Yale Daily News

A month and a half into 2022, the New Haven Police Department is still without a permanent chief — but officials say the search is beginning.

New Haven hired the singular firm that put in a bid to steer New Haven’s police chief search, officials said at a Friday afternoon press conference. Officials also provided updates on crime statistics for the beginning of the year. While the chief turnover has thrust the department into administrative and legal tension, NHPD has seen zero homicides this year, an improvement from the seven that the city recorded by this time in 2021. But Mayor Justin Elicker stressed that more work needs to be done.

“It is not a time for us to pat ourselves on our back and say things are going well.” Elicker said. 

New Haven nears a contract for search firm

According to Elicker, after the city released a Request for Proposal on Jan. 16 calling for the city to hire an executive firm to lead the nationwide search for a police chief, only one firm bidded and was awarded the job. The firm, Ralph Andersen & Associates, has worked on police chief searches in Cleveland, Columbus, Ohio, Austin, Texas, Fresno, CA, Boise, Idaho and Dallas, and is currently working on developing a contract with the city. Once the agreement is finalized, the firm and the city will begin a “community engagement process,” including a survey for community members and NHPD staff.

“It’s important that we get input both from the community and members of the police department as to what we all believe important attributes are for the future chief that will lead our city’s police department.” Elicker said. 

Elicker responded to a question regarding whether a citizen committee will be formed to aid the searching process: “I am the mayor, and people have elected me to choose the police chief.” But public input will be considered, he noted. 

The firm will also host ​several community meetings in partnership with the city and engage in “more targeted stakeholder conversations” during the process, Elicker said.

Elicker added that in accordance with the City Charter, he will present a proposed new police chief to the Board of Alders. The board then will host a public hearing process that allows residents to weigh in before ultimately voting on the matter.

Update on violent crime case numbers

On Friday, NHPD Police Chief Rennee Dominguez told reporters that since the start of the year, the city has seen 15 nonfatal shootings and zero homicides, and police have seized 29 firearms and made 26 firearm-related arrests. In comparison, last year at the same time, the city had seen 13 nonfatal shootings, seven homicides, 19 gun seizures and 21 gun-related arrests. 2021 had the highest homicide rate in the city since 2011. 

Jacobson said that NHPD is in constant contact with officials in Bridgeport, Hartford and Waterbury about stolen cars and shooting incidents. “This collaboration has helped our officers and detectives get on top of incidents such as this,” Jacobson said.

In response to a question regarding unsolved homicide cases, Jacobson said that the department has been partnering with the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA): “It’s working very well, everybody is working together.” Jacobson said. “We are hoping to have some good news forthcoming.”

Update on NHPD recruitment

Elicker said 60 applicants applied for promotion to detectives, 44 applicants took the test and passed, though not all of them will be promoted. 

In a previous interview with the News, Sgt. Paul Finch said that in last year’s recruitment, NHPD aimed to recruit more local residents to better represent the community they serve. Finch and the Recruitment and Background unit are trying to build a relationship with those that are interested in being police officers. Efforts include hosting weekly physical training sessions for the physical agility test.

“In this past recruitment phase we did see the highest [number] for our New Haven community for people of color than in past years, so I think it is moving in the right direction,” Finch said. “I think that social media has played a major role … getting the word out and being involved in the community … having different information sessions throughout the community in different neighborhoods, walking, going door to door.” 

According to the demographic statistics for the applicant pool provided by Finch, in the 2021 recruitment phase, NHPD received 523 applications, 32 percent of which were Black applicants. In the 2020 and 2019 recruitment phase, 28 percent and 26 percent of applications came from Black applicants, respectively. 

Update on Anton Sovetov

Yale Police Department Assistant Chief Anthony Campbell urged anyone who may have any information about the missing Yale employee Anton Sovetov to reach out. Campbell said that YPD has reviewed videos, conducted interviews with Sovetov’s friends and colleagues and checked hospitals and the East Rock area, as Sovetov likes hiking. 

Anyone with information on Anton Sovetov’s whereabouts may contact the Yale Police Department at 203-432-4400 or the New Haven Police Department at 203-946-6316. Anonymous text tips can also be sent through the LiveSafe app.