The New Haven Police Department has been struggling to recruit new officers and retain experienced cops. The department has lost dozens of officers to retirement or better-paying positions in nearby towns. On Thursday, the agency promoted 11 members of the department to new positions. But the next day, the police chief stepped down for a new job.
Two detectives, six sergeants, and three lieutenants were handed their badges at a promotion ceremony at City Hall.
The department has been struggling to fill vacancies for cops. But after a number of retirements last year and seven so far this year, the newly promoted officers fill several supervisory positions. Police Chief Anthony Campbell said the department, staffed mostly with young officers, faces challenges ahead, but overall the promotions are good for morale.
"One of the biggest uneasy things that officers feel is this sense of, ‘who’s going to lead me? Who do I turn to when I don’t have the answer?’ And when you’re able to provide them with more supervision it allows each member, who’s a supervisor, to have a greater span of control," he said. "Meaning that they have fewer officers that they have to supervise. Meaning that each officer now has easier access to a supervisor."
But Campbell won't be one of those supervisors. The day after this swearing-in ceremony, Campbell told the New Haven Independent he's leaving because of uncertainty about future medical insurance coverage. His concerns were backed up at a meeting with the Board of Alders last month.
He said he told alder leaders at that meeting that if the city doesn’t move the chief and assistant chiefs into an executive management health plan, they will all look to leave. That no one with more than 11 years experience would be left to run the department. That New Haven could end up like Hartford, needing to call in the state police because the local department became dysfunctional.
“All my staff has been applying because they do not want to lose their medical,” Campbell said he told the group. “You’re forcing us into a position where we have to protect us and our families.”
He quoted Alder Dolores Colon as responding: “If you get an offer, you guys should take it. If we have to bring in the state police and have people with 11 years leading us, so be it.”
Recently, the department reported that crime statistics from last year were lower in nearly every category. Along with that announcement, Campbell said they were adjusting the number of sworn officers in the department from 495 down to 430 - giving them fewer spots to fill. They now have 25 vacancies, which Campbell was hoping to fill with new academy graduates by the end of the summer.
Tucker Ives contributed to this report.