NEW HAVEN, Conn — New Haven's Acting Police Chief Renee Dominguez is stepping down from her position Friday after a controversial run in the last few months.
“I have been able to experience so many things in the city, I’ve had amazing connections, amazing interactions,” Dominguez said Tuesday. “Friday will be my last day, I will be retiring on Friday.”
Dominguez thanked New Haven police officers for the work they'd done under her direction.
"They believe in the city," she said. "I am so proud of them."
The move comes after several months of contention over her role.
"I leave this place knowing that I have led the police department according to my values," Dominguez said.
Mayor Justin Elicker announced the city's chief administrative officer, Regina Rush-Kittle will be taking over in the interim.
"She has a long and distinguished career in public safety, and law enforcement and deep experience in working with local, state and federal law enforcement partners," Elicker said.
In November 2021, Elicker announced Dominguez as his choice for the permanent police chief role. The appointment required approval by the Board of Alders.
Citing stability, Elicker stated that the decision to appoint Dominguez was saying that she was the right person for the job.
"In the five months Chief Dominguez led the police department she's done so through passion and determination and has done so through some very tough times," Elicker said in his announcement. "From a nationwide rise in violent crime that New Haven has experienced as well, to losing an officer in a tragic incident, to more recently holding officers accountable in order to maintain the integrity of the police department, Chief Dominguez has proven herself as a strong leader and the right person for the job."
However, by early December, the board rejected Dominguez's chances of being the city's first female chief to lead the police department.
Several police officers were present to support Dominguez during the vote but the 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 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."
"Police Chief Renee Dominguez has our department heading in the right direction,” Elicker had 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."
By April, a superior court judge responded to a complaint by city leaders Revs. Boise Kimber and Donarell Elder. The judge stated that Dominguez must vacate her position due to language in the city's charter which does not allow her to stay on the job as acting chief for more than six months.
In his ruling, Judge Michael Kamp said the city charter prohibits acting city officials — including the police chief — from holding the temporary jobs for more than six months without their names being submitted to the Board of Alders. Judge Kamp ruled that Dominguez should have vacated her position by December 31, 2021.
Elicker did submit Dominguez's name to the alders within six months, but the board rejected the nomination, the judge said.
The city contended that the judge's ruling was narrow and disregarded certain parts of the charter.
"Such as the provision in the charter that indicates that department heads, which Chief Dominguez is one, or Acting Chief Dominguez is one, shall stay in office until their replacement is found and qualified," said attorney Patricia King, New Haven's Corporation Counsel.
Dominguez rejected the ruling and did not step down at the time.
The deadline for the permanent chief's position closed on Monday.
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