After a long political struggle, the police department in one of Connecticut's biggest cities is getting a new start. New Haven's new chief of police said connecting with the community and transparency are among his priorities, and he's already had a trying event to test those promises. NBC Connecticut spoke with Police Chief Karl Jacobson about taking over the department under intense public scrutiny and what his goals are moving forward. Upon starting his new position, an inmate named Randy Cox was paralyzed in the back of a police van. He was handcuffed and there was no seatbelt in the vehicle. In response to the incident, Jacobson ordered that everyone who is transported will be seat belted and reassessing the changes after a period of time in order to determine if it needs to be a "full general order". Prior to the Cox being paralyzed, the guidance was that the van was considered to be like a school bus where people don't need to have seatbelts. But, Jacobson said it's important to change the policy to keep people safe "because they are our responsibility once they're in our custody."
When asked about the impact of changes in leadership and public scrutiny, Jacobson said recruitment and retention have been important areas for him. "It definitely makes it tougher..." Jacobson said, "It's very hard to retain officers in a big city like New Haven, because we're much busier than every other place. And maybe we don't pay as much, so it's extremely hard." Despite those factors, the department has done well in recruiting, Jacobson said. According to him, of the last 33 people who entered their training academy, 70 percent were minority officers and around 40 percent were directly from the city. Jacobson expressed that incentives need to be in place in order for people to want to stay in the job, like making the job easier and getting the trust of the local community. "The more legitimacy we get with the community, the more we listen to the community," Jacobson said, "the better it is, the easier it is to police people because you actually get the consent of the people to police them."