New Haven community members petition to remove police chief

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NEW HAVEN –New Haven community members want to have a say in the future of the police department, especially when it comes to the police chief.

Nearly a hundred people showed up to a meeting, Wednesday night, to discuss Police Chief Dean Esserman.

Recently, Esserman agreed with Mayor Toni Harp to take a paid leave of absence, following several controversial incidents in recent months.

The news came after reports that Esserman was involved in an altercation with a waitress at the Archie Moore's Bar and Restaurant on Willow Street.

In July, a vote of no confidence in Esserman passed 170 to 42. Officers in the department have reported issues with the way that Esserman runs the department, saying he intimidates officers and has a bad temper.

In Wednesday’s town meeting an overwhelming majority supported the idea of Esserman stepping down.

“We thank him for his work, He's done a lot for us but right now he’s actually hurting us with all the negativity that he`s bringing to the city,” Dixwell Management Team Co-Chair Rodney Williams said. “He needs to step down and let somebody step in his place.”

Members of the crowd said they think he should have a punishment greater than three-weeks paid leave.

Harp was not at the meeting but spoke to FOX 61 beforehand.

“I thought it was really important that he take some time off and work on those issues and hopefully will be able to come back to us ready to continue the excellent work the department has done, but to assure those types of things don't happen in public anymore,” she said.

Harp praised Esserman for crime going down, every year, by every measure.

“There’s always that rhetoric that under Chief Esserman crime is down in New Haven, but the reality is crime is down across the nation,” event organizer Barbara Fair said.

Fair said the goal of the meeting was to share information about Esserman so people can make an “informed decision,” whether they support the mayor or not.

“To educate the community because a decision was made by the mayor and the community didn`t have any input in that decision,” she said.

Community members at the event spoke on how the city needs to get the people that live there more involved.

At the meeting people filled out questionaires regarding how they feel about the police chief, which will be given to Harp.

They are also planning to go door-to-door with a petition against Esserman in the position.

The crowd included community members, NAACP leaders, local activists, police union representatives, city employees and state representatives.