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New Haven mayor worries about search for police chief after Dominguez withdraws

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker.
Lori Mack
/
Connecticut Public Radio

New Haven Acting Police Chief Renee Dominguez has withdrawn her nomination to take the job on a permanent basis. Dominguez would have been the city’s first official female chief, but was rejected by the city’s Board of Alders on Monday.

“It’s disappointing, it’s definitely disappointing to women. I don’t want to say that I was not selected because I am a woman, that is not the case,” Dominguez said at a press conference Friday afternoon. “However, to be able to be the first female police chief would have been amazing, would have been historic, and I wish the city was able to have that with me, and with this police department.”

Mayor Justin Elicker nominated Dominguez, who has been on the force since 2002 and has served as acting chief for the last nine months. He thanked her for being willing to participate in the nomination process, but he has reservations about the search ahead. Elicker said he worries local politics will make it difficult to attract the right candidate for the city’s chief of police.

“Frankly, I worry that after the way that this confirmation process has gone that it will be more difficult to attract candidates because politics is a difficult thing in New Haven,” he said.

Elicker says he will hire an outside body to help lead a national search for the next chief. Dominguez had said she will stay on until the search is complete.

“Navigating those politics, my fear is, will turn some people away who are highly qualified for the job but don’t want to manage through the morass,” Elicker said.

The mayor said he wants a candidate who wants to be on the cutting-edge of policing. He said he wants someone to coordinate with community social worker teams the city wants to establish to help respond to things like mental health crises.

Members of the Board of Alders had said they failed to confirm Dominguez as chief because they wanted a national search for an expert in community policing, and someone to increase diversity in police leadership.

Cassandra Basler is a radio reporter and editor at Connecticut Public. She has covered juvenile justice, the opioid crisis, immigration, social justice and inequity. You can find her reporting in New Haven and Fairfield counties. She previously worked at WSHU Public Radio and her work has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Here & Now.