New Haven Police Chief Named in RI Suit

The chief of police in New Haven has been named as a defendant in a lawsuit that stems from an alleged police beating that was caught on tape in Rhode Island in 2009.

New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman was the police chief in Providence at the time.

The Superior Court civil suit names the city of Providence, 12 Providence police officers, the Rhode Island School of Design and Esserman, WJAR reports.

Surveillance video shows a Providence police officer allegedly kicking and hitting a handcuffed Luis Mendonca, then 21 of Central Falls, Rhode Island, who was suspected of trespassing onto RISD property.

Mendonca says his head was split open, his teeth were knocked out, and that he fell into a coma for a short time.  He's seeking $7 million in damages.

"One's always sued as a police chief," said Esserman, when asked to comment on the lawsuit.  "I've been sued so many time that I think it's best to leave it to the lawyers, leave it to the court."

The suit claims that Esserman failed to take corrective action with respect to the police personnel,  to assure proper training and supervision of the personnel, or to discourage lawless official conduct.

"Any police chief who's concerned about being sued hasn't been a police chief very long in America," said Esserman.  "I'm glad the department acted swiftly in initiating the investigation into the misconduct."

The officer accused of the beating was eventually convicted of assault, but a judge has since overturned the conviction.  The case is now on appeal before the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

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