Local leaders speak out about New Haven assistant chief's suspension

Assistant police chief Luiz Casanova. (WFSB file photo)

Clergy and activists spoke out on Tuesday afternoon regarding the one-day suspension of New Haven's assistant police chief.

Luiz Casanova was suspended for a day without pay after being involved in a verbal argument with a patrol officer earlier this month.

A spokesperson for the New Haven Police Department said the suspension was for conduct unbecoming of an officer.

On Tuesday, clergy members said Casanova reportedly called an officer "expletive mope," saying the word is belittling and derogatory.

"He said that he was hurt, he felt intimidated by the mere fact that one of his superiors would speak to him in that manner. We live in a city where we're trying to bring people together, especially in a leadership role, we have to be careful about what we say to people," said Pastor Donald Morris, of Christian Community Commission.

The department said it launched an internal investigation last week. New Haven Chief Anthony Campbell ordered the suspension.

Last week, police said that preliminary reports showed a racial component to the altercation.

The Greater New Haven Clergy Association, along with the New Haven Guardians and Civil Shields, held the news conference at noon to "discuss the unprofessional remarks made by assistant police chief Casanova to an African American police officer under his supervision."

They said Casanova, who heads up the department's Professional Standards and Training Division, should know better, adding recent police recruit classes in New Haven have been told to not use the term.

“Little things that have been said to hurt people's feelings, to call them names, it’s not necessary, not professional and it’s not needed,” said James Newman, of the Greater New Haven Clergy Association.

The group argues it was a poor choice of words, by someone who has expressed interest in being the next police chief.

While the pastors have supported interim Chief Campbell for the permanent post, after this incident, they were calling on Mayor Toni Harp to suspend the police chief search and appoint Campbell, even meeting with her this afternoon.

"African-Americans and Hispanics have gotten along in this city, and we will not be divided and we will not let words divide us in reference to where we're trying to get,” said Rev. Boise Kimber, of the Greater New Haven Clergy Association.

There will be a rally to support the assistant chief on Wednesday afternoon outside of City Hall.

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