Civil Liberties

An Update on Citizens-Recording-Cops Cases in New Haven


The New Haven Police Department's internal affairs division has released two reports on recent incidents involving police and citizens with cameras.

The first report concerns the department's SWAT raid on a nightclub where police suspected there was some underrage drinking. (My post on that raid here.) That report found no fault on the part of any individual officers, but did say the SWAT team was inappropriate and that police officers were wrong to forbid the nightclub's occupants from recording the raid with cell phone cameras. Instead, the report blamed the incident on a lack of proper training.

The second report addresses an incident between then-New Haven Assistant Police Chief Ariel Melendez and Luis Luna, a student who attempted to record two police officers in the process of making an arrest. (My post on that incident here.) Melendez ordered subordinate officers to arrest Luna, to confiscate his camera and to delete the video. The second report is actually quite critical of Melendez, concluding that he behaved in an "intimidating" matter, and that the arrest, confiscation, and destruction of the video were all unlawful.

Melendez has been the subject of at least two other misconduct investigations, including the nightclub raid. He has since resigned from the New Haven Police Department. According to the New Have Independent, he'll get to keep his $124,500 annual pension.

Last month, the New Haven police union President Sgt. Louis Cavaliere called Mayor John DeStefano's decision to lay off 16 of the city's 448 police officers due to budget constraints a "disgusting embarrassment". New Haven cops also called in sick and took to the streets and blocked traffic to protest the layoffs. When asked how those tactics protect New Have from crime, Cavaliere suggested residents take up arms.