New Haven Police Department

New Haven Police Officer Accused of Excessive Force Placed on Leave

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New Haven Police Chief Otoniel Reyes held a news conference on Friday and said a police officer is accused of using excessive force and has been placed on leave and another officer who is accused of violating department procedures is suspended for 15 days.

Reyes said the incident happened on Christmas when Officer Jason Santiago, an eight-year-veteran of the force assigned to Fair Haven, and other officers responded to a call about someone who was intoxicated.

In police body-worn camera video, Santiago takes a man into custody after a struggle. Santiago is seen kicking a man in the groin while the man is on the ground in handcuffs, and then stands him up.

In the video, officers are heard saying the man spit in the direction of Santiago. Santiago is then seen punching him in the face.

Officers were able to subdue the person the call was about and Reyes said Santiago's behavior during the call constitutes excessive force and he has been placed on paid administrative leave, Reyes said.

Santiago will go before the board of commissioners next Tuesday and Reyes said he will recommend firing him.

“The character of this department is strong, this doesn’t represent the character of the men and women of this department,” Reyes said.

Santiago is an eight-year veteran of the force, and Chief Reyes says he had a clean record before the Christmas incident.

“Without trivializing what he did, Officer Santiago is a tremendous officer by all accounts,” Reyes continued. “Earlier this week he saved someone from a burning car, an individual with a shotgun.”

Another officer was found to have violated department rules, Reyes said.

He said the other second officer had no opportunity to stop Santiago and was not complicit, but he violated three department policies. Those three policies did not involve use of force, according to an internal affairs report on the investigation.

The second officer was suspended for 15 days, which is the maximum amount Reyes was allowed to institute.

Reyes said he would have like to have seen officers deescalate the situation. He added that there is a lot to learn from the video, and the department will.

Reyes said the department will do whatever it can to hold themselves accountable and be transparent.

“I think this just underscores that we all have a lot of work to do around police brutality,” said Mayor Justin Elicker. “I’m grateful the chief has been proactive with internal affairs to address the situation.”

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