The former assistant chief of police in New Haven violated department rules when he ordered the arrest of a man who was filming police and allegedly ordered that the video be erased, according to findings from the police department internal affairs department.
The controversial arrest happened as police were patrolling the downtown club area at Crown and College streets early on the morning of Sept. 25, 2010. They were there because of a police-involved shooting a few days before.
Luna was riding by on a bicycle as police were breaking up a fight near club Alchemy and making arrests and began recording it on his iPhone.
As he taped, Melendez approached him, Luna told police, and told him he could not film.
Then, Luna said, Melendez grabbed the iPhone, placed it in his pocket and ordered another officer to arrest Luna, who was placed in a cell for four hours.
When he was released and got his iPhone back, he noticed that it did not have two videos that he had saved on it, he said.
Melendez was found to be in violation of conduct unbecoming an officer.
Melendez, who retired from the department on Jan. 11, declined to participate in the investigation, according to the report, so the finding of fact is based on statements from Luna and other police officers with knowledge of the situation.
One of the officers interviewed said Melendez told another officer to erase the video on the phone and would not take it back until he was assured that the video was gone, but the officer questioned did not know whose phone it was.
In the months since, police have determined that residents can tape police.
“Over the past 6 months we have taken significant steps address this issue. The department has updated our general orders to include the right of citizens to video tape officers and the department is reinforcing this through in-service training for police personnel,” said Chief Frank Limon said. The department has been and will continue to communicate with the public the concerns that safety officers have during arrest situations - a small shiny metal device can appear to be a weapon in a highly charged and dangerous encounter. We will continue to improve the way we provide safety to the public through greater communication.”