A Changing Of The Guard With Dominguez Release

By Thomas Breen and Paul Bass, New Haven Independent

May 13, 2022

New Haven’s acting police chief is moving out of 1 Union Ave., and the mayor is breaking with precedent by choosing who to put in his place.

Find out what’s happening in New Havenwith free real-time Patch updates.

Acting Chief Renee Dominguez announced her departure — originally planned once New Haven finds a new chief — at a Tuesday afternoon news conference outside police headquarters.

“Friday will be my last day on the job,” Dominguez said, citing “negative” stories in the media about his predicament as having influenced his decision.

Find out what’s happening in New Havenwith free real-time Patch updates.

“It’s a good time to go. There’s a lot of criticism. There’s a lot of negative media coverage. The policy, not the performance, is under attack. It’s time to allow officers to keep moving forward,” she said, along with members. of her staff assembled behind her.

Mayor Justin Elicker announced he had decided to appoint his chief administrative officer (CAO), Regina Rush-Kittle, to oversee the department beginning Saturday. Rush-Kittle moved to New Haven last year to take up the CAD position.

It’s a break from precedent: In the last three chief searches, one deputy chief – who at the time was under consideration for the position of permanent chief – served as acting chief: Otoniel Reyes, Anthony Campbell, Dominguez herself. All three were in fact subsequently selected by the mayor for the permanent role (although Dominguez’s nomination was later rejected by the Council of Alders).

Elicker held a press conference at 5:30 p.m. outside City Hall to announce his plan. Rush-Kittle is not a certified Connecticut police officer, but has served as a state trooper (including in supervisory roles) and Middletown cop. As CAO, she oversees the police, among other departments.

Starting Saturday, she will work full-time as acting police chief while assistant CAO Rebecca Bombero steps in to serve as acting CAO, the mayor said.

The mayor said Tuesday that his administration had conversations with POST, or the Connecticut Police Officer Training and Standards Council, and that he believed Rush-Kittle was legally entitled to serve as chief of police. acting police, even though she is not a certified officer. .

Elicker said at the press conference that he bypassed Deputy Chief of Police Karl Jacobson for the role of acting chief because of the ongoing search process for a permanent chief: “I think very strongly of Chief Jacobson I don’t want to influence the process of who the next permanent police chief will be at all. The potential nominee should not fill this position. Elicker had previously named Dominguez as acting chief the last time he was looking for a permanent leader (and did not appoint her until months later).

The application window is closed for the position of chef. Elicker said nine people applied yesterday. He said he wasn’t sure if that number had changed by the time the application window officially closed last night. (See below for video recordings of Dominguez and Elicker’s separate press conferences on Tuesday.)

During his previous press conference, Dominguez repeatedly thanked the base for their support as leader and their good policing in a difficult political environment.

“They’ve cut crime by 73% this year. We have fewer homicides than Hartford, Bridgeport, Waterbury and Hamden. They’ve done it…with the uncertainty of who stands before them as leader “, she said.

“It’s because of them that I choose to leave on Friday. They deserve not to be in the media in a negative way because they do so many positive things. … I have absolutely no regrets. You can’t work in this wonderful city with these incredible people and I have no regrets…. I’m very proud of everything I’ve accomplished and what we’ve accomplished together.

Asked about her next steps, Dominguez replied: “I’m going to have the best job and be a mum for a little while to my two children, which they are very excited about. I’m sure there will be something for me in the future. future, because I haven’t finished. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

His tenure as chief caused controversy for a variety of reasons, including allegations that black officers were disciplined more strictly than white officers, that the department’s senior ranks became all-white for the first time since 1994, that a militaristic approach to policing had replaced community policing and that as a result the department solved far fewer major crimes than other comparable departments. Defenders said Dominguez worked hard and performed well and was unfairly blamed for issues that preceded her and were beyond her control, and affected departments nationwide. (It was erroneously alleged that the Alders were seeking to install a black or Latino chef; in fact, many critics backed a different white candidate for chef. Dominguez is also white.) Elicker delayed the announcement from his Dominguez nomination until just after the last mayoral election and community protest followed.

The judge’s decision added pressure to leave

Dominguez had previously promised Elicker that she would stay on the job until he found a permanent replacement. They both stuck to those positions amid accusations that they were circumventing the city charter by doing so.

Dominguez’s announcement on Tuesday comes about two weeks after a state judge ordered him to step down as acting police chief.

That’s because, in a ruling in a court case first brought by Newhallville Revs. Boise Kimber and Donnarell Elder, State Superior Court Judge Michael Kamp found that the Elicker administration violated the city charter by keeping Dominguez in his “interim”/acting position for more than six months, even after the Board of Alders refused his nomination for the post of full-time chief constable last December. The mayor’s reading of the charter would have allowed him to remain in the acting role indefinitely. The judge found that the charter limits an acting police chief’s time to six months in this temporary role. (Click here to read the disputed section of the city charter.)

Elicker said Tuesday the city would no longer appeal the decision of the judge, who criticized as “illogical” the administration’s legal argument for keeping an acting chief in the temporary role indefinitely. “There is no accused at this stage. The case is moot,” he said.

Asked about the legal basis for appointing Rush-Kittle as acting chief, Elicker said “we are confident” he has that right.

Rush-Kittle, meanwhile, has been the city’s chief executive since December. Prior to serving as City Hall’s “coordinator” – which oversees departments including police, fire, public works, parks and the emergency operations center – Rush-Kittle worked as Deputy State Commissioner of the Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. She also served three years in the U.S. Marine Reserves and previously served as a corrections officer, Millbury, Mass., deputy police chief, state trooper, and chief of Central District Headquarters for the United States Police Department. ‘State, among other positions.

The city is still looking for a new permanent police chief.

During the press conference, Elicker repeatedly denounced the “politics” of people seeking to undermine Dominguez. He expressed no ulterior motives or doubts about his decision to appoint her.

“I have been deeply impressed by her integrity, her honesty, her commitment to doing the right thing, for her work ethic and her tenacity. She has shown in particular in recent months – with political drama in the background, some people trying to undermine it — a balance and persistence that I think we should all strive to emulate,” Elicker said of Dominguez.

The New Haven Independent is a nonprofit public interest daily news site founded in 2005.

Comments are closed.