When New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell ’95 DIV ’09 was appointed chief in May 2017, he  named his three top priorities for his administration: promoting internal transparency, fostering leadership skills and combating domestic violence.

Recently, Campbell has had to confront the third issue in the department. On Nov. 20, a New Haven cop went to the Elm Street courthouse to face domestic violence charges, marking the fifth New Haven Police Department officer to be implicated in a case alleging domestic violence this year — with four arrests occurring within a three month period earlier this summer.

“We have an obligation to the victims … an obligation to uphold the law and assure that the perpetrators of crimes are held accountable,” Campbell said in a Sept. 9 press release about one of the cases.

According to the New Haven Independent, a NHPD officer was arrested on Oct. 15 after allegedly assaulting his girlfriend and was released on a $5,000 bond. Last week, he appeared before Judge Denise Markle, accompanied by his attorney, Tim Gunning, at the Elm Street courthouse to answer to charges of third-degree assault and second-degree breach of peace.

The department has placed the officer on administrative duty pending the outcome of both his criminal case and a pending Internal Affairs investigation, according to the New Haven Register.

According to the New Haven Independent, four New Haven cops were arrested within a three-month period on separate domestic-violence related charges in the spring. Ryan Walker, who was originally charged with strangulation, pleaded guilty to charges of breach of peace and reckless endangerment in June. Lieutenant Rahgue Tennant, a veteran New Haven cop, allegedly beat and threatened his wife — keeping her and his three children hostage for a week in his house in September. A third officer allegedly kicked his wife in the chest, slapped her face with both hands, beat and bruised her while she begged him to stop hurting her, according to the New Haven Independent. The fourth officer’s charges were dismissed by the Court.

NHPD Media Liaison David Hartman declined to comment on the cases, which were handled independent of the police department.

“We would comment if this someone was charged with on-duty conduct, and that is not the case. So, it is not, in that sense, a police matter,” Hartman told the News.

Upon his appointment to NHPD chief in May 2017, Campbell said that he plans to take on domestic violence as the “new frontier” of violent crimes. The chief announced intentions to create a family justice center — staffed with officers, detectives and prosecutors, as well as available resources like housing — that would streamline the process of assisting victims of domestic violence in the New Haven community.

On Nov. 13, the HOPE Family Justice Center of Greater New Haven — a multidisciplinary team that works together to provide coordinated services to victims of family violence — held its soft opening. The center is spearheaded by retired NHPD Captain Julie Johnson, who oversaw the NHPD’s special investigations unit, handling domestic and sexual assault cases, and served as the domestic violence liaison for the department.

“There is no special treatment of officers by this department when it comes to the commission of a crime,” Campbell said in a Sept. 7 NHPD press release about the Tennant case.

According to the NHPD’s General Order 5.08, which was updated in May 2015, there is a “position of zero tolerance” by the Department when an alleged incident of domestic violence involving a sworn employee of any rank occurs. The policy says that whenever a call of a domestic violence incident occurs where one of the parties involved is a police officer of any department, the communications supervisor shall be notified immediately.

According to the general order, the Department’s communication supervisor shall be instructed to categorize such domestic violence calls as priorities, regardless of the nature of the domestic violence incident, states the General Order. Whenever an officer is arrested for a domestic violence incident where there is the use or attempted or threatened use of physical force, the accused officer will be relieved of his or her service weapon until after the disposition of the case.

The incident involving Tennant occured on Sept. 6 at his Morris Cove home, where he held his family hostage while allegedly  assaulting his wife. Minutes after the NHPD was notified of the situation, SWAT team members and hostage negotiators were summoned to the home and “peacefully” resolved the situation, according to a NHPD press release.  Following the incident, an ongoing investigation revealed “a disturbing pattern of domestic abuse at the hands of Tennant.”

According to a Sept. 9 press release, Tennant was charged with committing the following Family Violence offenses: Assault in the second degree, Threatening in the second degree, three counts of Risk of Injury to a Minor and Unlawful Restraint in the first degree. He was suspended from the department immediately after the incident.

Campbell said in the press release that he is “troubled deeply” by what the department had learned from the investigation.

The New Haven Police Headquarters are located at 1 Union Ave.

Sammy Westfall | sammy.westfall@yale.edu