Campbell Outlines Priorities As Mayor Names Him Permanent New Haven Police Chief

After nearly ten months serving as acting and interim chief, Anthony Campbell has been selected by Mayor Toni Harp to become the permanent New Haven Chief of Police.

“It had been an incredible job interview because we’ve had everything in the last 10 months,” Campbell said in a sit down interview with NBC Connecticut on Monday.

Since former Chief Dean Esserman’s departure, Campbell said he has focused on improving the morale of the men and women in the New Haven Police Department.

“And I stand behind my cops,” Campbell said. “Cops have to make really difficult decisions sometimes within a split second and you have to support your cops.”

One of the most difficult decisions for a police officer to make is when to discharge a service weapon.

“People get upset any time an officer has to use deadly force and that’s understandable,” Campbell said, who has been following the fallout from the deadly police shooting in Bridgeport of a 15-year-old boy behind the wheel of a stolen car.

“I think that if they had body cameras it would be extremely helpful,” he said.

Now that he’s dropping “interim” form his title, one of Campbell’s top priorities to take community policing to the next level is outfitting the officers in the New Haven police force with body cameras by the end of the year. He plans to attend the Board of Alders Public Safety Committee public hearing Tuesday about police body cameras.

Campbell said body camera video would have been helpful to the Connecticut State Police investigation of the Bridgeport shooting.

“It stops the void from being filled in with speculation and conjecture,” he said.

Mayor Harp said she would like to submit a proposal to the state by June 30 to have the purchase of the body cameras reimbursed.

“I believe that this department needs to make sure that it is as forefront of accountability and transparency,” Campbell said.

Another top priority now that Campbell is dropping “interim” from his title is address the issue of domestic violence.

While violent crime is on the decline, the latest homicide investigation – the Jennings Way murder of 52-year-old Sherri Ruffin – is the result of domestic violence, Campbell said.

“When I look at the murders that occurred last year, over a third of them were because of domestic violence,” Harp said.

Campbell’s plan to start a New Haven Family Justice Center focused on helping domestic violence victims is one reason the mayor said she chose him to be the full-time chief of police.

“Instead of people being referred to this organization or to the victim advocate or having to go meet prosecutors here, it would be one stop shopping at the Family Justice Center,” Campbell explained, citing examples of this in both Bridgeport and Brooklyn.

The opioid epidemic is another serious reality in the city of New Haven, according to Campbell.

“Anytime they experience an overdose,” Campbell said. “We will now dispatch an officer.”

The goal is to gather any evidence that could lead police to the supplier of something that is potentially lethal, Campbell said.

“We want to be able to track this back to who in our community is pumping this garbage and I mean that’s exactly what it is, garbage,” Campbell said. “To sell something to community members that not only addicts them, but literally leads to their deaths.”

Campbell is becoming the next permanent chief at a time when he understands the fears from within the city’s immigrant population over potential action by federal authorities.

“I can assure them that the New Haven Police Department is not going to be participating with ICE in raids,” Campbell said. “That our general order which talks about this is alive and well.”

A Yale graduate who thought he was going to become a Jesuit priest, Campbell rose within the ranks of the police department since becoming an officer in 1998.

During the upcoming police recruitment in June, Campbell said an emphasis will be put on candidates who are from the New Haven community.

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