuesday’s news release did not specify when a decision on a new permanent police chief might be made. NHPD spokesman David Hartman declined to comment to the News. The NHPD press release noted that neither the department nor Esserman would be giving further statements to the public.
Jane Mills, a representative of the New Haven-based social-justice organization People Against Injustice, said Tuesday that the Elm City is now entering “perilous waters,” as the city must choose a new chief without knowing what the important characteristics for a new chief are or how to determine them.
“Esserman was among those chiefs the Marshall Project dubbed the ‘rock star’ chiefs, a group of educated elites purportedly engaged in a progressive slate of reforms,” Mills said. “But a rock star has to have more than star dust, it has to have some bedrock.”
Her organization had previously been critical of the chief and his demeanor in the department, and helped release to the public last week a document describing the 10 conditions under which Esserman went on his first, 15-day leave of absence.
Esserman is still listed as the instructor of PLSC 225, “Policing in America,” which currently has 51 students enrolled as shoppers. Political Science Director of Undergraduate Studies David Simon said that as far as he knows, Esserman still plans to offer the course.
“He leads a class that addresses some of the most pressing issues of the day, and I’m sure it would be a great disappointment to the students to whom he has been so generous with his time to leave — and his teaching is not contingent upon him simultaneously holding another position,” Simon said.