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New London's new deputy police chief has made a lot of headlines

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published April 25. 2012 4:00AM

Here is a sampling of what was written about Peter Reichard, New London's new deputy police chief, when he abruptly left his job as assistant police chief in New Haven, in February 2010.

"After being suspended Friday for alleged misconduct, New Haven Assistant Police Chief Peter Reichard resigned Monday, ending the department's investigation of his behavior." - Yale Daily News.

"Assistant Police Chief Pete Reichard was suspended Friday pending an investigation into allegations of misconduct - including an alleged threat to arrest a newspaper reporter." - New Haven Independent.

"An assistant police chief in Connecticut was relieved of his duties after he threatened to arrest a newspaper reporter who had written about a detective who complained the chief had threatened to hurt him if he wore white shoes to work again." - Associated Press.

"Assistant Police Chief Peter Reichard was relieved of duty today, the police chief confirmed." - New Haven Register.

A few days later, this headline appeared over a Register story: "Stripped of badge, gun, Reichard opts to retire from New Haven PD."

Most succinct of all was this headline over a story from WTNH television: "NH's Asst. Chief of Police sent packing."

When I mentioned just one of these headlines Tuesday to Mayor Finizio, he said, essentially, you can't always believe what you see in headlines. Just look at what's been written about him in headlines in The Day, the mayor said.

The mayor was sticking with the narrative that he, Reichard and New London Police Chief Margaret Ackley all pitched Monday at the Reichard hiring press conference, that Reichard's departure from New Haven was a simple retirement.

Ackley said Reichard came highly recommended from New Haven. How could that be?

The mayor said he spoke to the New Haven mayor's office before hiring the new deputy chief.

A spokeswoman for New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said Tuesday that Reichard did retire, but she added the New Haven police chief said then it was time for Reichard to leave.

"You asked if the mayor of New London received a reference from New Haven Mayor (DeStefano) regarding Reichard," the spokeswoman later wrote in an email. "The mayor of New London spoke to our chief administrative officer to confirm some details regarding Reichard's employment and retirement from the City of New Haven. He did not speak to Mayor John DeStefano Jr."

Nothing there to indicate, as Ackley said, that he came highly recommended from New Haven.

The newspaper articles about Reichard detail some of the allegations against him.

The New Haven Independent suggested there were more complaints than the white shoe incident and the alleged threats made to the reporter.

"Several incidents were brought to my attention. As those started evolving and being investigated, it brought additional issues of concern to me," then New Haven Police Chief James Lewis was quoted saying in the Independent.

In the same story, DeStefano was quoted: "There clearly appears to be inappropriate conduct. It's under review."

The Yale Daily News wrote that Reichard was relieved of duty after "a number of civilians and fellow police officers filed several complaints about his conduct."

WTNH quoted from an extensive statement from DeStefano's office saying there was an investigation of concerns about Reichard's "conduct and management style."

I certainly don't have any knowledge of whether Reichard was a good cop in New Haven, but it does seem clear it wasn't a simple retirement.

(Who could blame him, though, for not simply resigning if he thought he was done, given that the Register reported he was eligible for a pension of $75,000 to $85,000 a year.)

What bothered me most about the way Reichard's appointment was announced was that New London officials pretended there had been no controversy, indeed denied it. Don't they know about Google?

Reichard was recommended by the Police Chiefs Association, who helped review candidates for the job. But it's hard to believe he could have been highly recommended by New Haven.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

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