Assistant police chief sues city
Casanova claims harassment, retaliation
NEW HAVEN — Assistant Police Chief Luiz Casanova is suing the city in federal court, claiming he was passed over for chief and has been subjected to harassment due to his testimony on behalf of another officer who had filed a discrimination complaint with the state.
Casanova is looking for the court to order the city to appoint him chief and award him economic damages based on his loss of income.
He claims “retaliatory behavior and harassing conduct” was carried out by Mayor Toni Harp, Chief Administrative Officer Michael Carter, Police Chief Anthony Campbell and Human Resources Director Stephen Librandi.
It is the policy of the city to not comment on pending suits and Carter and Campbell did not return calls.
Casanova was among a group of officers the city considered for police chief with Harp eventually choosing Campbell, who was the interim chief after Dean Esserman left the position.
Casanova, in his suit, claims the alleged negative actions taken against him are tied to his testimony before the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, in which he told the agency that Sgt. Wilfredo Cruz’s transfer as district manager on the East Shore was motivated by alleged racism.
Cruz brought action against the city for the move, claiming Es-
serman, then chief, wanted Casanova to move Cruz out of the district post allegedly because Alder Alphonse Paolillo, D-17, objected to the appointment and allegedly was threatening to hold up requests from the department unless Sgt. Roy Davis was put there.
Paolillo has not commented on the case but a number of Hispanic firefighters and police officers reacted that Paolillo had never acted in a racist manner in his dealings, but rather had helped them during his tenure as a city official and majority leader of the Board of Alders.
Paolillo was elected as the Democratic state representative from the 97th District on the East Shore last year and is leaving the aldermanic board in January at the end of his long term there.
Casanova’s supporters, who wanted to see him elevated to police chief, rallied on his behalf in December after he was suspended for a day by Campbell for “conduct unbecoming an officer.”
The suspension allegedly was for calling an officer a “mope” and denying that officer from attending a meeting about the incident with union representation. The Police Department said there was no racial component to the event.
Supporters saw the oneday suspension as a “smear campaign,” and said the assistant chief was a positive force in their communities.
The Greater New Haven Clergy Association said the word “mope” was derogatory and “thoroughly dehumanizing.” Cruz is Hispanic, while the officer in this incident is black.
Casanova charges that Campbell hadn’t interviewed witnesses and he was disciplined in front of his peers.
Casanova said he was moved from his assignment as operations chief by Esserman and transferred to the professional standards post because he would not move Cruz out.
The assistant chief, in the suit, said Harp’s Chief of Staff Tomas Reyes told him that if he “did not conform” his future with the department was “bleak.”
On the issue of missing toys, Casanova said toys stored at a police facility were distributed through a church and a Hispanic agency with none taken by police. He said the investigation was never concluded.
Casanova also objected to the chief ordering an investigation into why a recruit at the police academy was recommended for removal and for asking the Internal Affairs division to look into the matter.
In the suit, he describes a meeting with Carter where the chief administrative officer allegedly told him that “when you are in deep s—t it’s best to keep your mouth shut.”
Casanova also alleged that Campbell in May had asked him to resign and if he didn’t resign, he allegedly would start removing responsibilities from him. He said internal affairs was then taken away from him.
He said Librandi indicated that there would be a package to make it easier to retire, but it was not forthcoming.
Casanova does not name him or her, but said a former lieutenant who was also interested in becoming chief was out of consideration after allegedly not promising to fire Casanova if hired for the top cop position. He said the former officer allegedly had text messages to back those allegations.
In August, Casanova met with Campbell and Carter to answer questions about conduct at the Police Academy, according to the suit.
Casanova said he did not make disparaging comments about the chief regarding a disciplinary order he issued, which required several officers to receive remedial training.
Campbell also said Casanova, according to the suit, was disrespectful when addressing the Police Academy staff.
The assistant chief said these allegations were false and he allegedly offered exculpatory evidence that was not considered. He said he was then stripped of his responsibilities over the Training Academy.
The assistant chief said six out of eight witnesses said he had not done anything wrong. He said the investigation has been prolonged as it was then turned over to the corporation counsel’s office.
Casanova said the chief allegedly agreed that the issue wasn’t his behavior at the Police Academy, but rather his desire to get him to resign, the suit asserts.
The assistant chief also claimed he was denied Workers’ Compensation for a back pain that came back from a 2011 accident, something that had never been denied before.
He said a workers’ compensation official told him he was allegedly instructed by “higher ups” in the Police Department and City Hall to deny it.