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New Haven Clergy Looking for More NHPD Leadership Diversity

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The New Haven Board of Police Commissioners will vote Tuesday night to promote Lieutenants David Znnelli, John Healy and Rose Dell to the rank of captain in the New Haven Police Department.

There are currently no captains in the department and as the effort to fill leadership roles moves forward, the Greater New Haven Clergy Association says they’re concerned there are not going to be enough people of color in higher ranks.

“I’m asking the chief, I’m asking the mayor to begin looking at how we diversify this department,” said Rev. Boise Kimber.

He says the request follows calls allegedly made by members of the police department to the clergy who are concerned that the most recent lieutenant test was flawed.

“We did not hear anything about the sergeant’s exam, we did not hear anything about the captain’s exam. But I find it ironic about this exam, that’s when the clergy are receiving calls,” said Rev. Steven Cousin.

In New Haven, 21 current sergeants took the test, including seven who are Black or Hispanic. The clergy alleges white candidates got extra information from inside the department for better scores. 

“There is cause for concern for us just to make sure that, was this information made available to everybody? Or was it just made available to some?” Cousin asked. “We want to make sure that everybody feels that the process was fair, it was equitable and everybody was given a real chance to move up.”

The group of clergy met with Acting Chief Renee Dominguez Tuesday morning to voice their concerns. NBC Connecticut spoke to both New Haven’s mayor and the acting police chief about the allegations following that meeting.

“They brought that to my attention today at our meeting and so it is something that I’m aware of and we will address if it is an issue,” said Dominguez. “Once it’s certified I will know where everyone who took the test placed in a ranking order based on written and oral tests.”

From there she’s able to make nine recommendations to the Board of Police Commissioners for promotions. The board has the final decision power.

NBC Connecticut could not find any details on whether cheating on the tests occurred or if it impacted scores.

Mayor Justin Elicker said that the test results are preliminary, and a promotion list is expected to be finalized and made public June 23 by the Civil Service Board.

Elicker also said New Haven’s loss in the 2009 Ricci vs. DeStefano Supreme Court Case is one of the reasons they take the exam testing process and the allegations seriously.

“The chief and our HR department work very, very hard to make sure the test is fair,” said Elicker. “And that nobody gets additional help and we want to do that because it’s the right thing to do and we want to keep ourselves out of trouble.”

Everyone says overall diversity in leadership is a priority.

“We continue to work very hard to promote from within and also promote that the people from the community are applying for these jobs,” Elicker said, adding the diverse backgrounds help build better relationships with the community and make the department stronger.

“It’s obviously our job and our continued job to mentor our officers into sergeants into lieutenants so that we can have that same diversity go through the ranks,” Dominguez said. “It is very important for us, as individuals ascend up to the police department, to make sure that we have a diverse group of individuals here to help lead the community and lead from within.”

Dominguez points to their efforts reflected in the March promotions to sergeant, where five of nine people were women and people of color.

“We saw with the sergeant’s list we had a great representation of diversity: women, African American, Hispanic, and it was a wonderful makeup of what the city also looks like,” Dominguez said. “So, we’re hopeful and we’re looking forward to this list coming out.”

The clergy says diversity helps officers connect to the communities they serve, and they’re also waiting for the list on June 23 to see how the seven Black and Hispanic candidates rank on the final list before they consider any other action.

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