New Haven Mayor Toni Harp supports Police Chief Esserman

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NEW HAVEN - Though he remains on leave, the employment status of New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman appears clearer after the city's mayor spoke out.

He was placed on three weeks paid suspension in July for a series of public incidents. Then, on Tuesday, he chose to remain on leave by utilizing accrued vacation time. But, Mayor Toni N. Harp,D-New Haven, says despite run-ins with a Yale football usher, a member of the Secret Service and, most recently, a local waiter, it is Esserman, not her, who will decide whether he returns.

"Almost everything that occurred that people complained about happened when he was not on official duty," said Harp, who then backed off that statement saying, "Like the mayor, I reminded him that you're always on official duty."

Harp says she is confident Esserman has taken steps to address his issues through achieving 10 mutually agreed to goals.

Some residents claim that on Esserman's watch there have been many occasions where officers were not disciplined for improper arrests.

The mayor says she's exploring forming an independent discipline committee, like other cities have done.

"That should mitigate any concerns that anyone has around him meting out discipline on his own," said Harp. "But, you know, it really is up to him how he handles these things."

New Haven police officers issued a resounding vote of no-confidence in Esserman last month.

"Sometimes you can have a nice discussion with him and there's other times when you can't," said union president Officer Craig Miller. "You don't know which Chief Esserman you're going to get that day or that minute."

But, Harp says Esserman has supporters.

"As a matter fact, when I left the office today, there was a constituent there, a resident, and she said 'I know you're going to do the right thing. He is wonderful. Don't let him go,'" she said.

The mayor, according to New Haven city charter, is the only one with the power to reappoint or fire a chief. Harp says she expects to speak with Esserman this week to determine when he feels he will be able to return to his job.