New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell ’95 DIV ’09 announced Friday that he will be retiring this March from the New Haven Police Department. He said that he would work for the state’s attorney’s office as a state inspector in the Elm City.
Mayor Toni Harp has not officially announced that Assistant Chief Otoniel Reyes will become interim police chief. But Reyes’ position as assistant chief in charge of the patrol division makes him the chief successor in the police department’s “automatic line of succession,” according to mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer.
“You are saving lives every day, and you are transforming the lives of the people that live here, who work here, who visit here,” Campbell said in an iPhone portrait-oriented video to his parting officers. “Every day you put your lives on the line, and I will always remember that.”
In his 20-month term as New Haven chief of police, Campbell pushed the idea of “community policing” — which encourages close connections between cops and the people they serve — oversaw the introduction of officer body cameras and worked on reducing domestic violence by advocating for a New Haven Family Justice Center to provide services for domestic violence victims. Campbell also managed the department as it struggled with understaffing over the past year — nearly 100 of 495 budgeted New Haven Police Department officer positions remain vacant, leading to high overtime expenses for the city.
In an interview with the News, Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins called Campbell a “trusted colleague and friend.” Both Higgins and Campbell were trained under the same instructors and academy directors, as Campbell graduated in New Haven Police Department Academy Class 7 one year after Higgins.
“Campbell institutionalized his empathetic and thoughtful approach to management while staying true to his spirituality. He did this all while reducing crime and improving the quality of life in this city,” Higgins said. “ I’m proud to call him ‘chief.’”
In 1998, Campbell joined the New Haven Police Department three years after graduating from Yale College in 1995, where he was assigned to the downtown walking beat. After around a decade with the department, he returned to Yale to pursue a degree from the Divinity School, where he took classes during the day and work shifts at night. Campbell acted as a New Haven Police Department lieutenant for four months in 2013 until he was asked to serve as assistant chief. After 10 months as interim police chief, Campbell was sworn into his position as chief of police in June 2017.
“The reality is in this day and age many people do not appreciate the work that we as police officers do, especially you who are on the front lines — do not let that discourage you,” Campbell said “Keep fighting for what’s right. Keep doing the right thing from the sake of doing the right thing.”
He urged his officers to fight for recognition with city administration and officials for their service in New Haven.
“Because what you do makes all the difference in every citizen’s lives,” Campbell said.
Campbell grew up in Harlem, New York. His mother was only 15 when she became pregnant with Campbell, and his father was just 16, Campbell said at a April 2018 talk in Linsly-Chittenden Hall with Yale Students for Christ. He grew up in New York during the crack epidemic, an environment he described as “tumultuous.” While his mother was a New York City corrections officer on Rikers Island, his father was on “the other side of the line,” selling marijuana and, eventually, crack cocaine, he said.
“You had to imagine this picture,” Campbell recalled in 2018. “[My father] was on the corner a couple blocks away from the apartment selling drugs and my mother is a corrections officer who would put her uniform on and go to work at night.”
Campbell was accepted to Yale College in 1990, becoming the first person in his family to attend college. When Campbell first arrived at the University, his goal was to become a Jesuit priest. However, his plans changed when he fell in love a fellow Yale student, Stephanie Campbell ’96. The two of them, who have now been married for 18 years, has three children.
Seven months after he graduated in 1995, his father, who was 40 years old at the time, committed suicide in Campbell’s family home using the service weapon of Campbell’s mother, Campbell said at the Yale Students for Christ talk.
Looking to make a difference, Campbell was initially driven to prison ministry. He said his father seemed to be
“closer to God” during his prison stays, but he lacked the same community of faith upon returning home. His mother told him that rather than ministering to people in prison, he should work to prevent people from getting in trouble with the law in the first place.
Campbell said that he saw a bus going down Elm Street with an advertisement featuring a black female police officer and the words “Now Hiring.” Below it, a slogan read, “Police others as you would have others police you.” The message inspired Campbell, and he turned in his paperwork and joined the New Have Police Department in 1998.
“My story is a story of God’s faith and persistence in my life. He has been there every step of the way,” Campbell said at the Yale Students for Christ talk.
Campbell said that calls himself a “C.O.P” — “a Christian on Patrol” — who gets to live out his ministry every day.
Campbell teaches a course at the Divinity School called “The Changing Face of Community-Police-Ministry Relations in the Twenty-First Century.” According to the description of the class on the Divinity School course list, the course looks at “faith’s role in defining and shaping exactly what ‘good community policing’ must look like in today’s world.”
“[Campbell] embodies faith and hope, but love is what we have seen him embody throughout the years,” Charmain Yun ’95, who works for the Chaplain’s Office, said at the Yale Students for Christ talk. Yun has known Campbell for more than 25 years since they were students at Yale together.
Campbell acts as New Haven’s 17th permanent police chief.
Sammy Westfall | firstname.lastname@example.org