Natalie Kainz, Multimedia Managing Editor

Following a 20-year career in the New Haven Police Department, Interim New Haven Police Department Chief Renee Dominguez revealed her retirement in an announcement last Friday – first to several officers in the force and then in a press conference. 

On Dec. 6, the Board of Alders voted against Mayor Justin Elicker’s nomination of Dominguez as the city’s permanent police chief, citing a lack of information on Dominguez’s plans “moving forward” to curb recent increases in violence and improve diversity within the police force. Despite Elicker’s original plan to renominate her, Dominguez withdrew her name from consideration – and with that the potential to have served as the city’s first female police chief. Dominguez has promised to continue serving as the interim police chief until the city completes its search for a successor. 

“I just think that at this time, this is the right decision for me,” Dominguez said. “And I have fantastic men and women who are going to continue to work just as hard because that’s what we do.” 

For Dominguez, the rejection was more than a stray from what she envisioned to be the remaining years of the career. Though she does not believe that gender played a role in the alders’ decision, she said it held emotional significance and is a “setback” for women. 

Dominguez said that she does not fully understand why she failed to receive the alders’ approval at the moment. Despite Alder Richard Furlow of Division 27 stating that “this is not a permanent ‘no’” – with other alder members claiming that their decision might change should Dominguez communicate a more detailed plan to address issues of officer diversity and crime – she has decided to proceed with stepping down from a role in the NHPD. She stressed that the decision was a personal one, made after discussion with close family members. 

Dominguez’s rejection by the Board last week was the culmination of months of local concerns over the NHPD’s ability to combat violent crime and hold its members accountable for their actions. Earlier this fall, department officials revealed that they were not meeting their original goals for officer recruitment and that the department’s vaccination rates had fallen significantly below the average for city employees. And as the city and the state grapple with developing police accountability mechanisms, New Haven’s new group tasked with doing so — the Civilian Review Board — is facing its own logistical turmoil

The city has already started its national search for a new police chief. Elicker emphasized that he is looking for someone who is not only committed to policing but also to social organizations and teams, so that Dominguez’s successor will be equipped to address issues such as mental health. However, he worried that the “morass” of recent politics in the city might deter applicants who are qualified for the job.

“The way that this confirmation process has gone … it will be more difficult to attract candidates because politics is a difficult thing in New Haven,” he said.

Dominguez said she plans to remain in law reinforcement in the future. She thanked her fellow police community for their support since the beginning of her career and acknowledged that her service to city residents is not yet over.

“I have more to give, and if it ends up being in another police department, I welcome that as an opportunity,” she said. 

If Dominguez had been confirmed to the role — first for the initial two-month term and again in January — she would have served a four-year term beginning in February.

BRIAN ZHANG
Brian Zhang covers COVID-19 and Yale New Haven Health, as well as housing and homelessness. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, he is a first-year in Davenport studying biology and journalism.