Yale Daily News

A New Haven Police Department patrol officer was arrested and charged with patronizing a prostitute after a lengthy internal affairs investigation. 

The officer, Christopher Troche, turned himself in for arrest on Nov. 21 after a report of “unwanted contact” was filed by an undocumented immigrant woman, NHPD Public Information Officer Scott Shumway wrote in a press release. After the report was filed on April 5, an investigation led by the NHPD’s Division of Internal Affairs occurred over the course of seven months, culminating in a warrant for Troche’s arrest. The warrant is sealed and the NHPD said it would not release specific case details as of now.

“It’s considered serious misconduct,” NHPD Lieutenant Manmeet Colon said. “Even if there’s no complainant that would come forward, the Chief would initiate an Internal Affairs investigation. In this case, she did just that.”

Protocol on civilian complaints against officers usually leaves investigators 90 days to present their findings to the Chief of Police after an initial complaint is filed. The Chief of Police may waive the 90-day rule for “complex investigations and investigations involving extenuating circumstances,” according to NHPD General Order 2.08. Colon said that the seven-month investigation involved speaking to all known and possible witnesses of Troche’s interaction with the woman.

In Connecticut, patronizing a prostitute is considered a Class A misdemeanor in which one “pays or offers to pay someone to engage in sexual conduct.” Although the State Attorney’s Office was unable to provide the News with further details of the charges because the case remains open, the state General Assembly lists maximum penalties for the patronizing a prostitute charge as one year in prison or a $2,000 fine. 

Colon affirmed that the Department’s investigation acted in accordance with state guidelines outlined in the 2020 Police Accountability Act

Official details on the victim’s background or the context in which she was approached by Troche have not been released by the NHPD, but the New Haven Independent reported that the undocumented victim initially came into contact with Troche after she called the police over safety concerns. Troche was allegedly dispatched as a translator, after which the incident occurred.

Nonetheless, some migrant advocates have disputed the NHPD’s claim on its commitment to treating undocumented community members fairly because of Troche’s actions.

New Haven resident Kica Matos, who is the national vice president of Initiatives at the Vera Institute of Justice, was “appalled” and concerned that this incident will erode trust between New Haven’s immigrant community and the police, she said.

“This is not community policing,” Matos said. “I wonder how many undocumented immigrants, including women, will be afraid to speak out and reach out to advocacy organizations or the New Haven Police Department because of what happened to this woman.”

In his statement, Shumway argued that the victim trusted the NHPD enough to file her complaint against Troche “regardless of the nature and immigration status.” 

Matos lives in Fair Haven, where she says there are a significant number of undocumented immigrants. She shared that she has watched fellow community members raise concerns about this incident as it relates to “trends” in the NHPD. 

Troche’s arrest preceded the NHPD’s decertification of ex-officer Gary Gamarra on Nov. 26. Gamarra was accused of raping two undocumented immigrant sex workers in Fair Haven in late 2020 while he was an officer. The NHPD has received 68 civilian complaints in 2021 as of December 1.

It is unclear why the specific charge was brought by the state attorney when unwanted contact was reported. Karolina Ksiazek, director of operations of the Sex Workers and Allies Network, or SWAN, expressed disappointment with Troche’s charge of patronizing a prostitute.

“SWAN advocates for increased accountability for all police officers who abuse their power,” Ksiazek wrote in an email statement to the News. “We do not know why the officer was only charged with solicitation when the harm committed was not about sex work, but about coercion, harassment, and abuse of power.”

Troche’s bail is set at $25,000.

Megan Vaz covers Yale-New Haven relations. Originally from South Florida, she is a sophomore in Pierson College majoring in history.