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New Haven officials announce reforms after man paralyzed in police van

Richard Cox
New Haven Police Department
New Haven Police Department
A screenshot from New Haven police video shows a handcuffed Richard “Randy” Cox, 36, flying to the front of a police transport van after the driver hit the brakes to avoid a collision. Cox is hospitalized and paralyzed after his head struck the metal interior wall of the van. Five New Haven police officers are on paid leave while the incident is investigated.

New Haven officials announced Thursday that people arrested by city police will typically be brought to lockup in a police cruiser. The change in policy regarding the transport of people in custody comes after a man was paralyzed June 19 when a police van he was riding stopped suddenly.

New Haven police officers will also be required to ask a person under arrest if they need medical attention when they are taken into custody and when they arrive at the lockup.

Mayor Justin Elicker and police Chief Karl Jacobson said the changes in policy are aimed at keeping people in custody safer.

Richard “Randy” Cox suffered severe injuries while handcuffed in the back of a police van after his arrest. New Haven police said the van came to a sudden stop to avoid an accident. Cox was not belted into a seat, and surveillance video shows him hitting a wall between the cab and back of the van headfirst.

Officer Oscar Diaz kept driving immediately after the sudden stop, despite Cox telling officers he was injured and couldn’t move, according to officials and the surveillance video.

Diaz did stop before reaching the police station. He called paramedics but told them to meet at the station.

Cox was pulled from the van and placed in a wheelchair. He was booked by officers at the station, dragged to a cell and left on the ground before paramedics arrived.

Screen Shot 2022-07-07 at 15.22.53.jpg
New Haven Police Department
A body camera screenshot shows New Haven police officers moving Richard "Randy" Cox from a police transport van to a wheelchair after he suffered severe injuries that left him paralyzed when the van had to make a sudden stop for an oncoming driver.

Diaz and four other members of the New Haven Police Department who were involved in the transport and detention of Cox have been placed on paid leave pending a state police investigation.

Aside from the changes in transport policy, the reforms announced Thursday include requiring officers to immediately call for an ambulance to respond to their location if the prisoner requests or appears to need medical aid; a review of detention center policies; random checks of detention area personnel’s body cameras; and department-wide training on several related topics.

City officials are inviting residents to several planned town hall-style discussions on police department issues, with the first scheduled for July 14. They also say several steps already have been taken in response to what happened to Cox, including requiring officers to ensure prisoners are wearing seat belts.

Elicker said he met with Cox on Wednesday at the hospital, and Cox was still paralyzed from the waist down and struggled to speak.

“The incident that happened with Mr. Cox was unacceptable," Elicker said. "We are committed to making the necessary changes and having the necessary conversations to further strengthen the city’s approach to public safety and to ensure that our police department is operating in a manner that best serves our residents, supports our officers and is consistent with our shared values of dignity, respect and compassion for all New Haveners."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Matt Dwyer is a producer for Where We Live and a reporter and midday host for Connecticut Public's news department.
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