NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Officials in New Haven unveiled suspect transport and detention reforms Thursday, weeks after a man was seriously injured while being transported in a police van.
Mayor Justin Elicker and newly appointed police Chief Karl Jacobson outlined new policies and training during a news conference — one day after meeting with Richard “Randy” Cox and his family at a hospital. Cox is paralyzed from the chest down and has trouble talking, his lawyers and city officials said.
“I’m a dad. I can’t imagine my children one day being able to walk and the next day, potentially not being able to walk again,” Elicker said. “The first thing he said to me is ‘I can’t talk.’ The family said that was progress because he hasn’t been able to talk.”
The new reforms include eliminating the use of police vans for most suspect transports and using marked police vehicles instead, requiring officers to immediately call for an ambulance to respond to their location if the suspect requests or appears to need medical aid, a review of detention center policies, random checks of detention area personnel’s body cameras, and department-wide training on active bystandership and de-escalation.
City officials said several measures have already been implemented in response to what happened to Cox, including requiring officers to ensure suspects are wearing seat belts.
“The mayor and I saw Mr. Cox yesterday [Wednesday] and it was a tough thing to see, but it’s important for us to see and make sure it never happens again,” Jacobson said.
Cox, 36, was arrested on a weapons charge on June 19. While handcuffed in the back of the van, which had no seat belts, he flew headfirst into the wall between the cab and back of the van, when Officer Oscar Diaz braked hard to avoid a crash, police said.
Diaz continued driving to the police department, despite Cox calling for help and saying he was injured and couldn’t move, according to police videos and officials.
At the station, officers dragged Cox out of the van by his feet and put him in a wheelchair, police video shows. Police then booked Cox, took him out of the wheelchair, and dragged him into a cell, where he was left on the floor. The videos also show officers telling Cox to move despite him showing signs of paralysis. Paramedics arrived minutes later and took Cox to a hospital, officials said.
Five members of the New Haven Police Department involved in the transport and detention of Cox are on paid leave pending a state police investigation.
Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump was in New Haven last week, announcing he will be representing Cox and calling for a federal civil rights investigation.
Cox’s family, NAACP chapters, and other supporters plan a “March for Justice” for Cox Friday afternoon in New Haven. The march starts at 5 p.m. at Stetson Library on Dixwell Avenue and ends at the New Haven Police Department.
City officials invite all New Have residents to a series of Public Safety Town Halls, with the first scheduled for July 14.
- Thursday, July 14, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., at Hill Regional Career High School (140 Legion Ave);
- Tuesday, July 26, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., at Family Academy of Multilingual Exploration (FAME) (255 Blatchley Ave);
- Wednesday, Aug. 3, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. at James Hillhouse High School (480 Sherman Avenue).