Professor, Former Police Chief Discusses ‘Social Experiment' in Bridgeport PD

In its examination of the Bridgeport Police Department’s efforts to recruit more city residents to the force, NPR sought the expertise of University of New Haven associate criminal justice professor John DeCarlo, a retired police chief.

John DeCarloOver the last several years, the Bridgeport Police Department has put a premium on recruiting city residents to serve as members of the force. That practice, says John DeCarlo, a University of New Haven associate professor of criminal justice and a retired cop and former police chief, can be good for community relations and politics, but it could also mean that Bridgeport is lowering the bar.

“What they're doing is a social experiment,” he told NPR for a feature story about the practice. “We don't know if it works. We don't know if it's very successful. So it's innovative, and there is certainly nothing wrong with innovating in police work.” 

The story was featured on National Public Radio’s nationally syndicated show “Morning Edition,” and it ran on nearly 100 radio stations around the country and on BBC World News.

DeCarlo also was recently quoted in a Time magazine story that examined how police are trained to interact with people who have a mental illness. The story was in response to a fatal shooting last week by police in El Cajon, Calif., of a black man who family members say may have been mentally ill.

It’s not prevalent,” DeCarlo said of mental health training for police. “There’s training out there, but not enough officers go through it.

DeCarlo, who joined the University in 2011 after 34 years as a police officer in Branford, including the last four as chief, is credited with instilling a more community-oriented focus on the force during his tenure, and he is considered an expert on community policing.

Now his charge is equipping future generations of law enforcement professionals with the skills they need to safely serve and protect their communities.

“As a professor, I get to work with hundreds of bright young students who will eventually change the way we do police work.” DeCarlo said.