As­sis­tant po­lice chief sues city

Casanova claims ha­rass­ment, re­tal­i­a­tion

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Mary E. O'Leary

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.

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