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6 Months In, Chief Sees Progress | #schoolshooting | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #schoolsafey

Paul Bass Photo

Jacobson offering homicide investigation update at the Shack in West Hills.

Six months into his tenure as New Haven’s police chief, Karl Jacobson has seen deadly violence plummet — and an updated community policing approach begin to take hold.

He refers to that philosophy as treating citizens with respect and dignity” each day in order to build trust.

I base my administration on procedural justice: We need community buy-in to police the community. Through procedural justice we get legitimacy. If the community feels the police are just and good people, they help the police and commit less crimes,” Jacobson said during a 2022-look-back and 2023-look-ahead conversation Tuesday on WNHH FM’s Dateline New Haven” program.

Jacobson was sworn in as New Haven’s police chief on July 7. Barring any last-minute wave, the city appears poised to have cut the homicide rate in about half in 2022: 12 so far, compared to 26 in 2021. The number of nonfatal shootings has held constant. Confirmed shots fired have dropped 12 percent, and pedestrian fatalities from 10 to 4, the chief said.

Those numbers are still higher than we want in New Haven, Jacobson said. In a year when other cities have seen violent crime increase, Jacobson argued that a variety of factors helped make progress on which New Haven can now build: He doubled the size of the motor vehicle unit. The department continued beefing up its personal notifications” after violent incidents and call-ins” offering help as well as warnings to people most involved in violence. It returned up to five cops per evening shift to walking beats. Officers monitor social media to spot brewing fights so they can contact participants in hopes of preventing a violent escalation.

At times of controversy over these past six months, Jacobson has also benefited from personal relationships he has developed in the community over the past 16 years to keep communication open and lower the level of tension.

Replenishing the department’s ranks has been one of his top challenges, similar to challenges faced on forces nationwide. The NHPD currently has 72 openings. It hired 30 new cops this year, 25 percent of whom live in New Haven and 60 percent of whom are women or people of color.

Police Chief Karl Jacobson at WNHH FM.

His experience in the chief’s suite has reaffirmed his support for school-based cops (school resource officers, or SROs). Some in the community have called for removing cops from schools, arguing that their presence leads to criminalizing young people and militarizing learning enviornments. Jacobson noted that 95 percent of teachers and parents and students surveyed have supported SROs. And we definitely arrest less because” SROs are on duty. Officers know students and can prevent problems before they develop, he said. When the two SROs at Wilbur Cross had time off recently, he noted, the students were aware of that fact — and a big fight broke out. He said he hopes to add to the five SROs currently on duty once the force’s size increases.

Jacobson was tested days before he even officially took over as chief, when an arrestee named Randy Cox was hospitalized and partially paralyzed because of mistreatment by five officers handling his arrest and detention. Jacobson oversaw the release of extensive body camera footage within days of the incident, apologized and accepted responsibility for the department’s errors, and instituted changes in policies governing both the transport of arrestees and conditions at the 1 Union Ave. pre-trial lock-up.

In the year-end Dateline” conversation, Jacobson described how his view of policing has evolved since he first resolved to become a cop at 8 years old.

He lived at that time in a low-income neighborhood of Middletown, Rhode Island, with an abusive stepfather and an older stepbrother who was involved in crime. He was relieved when cops came to the house as a result, he said: He saw them as coming to help.

He started his career as an officer in East Providence, R.I. He was assigned at one point to work with a federal anti-drug task force. He helped round up dozens of gang members at a time on drug charges that, in some cases, could land them in prison for 25 years to life for having 3.5 grams of crack.

We would take a lot of gang members off the street. Maybe four were shooters,” while dozens of others would also end up headed behind bars for a quarter century or more.

This isn’t fair,” he remembered thinking. He wasn’t there to help. He would come to believe he had been part of a problem.

When he came to New Haven 16 years ago, he embraced the charge that all officers, not just a small dedicated unit, should consider themselves community policing” cops, he said. That began with walking a beat.

When I came to New Haven, I became a better cop and a better person because I walked a beat,” he said; 15 years later, he has retained relationships made back then. He is a staunch believer in the power of walking beats to build relationships between officers and citizens and cut violence, he said, and he plans to continue boosting the walking beats as he works to replenish the force in 2023.

His thinking about policing further evolved with New Haven’s launch of Project Longevity.” He ended up running the program, and has since traveled to other cities to instruct departments on identifying the small group of people most involved in violence. He said he believes deeply in the message communicated to the 30 young people, many of them recently released from prison, who get called in every three months for both a talking to about potential consequences of violent acts as well as offers of help with housing, mental health counseling, and job training or referrals. The message: We want you safe, alive and out of jail.” He’s there to help.

Jacobson described the chief’s job as a roller coaster” ride. He said he’s looking forward to buckling up to continue the ride in 2023. I’m surrounded by good people,” he said. I’m up for the challenge.”

Click on the video above to watch the full year-end policing conversation with Chief Karl Jacobson on WNHH FM’s Dateline New Haven.”

Click here to subscribe to Dateline New Haven” and here to subscribe to other WNHH FM podcasts.

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