Community members, activists, and local leaders held a rally in New Haven Wednesday in support of Assistant Police Chief Luiz Casanova following his temporary suspension.
Casanova was placed on a one-day unpaid suspension after an incident in which he called a patrol officer a derogatory name for the way he was wearing his police department knit cap.
Interim police chief Anthony Campbell suspended Casanova for “conduct unbecoming an officer.” The incident has sparked controversy since both men are competing for the same position of permanent police chief -- a post recently vacated following controversy involving the last chief of police.
Representative Juan Candelaria said he’s not disputing the action taken.
"I am disputing the motive behind the persecution against Casanova," said Candelaria. "Should Campbell have recused himself from the investigation knowing that both are vying for the same position? I’m not questioning the punishment. That has to be determined by whoever does the investigation and if the punishment fits the crime then so be it. Let’s ensure that we have a transparent process."
Casanova is Hispanic and Campbell is African-American. There's concern among community leaders that the incident will cause a racial divide, not only in the police department, but among city residents.
Father James Manship of St. Rose of Lima Church spoke to the crowd that gathered outside City Hall about Casanova’s character. He called him a stand up guy who’s passionate about New Haven policing.
"Unfortunately, this has taken on a life of its own," he said. "You know, we shouldn’t be eating our own. Both of these men… well, all of the staff have come up through the ranks and these are people we should be very, very proud of and supportive of."
Earlier in the week, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp declined a request by several black police officers and clergy to forego the search for a new chief and appoint interim chief Anthony Campbell to the position.