The New Haven Police Department is hiring, and they say they’re looking for people from the city to join the force. At a news conference Thursday, Acting Chief Renee Dominguez says having officers from New Haven helps them protect the city better and helps solve crimes.
That connection is one reason why Sgt. Shayna Kendall says she joined the department after tragedy struck her family.
“What prompted me was my brother was murdered in the City of New Haven,” Kendall said.
She grew up in New Haven and had plans for law school when she made the choice to join the New Haven Police Department.
“It was the relationship that the detectives from New Haven built with my family that made me say ‘you know, I want to do this for my community,'" Kendall said.
Growing up in the city, she didn’t always see the police as people to call for help. She says people thought of them as those who show up if there was an issue. She wanted to change that perception.
“Going to school in New Haven, graduating from Hillhouse High School, relationships that I have, you know, people don’t necessarily see me as my rank or who I am as a police officer. When they call me, they call me as Shayna,” she said.
Kendall is now part of the police training academy helping officers on the force. The department announced it is looking to hire more people like Kendall, who are New Haven residents.
“We are actually budgeted for 406 (officers). We are at 319 right now,” said acting Police Chief Renee Dominguez.
Of those 87 open positions, more than 60 are the entry level roles the department is recruiting to fill. They hope that by hiring people from New Haven communities, it will help better protect neighborhoods and solve crimes as people feel more comfortable talking with officers.
“When there’s a familiar face showing up at your door on a regular call, when there’s a familiar face because they lived in the community or went to school with you in high school, automatically the rapport is built, the rapport is already there, the relationship building is easier to be done,” Dominguez said.
New Haven has seen at least 20 homicides each in the last two years. This year, there are 22 following three shooting deaths in four days. A review of data over the last 30 years shows the highest homicide rate was 34 in 1991.
“I’m sad today, I really am.”
Shafiq Abdussabur is a candidate for alder in New Haven. He says the recent violence is what sparked his campaign run.
He says people are tired of the violence and that they’re not being heard. He says there needs to be a full community and police effort together to help reduce crime.
“Until we bring the community to the table, we are not going to get to the bottom of this.”
Dominguez says they have some insight on what’s behind it and it spreads across a number of factors.
“We do have some gang and group violence that we do know are affiliated with some of these shootings and homicides,” Dominguez said, adding that domestic violence and standalone events are also to blame.
Community members made a plea for people to join and to staff up the department.
“We need black officers, male, female, have grown up in this community, that know this community that know individuals in this community,” said Rev. Boise Kimber, of First Calvary Baptist Church.
And for some, it’s a lifechanging experience.
“I feel like everything has happened for a reason, and I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be,” Kendall said. “And probably the best decision I’ve ever made.”