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Karl Jacobson, nominee for New Haven police chief, aims to make community policing a priority

New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker announces the nominee for New Haven Chief of Police
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker announces current Assistant Police Chief Karl R. Jacobson as the nominee for New Haven chief of police. Jacobson said he never joined the force to become the chief and emphasized the importance of officers supporting their community. "I'm going to be there for you any time of day or night."

Karl Jacobson is the mayor of New Haven’s pick to be the city’s next police chief.

Jacobson, who is the police department’s assistant chief, says that if he gets the big promotion, he’ll focus on community policing. That’s something he says he’s been about from his time walking a beat when he started with the department 15 years ago through a 2017 multi-agency effort to combat gun violence.

“It kind of says my age, but we started with pagers, and we gave out our pager numbers,” Jacobson said Monday during a news conference. “So, the first thing I’m going to do is have the printer print phone numbers on every single officer’s business card with their name and start looking back to those days of community policing.”

He acknowledges that there’s a lot of work to do for the community.

“I’m a big proponent of legitimacy, legitimacy through procedural justice: giving people a voice, being neutral in your decisions,” Jacobson said. “I think we do that, but we have to do it better. We have to build that community trust, and when you do that you solve homicides better, and people actually adhere to the law when you do that.”

There were 25 homicides in New Haven last year – the most since 2011. The department has faced criticism for not making enough arrests in those cases.

The New Haven Independent reported in January that arrests were made in just three of the homicides. Connecticut Public requested an update from the New Haven Police Department on arrests for homicides committed in 2021 but has not yet received a response.

Speaking at the news conference, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said Jacobson was hired after a “robust” national search that included 15 applicants. Ultimately, Elicker said, the most qualified individual, Jacobson, was “right here in front of our face.”

“He knows people’s names in the community – whether they are victims of gun violence, he knows the perpetrators,” Elicker said. “We have a person that I’m confident will become the next chief of police, who deeply, deeply cares about our city and our community.”

Regina Rush-Kittle is serving as interim chief after succeeding the previous acting chief, Renee Dominguez. The New Haven Board of Alders rejected the appointment of Dominguez as permanent police chief in December. In April, a judge ordered her to step down after ruling that it was a violation to keep her on as interim chief for more than six months. Her last day was May 10.

Jacobson must still be confirmed by New Haven’s Board of Alders. Elicker says he believes that will happen by the middle of July.

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