NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Protesters took to the steps of the New Haven Police Department to vent their frustrations. The protest was meant to be about comments New Haven Chief of Police Tony Reyes made about releasing Inmates.
Chief Reyes walked to the middle of the crowd to address their comments. The conversation quickly evolved to address the community tensions that could not be suppressed.
"There’s a lot of emotions running how are you going to have your officers deal with those types of people especially with what happened to George Floyd?"
There were no easy questions for Chief Reyes as he met protesters head-on.
"The blood of that man is on your hands too. So as you are outraged with the police, you have to be outraged with yourselves."
Chief Reyes had come out to address the crowd of protesters about comments he made Sunday at a Public Safety Commission meeting. The comments were about an increase in violence in the city that he partially attributed to the release of inmates.
"We are trying to save lives," said Barbara Fair of Stop Solitary CT. "We’ve had eight people that have died in prison already because of COVID. We have had hundreds who have gotten sick. We are desperate to save lives. We don’t need these idiotic statements to come out here and interfere with that.
Chief Reyes wanted to set the record straight.
"We are not against prison decompression," said Chief Reyes. "There are people in prison who are at risk because of COVID and we support decompression in prisons."
Chief Reyes says of the 17 people released back into their community, eight of them were either shot at or doing the shooting. He says he was asking for more resources to ensure newly released citizens don’t turn back to violence.
"Far too many times these individuals are coming out without a plan of action," said Chief Reyes. "They have nowhere to go. They have no resources available to them."
The conversation quickly evolved to address the underlying issues of race, equality, and police brutality at the forefront of people's minds.
"It’s not that we are at that point. It’s not that we’re getting to that point. We are at that point," said a community member.
"How are you going to change the approach of policing in the city," another asked.
"We do not condone police brutality. I can assure you that it’s not the chief saying that. The members of this department feel the same way," said Chief Reyes. "If you do anything to hurt this badge I will be in line first to make sure that I take your badge."
Chief Reyes said it’s moments like the incident in Minneapolis that could either divide New Haven or unit it. He said to create something that lasts long after our lifetimes requires working together and the community to police each other.
"If the community sees that we’re working together evil can’t exist. Evil can’t exist if good people do something about it," said Chief Reyes.
Mayor Justin Elicker stood with Chief Reyes' comments. He says the city and the police department are on the same page when it comes to community policing and creating relationships within the neighborhoods.
Watch the interaction below: