NEW HAVEN, CT – The police chief of New Haven, Conn., resigned months after witnesses said he chewed out wait staff at a restaurant, city officials said Tuesday.
Chief Dean Esserman, who has been on leave since July 26, received no-confidence votes from the police union and a community gathering in recent weeks, the New Haven Register reported.
Mayor Toni Harp said at the time that Esserman had displayed conduct unbecoming of a public official at Archie Moore’s bar and restaurant in New Haven. Harp investigated after a witness said the chief yelled about service at the Willow St. eatery to the point that other diners asked to be move away from his table.
Harp and Esserman “mutually agreed” he would take 15 days of paid administrative leave after the mayor’s probe of the restaurant rant, the mayor told the Register at the time. Esserman had publicly apologized in 2014 for blowing up at the usher staff at a Yale-Army football game.
The chief began sick leave when he was eligible to return last month, amid complaints from the union and the community. He and Harp — who didn’t mention either tirade — announced Tuesday that Esserman had quit, effective last Friday.
“Crime and violence have steadily and consistently decreased in New Haven throughout the nearly five years of Chief Esserman’s tenure and I’m grateful for the chief’s successful legacy,” Harp said in a statement to WTIC-TV.
Esserman addressed members of the New Haven Police Department for 20 minutes on Tuesday afternoon, shaking everyone’s hand after speaking, spokesman David Hartman said in a statement. Esserman spoke directly to the police union leaders in the room, according to Hartman.
“You see — you care about the best interests of the officers as much as I do,” Esserman said. “I wanted to come here in person and thank you for all you do and I wanted you to hear that I’m moving on from me and not a press release.”
The police union issued a no-confidence vote against Esserman in July. Craig Miller, the president of the New Haven Police Union, told WTNH-TV Esserman’s resignation was overdue.
“One thing, you know, the chief has always said to us: ‘You represent this department. When people go out there, they see you. They never see all the good things that you did, they see the bad things you did,’” Miller said. “And that’s one area that, you know, he put himself in that situation. And unfortunately that’s where we are today.”
Local activists had called for Harp to fire Esserman the day he began his sick leave in August, according to the Register. An Aug. 8 community forum organized by resident Barbara Fair also resulted in a no-confidence vote against the chief.
“The officers will be happier and hopefully the community will have input on who will come on board next,” Fair told the local newspaper. “We could do without a bully, we need someone to be more compassionate, more transparent.”
Mayor Harp said Assistant Chief Anthony Campbell will remain interim chief of police. Hartman, the police spokesman, referred to Esserman’s resignation as a retirement.
Esserman told Hartman would not speak publicly about his decision to step down, Hartman said. Efforts to reach Esserman on Tuesday night were not immediately successful.
The Yale University and Yale Law adjunct has advised President Obama on police and community relations.
Esserman began his career in 1983 as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, according to his board member bio from the nonprofit policing research organization the Police Foundation.
He would eventually serve as general counsel to future NYPD chief William Bratton, when Bratton was head of the New York City Transit Police.