Police chief recommends firing officers from incident that left man paralyzed
Written by ABC AUDIO ALL RIGHTS RESERVED on March 22, 2023
(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) — New Haven Chief of Police Karl Jacobson on Tuesday recommended the termination of four officers involved in an incident that left Richard “Randy” Cox paralyzed last June.
Officers Luis Rivera, Jocelyn Lavandier, Oscar Diaz and Ronald Pressley as well as Sgt. Betsy Segui were placed on paid administrative leave in June of 2022. In November, they were charged with reckless endangerment and cruelty to persons; they pleaded not guilty to those charges. Pressley retired from the New Haven Police Department in January and received a pension, despite the charges.
Jacobson recommended the terminations following the conclusion of an internal investigation and hearings for the officers.
Jacobson noted that two other officers involved in the incident – a supervisor and an officer involved in detention – would also be disciplined. Jacobson said the penalty for those officers would be less than 15 days suspension.
“This department has gone through a lot since that incident, this community has gone through a lot,” Jacobson said at a press conference. “And the message to the community is that we … will be transparent and we will be accountable.”
According to Jacobson, New Haven’s Board of Police Commissioners will make the final decision about whether the officers are fired by early May.
Jacobson said that the internal investigation yielded enough information to pursue termination, despite the criminal case being ongoing.
“I think the days of waiting for criminal cases to conclude needs to stop; that’s one of the things the community has asked us to do,” he said.
He added that Segui and Diaz would still be eligible to receive a pension despite the charges and potential termination since their conduct did not violate the “bad boy” clause of their contracts.
In June of 2022, the officers placed Cox in a police van for criminal possession of a firearm and breach of the peace. Cox was seriously injured when the van’s driver stopped abruptly at an intersection to avoid a collision, causing Cox to hit his head on a metal partition. Despite asking for repeated help, the officers did not immediately render aid to Cox. Video footage later showed the officers dragging Cox by his feet to a wheelchair.
Jacobson said his department has implemented training and policy changes since the incident, including adding seat belts to all prisoner vans, training officers on de-escalation and revising department policy on transporting suspects in police vehicles.
“I asked my officers to continue to take each situation under those guidelines and to treat members of this community with respect and dignity, whether they’re an arrestee or complaintant, or whatever the case may be,” Jacobson said.
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump said Cox and his family were “encouraged” by the discipline for the four officers. Crump added that Cox is still paralyzed from the chest down because of injuries sustained in the back of the police van.
“These officers were sworn to protect their community, but they inflicted unnecessary and traumatizing harm to Randy, who will pay the price for the rest of his life,” Crump wrote in a statement.
New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker Randy applauded the actions by the police department at a separate press conference on Wednesday.
“When Randy Cox was arrested, he entered a police van able to walk and now he is not able to walk. We need to ensure that this never, ever happens again,” he said.
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