Community policing in New Haven shines, amid national turmoil

New Haven Police Department headquarters (File)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — City officials and community leaders acknowledge that there’s generally a good relationship between New Haven police and the minority communities they serve. Like all relationships, they said it takes work and constant communication.

“We’re building that relationship and building that trust, which is something very important on both sides, community and police,” said New Haven NAACP President Dori Dumas.

The efforts received national recognition last week. The head of the FBI addressed police and civic leaders in New Haven, praising their community policing agenda and its results.

“I think New Haven…offers hope and I believe inspiration,” said FBI Director James Comey, “given the nature of leadership that you have not just in this city, but in the great state of Connecticut at all levels and community involvement and community leadership you have in this area.”

It’s been a week filled with racial turmoil and strife nationwide between city police departments and minority communities. In Chicago, a police officer was arrested Tuesday, charged with first-degree murder for shooting a knife-wielding black teenager 16 times from a distance. Many of those shots fired while the teen was on the ground. And in Minneapolis, another police killing of a black man last week led to ongoing protests.

These are just some examples of why New Haven is working to stop any simmering racial tensions before they even start. Community and police leaders meet every month to stay ahead of any issues. They’ve kept this up for years. New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman said they’ve earned the respect of the community and they’re proud of that.

“The only way we can really deal with crime in a community is when police and community work together,” said Esserman. “To do that they’ve got to trust and respect each other.”

It’s not just police and the NAACP involved in this relationship. The mayor’s office and members of the Greater New Haven Clergy Association also play a large role in the community policing efforts.

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