Once Mayor Joe Ganim received the names of three finalists for top cop, helmed by the International Associations of Chiefs of Police, retired Captain Roderick Porter emerged as the leader for the five-year appointment.
He checked all the boxes to what Ganim desired in a new chief.
But the appointment required some serendipity. Former New Haven Police Chief Renee Dominguez finished third on the list behind Captain Lonnie Blackwell and Garcia. The City Charter authorizes the mayor to select a chief from the top three finalists.
As it turned out Dominguez opted out of the final three process, to remain chief of another Connecticut department, elevating Porter to the third slot. He had also finished in the top three during the last search four years ago.
Dominguez, of Italian heritage married to a Hispanic, would certainly have had Ganim’s attention, depending on the reviews coming out of New Haven.
When Porter emerged then it was simply a question of how he achieved during public forums. He impressed.
Ganim wanted a steady hand who could heal racial divides within the department that included Garcia and Blackwell, something that played out during the three public forums. He also sought a chief to engage and build bridges in the community. Garcia was hesitant.
The notion that Ganim had implemented a media gag order on Garcia was a false narrative created by his critics. She had often rejected City Hall requests to be more accessible, even when the record could be controlled via social media.
As the community forums showcased, the barbs between Garcia and Blackwell spilled out for the public and other stakeholders to see, Blackwell feeling marginalized, Garcia feeling undercut by a subordinate. Porter’s easy authority on display created an effective contrast.
Ganim knew what he had with Garcia whom he had appointed assistant chief and then acting top cop after the cheating-scandal resignation of Armando Perez. It would be more of the same. Garcia meowed that Ganim’s pick was all about politics. Was it politics when he had appointed her acting top cop?
Ganim had considered Blackwell, whose community experience he regards, but in Porter he saw a bridge builder for the times.
Porter will be chief in an official capacity December 1. Garcia says she’s retiring after more than 30 years of service. There are assistant chief and deputy chief positions to fill. Blackwell could end up in one of those roles.
The report card on Chief Porter is way down the line, but as a candidate he was the logical choice.