Former New London police chief says race held him back, mayor says

NEW LONDON – The former city police chief abruptly retired when confronted in May with a secretly taped conversation that included comments he was being ignored for promotions because he is white , said the mayor.

Pierre Reichard retired as New London Police Chief on May 27 when Mayor Michael Passero said he showed him an email with excerpts from the conversation. In the recording, Passero said Reichard claimed he suffered discrimination that prevented him from being promoted while he was with the New Haven Police Department.

“I was ignored and I was better qualified than people and the only reason I was ignored was because I was white,” Reichard said, according to an email containing written excerpts from the recorded conversation Passero shared with Hearst Connecticut Media. “Twice I was ignored for sergeant because I was white, until they got to a point where they had no choice. They promoted all of the minority officers until they reached the top three whites. “

Passero said Reichard was referring to his time with the New Haven Police Department. Acting New Haven Police Chief Renee Dominguez declined to comment on Reichard’s charges.

Reichard, who could not be reached for comment, retired in 2010 as deputy chief of the New Haven Police Department, where he spent the first 25 years of his career.

His departure from the town of Elm came after he was dismissed from his post because of his “management style and management standards,” former New Haven Police Chief James Lewis said at the time.

Reichard spent the last nine years in New London before his sudden retirement in May.

Passero said the New London chapter of the NAACP provided him with an email on May 24 containing written excerpts from the recorded conversation.

In the email, which Passero shared with Hearst Connecticut Media, Jean Jordan, president of the New London NAACP, listed several remarks she alleged made by Reichard in the recording. However, Jordan did not provide the context for what prompted the comments.

It is not known who Reichard was speaking with on the recording or when the conversation took place. It is also unknown who recorded the conversation. Hearst Connecticut Media was unable to obtain a copy of the recording.

Passero said he was directed to a member of the police department who had the recording.

After listening to the conversation, Passero said he and executive director Steven Fields met Reichard on May 27.

“I gave (Reichard) the copy of the email,” Passero said. “He examined it and he just looked up from the newspaper and apologized and said he was planning to retire.”

Passero noted that Reichard’s contract was due to expire on June 30. The mayor said Reichard only had a pension plan and would not receive a pension from the city.

When Passero announced the police chief’s retirement in May, he praised Reichard and did not speak publicly about the recorded conversation until a report was published last week by The Day of New London.

In an interview last week with Hearst Connecticut Media, Passero said he did not initially discuss the recording because he saw it as a personnel issue.

Jordan said she was surprised when the recording came to her attention.

“I’m sad for my city as far as we have to go through this,” she said. “I’m sad because he’s someone we’ve worked with for nine years and I didn’t expect to hear what I heard. Above all, I am sad for my city because we must be able to move forward.

Although Passero disagreed with Reichard’s comments, which included criticism from the mayor and the City of New London, he said he sympathized with the former chief.

“He’s been under a lot of pressure for over a year,” Passero said, speaking in national and local conversations about police following the murder of George Floyd. “He was trying to do his best and it just seems like he’s burned out and made a mistake. It can happen to anyone. “

Passero said a popular movement is calling for the police budget to be cut by a third. He said the police budget is almost entirely made up of personnel costs and such a reduction would eliminate jobs for an already understaffed force.

“One of the challenges the leader had during the year was explaining to the community that we would compromise public safety if we cut the budget so much,” Passero said. “We effectively leveled the police budget, which was basically a cut. The rhetoric was quite angry and confrontational.

Passero announced last week that Brian Wright, who has headed the department since Reichard’s retirement, will be sworn in on July 14 as the permanent police chief.

Wright said he was only the second black member of the New London Department to become a sergeant and the first to become a lieutenant, captain and now chief.

“Hopefully this becomes something where it’s not the exception, but part of the business,” Wright said in an interview on Friday.

Wright said his main goals will be to strengthen and develop partnerships with the community.

“I think we have a perfect opportunity in the city of New London,” he said. “I want to work in partnership with department staff, community members, stakeholders and city staff to be a collaborative, transparent and learning organization leading the way as a model police service for the 21st century. “

This type of approach, Jordan said, will help New London move forward.

“When someone you trust hurts the community, the community needs a chance to heal and move on,” she said. “This is what we have to do now.”

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