New Haven’s acting police chief was ordered to resign by a Connecticut judge, who ruled Monday that the chief has held the temporary position longer than the city charter allows.
Mayor Justin Elicker immediately vowed to appeal the ruling and said Renee Dominguez would remain as acting chief during the legal challenge and until a permanent chief is hired.
Dominguez, who has served as acting chief since March 2021, had been on track to become the first woman to permanently lead the New Haven police department. But in December, the city’s Board of Alders rejected Elicker’s nomination of her after some residents raised concerns about increasing violent crime and low diversity in the department.
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. Elicker did submit Dominguez’s name to the alders within six months, but the board rejected the nomination, the judge said.
“The clear import of the city charter is that an acting police chief cannot remain in place indefinitely,” Kamp wrote. “To conclude otherwise would completely thwart and eliminate the Board of Alders’ advice and consent role in approving the mayor’s nominee.”
Elicker and city legal staff, however, disagreed with the judge’s interpretation of the charter. They argued the charter allows Dominguez to remain in office until a permanent chief is hired.
“We need stability now, and I think that given the incredible challenges that our community has faced over these past two years — a dramatic uptick in violence like many cities across the nation — it is not time for some politically motivated stunt show here,” Elicker said at a Monday afternoon news conference, referring to the court case that led to Kamp’s ruling.
Elicker said the city already is in the process of looking for a permanent chief.
The legal challenge the led to Kamp’s ruling was filed by two local pastors, the Revs. Boise Kimber and Donarell Elder.
Dominguez has been leading the department since last year’s retirement of Otoniel Reyes.