When shots rang out a few weeks ago in New Haven, leaving one woman and two New Haven police officers wounded, strong>the city’s top brass launched into action. Mayor Toni Harp cut short a previously scheduled meeting in DC and quickly galvanized with New Haven Police Chief Anthony Campbell along with seamless contributions from Fire Chief John Alston and Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins, and a bigger nightmare was beautifully avoided. The decisive reaction didn’t happen by accident.
“We all are skillful, trustworthy and committed,” said Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins. “We understand that this isn’t about ‘my turf.’ This is about advancing public safety in New Haven. This is about raising the bar for our organizations. When something like this happens, it’s about being informed and springing into action. When we show up, we come to support. We can be real with one another and not tiptoe.”
New Haven has the rare condition of having officials of color behind the mayor’s desk, in charge of law enforcement and emergency services. The optics have been troublesome for the more close-minded.
“Some people assume we’re incompetent and only in our position because of our color,” said Higgins.” But did you know that “(Chief Administrator) Mike Carter graduated from Dartmouth. Fire Chief Alston has trained firefighters all over the world. Police Chief Campbell went to Yale Divinity School. I went to the Naval Post-Graduate School for homeland security and defense. We all take education very seriously.” Talk about competence, any questions?
This is certainly true in the case of Mayor and Yale graduate Toni Harp. After serving 19 years in the Connecticut State Senate and the city’s first black female mayor of New Haven, Harp has shown a personal and professional commitment to New Haven.
As the pioneer of YouthStat, a coalition of school administrators, teachers, police officers, social workers and probation officers that meet weekly to discuss how to best support at-risk youth in New Haven.
She has balanced the New Haven budget every year so far. Maybe the State of Connecticut can learn a thing or two from Mayor Harp when comes to balancing budgets! “When she sees an issue, she works tirelessly to address it,” said communications director Laurence Grotheer. This 2 term Mayor is currently seeking a 3rd term to not only keep the positive momentum going, but more importantly to finish the job!
Chief Administrative Officer Michael Carter, Mayor Harp’s right-hand man, leans on his prolific background of public service. Carter’s past experience includes handling operations from Washington’s water and sewage to the city of Indianapolis’ budget and finance department. He oversaw planning for the Bush and Obama inaugurations, from the grandstands to repaving the streets in DC for a smooth presidential arrival.
An Ivy League graduate from Dartmouth College, Mike would drive back and forth from DC to Dartmouth, along the way he felt an affinity for the Elm city. He relocated from DC to assist Mayor Harp in 2014.
In his current role, Chief Carter does an amazing job overseeing eight departments:
“Police Services, Fire Services, Public Safety Communication (the 911 Center), Public Works, Parks & Recreation & Trees, Free Public Libraries, Engineering and the CAO office itself, which includes the divisions of Emergency Management and Human Resources (HR) and Benefits. The CAO has twelve direct reports: the seven other department heads, the Deputy CAO, the Manager of HR & Benefits, the two deputy directors of emergency management, and the executive administrative assistant. The CAO serves concurrently as the Director of Emergency Management. Budget: $ 100 million. Thank you, Chief Carter, for seamlessly managing the many necessary facets in making New Haven a model city.”
When not spending time with his best friend Booker a feisty and protective Piankinese dog, you may see Mike walking the streets of New Haven looking for ways to improve the flow of the city and ensuring the 8 departments he oversees are running on all cylinders!
Anthony Campbell became New Haven’s police chief at a moment of intense scrutiny for the department. After a few months of personnel upheaval and questionable encounters with downtown protesters, the New Haven Police were in need of steady new leadership. Chief Campbell has 19 years as an officer on the force as well as a degree from Yale Divinity School. As a result, he places an emphasis on mercy and community.
Even after an altercation with a suspect that left him paralyzed, Campbell reached out to the court for leniency in the sentencing phase of the case. As the son of a career drug dealer and a corrections officer, Campbell has a unique perspective on crime’s impact on the family as a unit.
His top priority has been the implementation of a family justice center to combat domestic violence. Campbell is also calling for standardized use of body cameras for all New Haven officers and the reboot of the Citizen’s Review Board for civilian complaints against the department.
After 30 years fighting fires in New Jersey and instructing first responders in Mexico, Canada, and South Africa, Alston is a seasoned veteran with his eye on the greater good. Since becoming the Fire Chief he has made record numbers of diverse promotions and oversaw the most successful recruitment program in New Haven’s history; with a record 74 candidates in the top 100 being New Haven Residents.
John was a ten-year veteran of Jersey City’s Heavy Rescue Company which responded to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Taking his job very seriously is second nature to John. It’s not unusual for Chief Alston to be out in about on personal or personal business and when the bell rings, Chief Alston politely excuses himself and jumps into full fledge action. There’s a need for the City of New Haven to feel safe and secure when you think of Fire Chief Alston/s credentials: “He is a NJ State Certified Level II Fire Instructor and a National Instructor Trainer for the American Red Cross. He also instructs Fire, Police and EMS workers in coursework for “Incident Response to Terrorist Bombings”, Advanced Industrial Fire Fighting & the National Incident Management System (I-300 & I-400). He is an Instructor at both the Jersey City and Union County Fire Academies. He is a Master International Instructor and has taught for FDIC, FEMA, NFA, NFIC, NSC and the IAFF.” Any questions?
Fire Chief John Alston has been married to the love of his life, Cheryl, for 31 years. They have two adult sons; John, III, graduate of Morehouse College and Malcolm Kendall, graduate of Liberty University and the Plainfield Fire Department
Chief Alston has a very fundamental belief in the true mission of emergency services, “Prepare yourself to meet the needs of people and property, for any emergency; use the best practices and share them. Someone’s life depends on it…Maybe even your own.” And prepared he is!
Yale Police Chief Ronnell Higgins credits innovation as the cornerstone of his department’s success. Yale’s officers have renewed their concentration on “quality of life” enforcement, using personal on-foot interaction with the population to keep the students and locals safe. Higgins has a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement from UNH and graduated from the FBI’s storied Quantico executive development program in 2010.
“Yale is a unique environment,” said Higgins. “It’s an open urban campus and it requires a leader that not only understands their role is to keep the campus safe but to also ensure that he or she is being a good neighbor. We are accountable to our campus as well as the city as a whole. Chief Alston, Campbell and Carter, we all work together with a common goal. When we have a safe city we have a safe campus.”
“The main thing beyond being a responsive, forward-thinking police department with contemporary policies and practices is that we’ve leveraged the use of technology to keep Yale safe. Each library, museum and art gallery has its own security team. Yale is an internationally known institution with high profile visitors every day. So our department is highly trained in event planning and management. Our staff is trained for dignitary protection to work with Secret Service detail. There’s a lot going on.”
Chief Higgins is active in the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) and was appointed to the Police Officers Standards and Training Council. He was awarded the Elm-Ivy award for his efforts.
In a crisis, creativity and collaboration are paramount. These New Haven officials embody the spirit of unity. The city is fortunate to be in skilled, committed, trustworthy hands.
Ethnic Online thanks you for setting the bar high and being an example to other cities around the country!