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Board of Alders votes to reject Renee Dominguez as New Haven's police chief

Dominguez has served as acting chief since March, following the retirement of Otoniel Reyes. She would have been the city's first woman police chief.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — *Editor's Note: The video above aired on Nov. 10*

In a Monday night vote, the New Haven Board of Alders denied Renee Dominguez's chance to formally become Chief of Police.

Dominguez has served as acting chief since March, following the retirement of Otoniel Reyes. She would have been the city's first woman police chief.

Mayor Justin Elicker named Dominguez as chief last month, but noted that the appointment must be approved by the city’s Board of Alders. But the resolution was defeated on a voice vote. 

RELATED: Breaking Barriers | Connecticut's two female police chiefs speak about leading departments in a male-dominated profession

Several police officers were present to support Dominguez during the vote Monday, however Alders spoke against her nomination. They cited a lack of minority, particularly Black, representation among assistant chiefs and upper ranks in the department.

"Not just diversity in the upper ranks of the PD, but diversity in our city," Alder Richard Furlow (Ward 27) said. "We need assistant chiefs that look like us."

The Board also called attention to a high rate of unsolved homicides and shootings in the Elm City.

"We need a plan to solve open and cold cases. We haven’t heard that. We need a plan or a strategy to help our new recruits, as was mentioned, to be trained to deal with diversity," Alder Furlow continued.

In response to the vote taken to reject Dominguez's nomination, Elicker released a statement, saying it was not just disappointing, but "disheartening to the women and men of the department that strap on a vest each night and head out to patrol streets."

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"Police Chief Renee Dominguez has our department heading in the right direction,” Elicker said. "Under her leadership we’re in the process of rebuilding the ranks of our department and she has prioritized that the department looks like the community it protects. For many months she has been implementing our comprehensive plan to combat gun violence. And, following the murder of George Floyd, Chief Dominguez has been at the forefront of our effort to re-imagine public safety."

Elicker added that he believes Dominguez has clearly proven herself as a capable leader of this department, and he will be re-submitting her for Alders' approval.

RELATED: New Haven Mayor Elicker announces Renee Dominguez as New Haven's police chief; Board of Alders to vote

"Failure to confirm her at that time will be a major blow to public safety in our community," the mayor added. "And further, it will send a signal to professionals we hope to recruit that they should not pursue opportunities within the city of New Haven because well qualified candidates may be rejected. Having seen her in action daily, I strongly believe Chief Dominguez is the right fit for the job. Let’s confirm her appointment and get on with the important work of keeping our community safe."

The New Haven Board of Alders leadership also released a statement following the vote, saying it was "not a decision we took lightly."

Their full statement: "As you are aware the Board of Alders did not approve this nomination from the Mayor for the Police Chief.   This is a not a decision we took lightly.   The Public Safety of our residents and the well being of our officers are priorities for this Board of Alders and has been a pillar of its agenda for the last ten years. That said, the timing and process of this proposed appointment  required a thorough  detailed and nuanced plan for the future of the department that was acceptable to the community and engendered trust.  That did not happen nor did real community engagement.   When we are confident that there is a real strategic plan that includes the  recruitment of diverse employees training and advancement of officers to all levels in the department, action on improving closure rates,  successful efforts toward decreasing homicides, and tackling the violence afflicting our city, then and only then can we move forward together."

RELATED: As homicides rise in New Haven, city leaders are calling on the public for assistance

Dominguez began policing at the age of 21 and was the second woman acting police chief in New Haven. She's an 18-year veteran of the New Haven police department and prior to her becoming acting police chief, was assistant chief for a year and a half.

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