Chief Renee Dominguez is a 20 year veteran of law enforcement in Connecticut. Renee began her policing career in Newtown, CT with the Newtown Police Department. In her career with the New Haven Police Department, she served on patrol, as a canine officer, in the Narcotics unit.
She was a Sergeant and a District Commander. She was promoted to Assistant Chief and was responsible for the Patrol Division. In June 2021, Chief Dominguez was elevated to Interim Chief for an initial 8-month appointmment. She is focused on training, community relationships and personnel development.
In a wide-ranging interview, we spoke of policing, community relationships, racial issues, women in policing and a shortage of police applicants.
[00:00:02.090] - Intro
Welcome to The CopDoc Podcast. This podcast explores police leadership issues and innovative ideas. The CopDoc shares thoughts and ideas as he talks with leaders in policing communities, academia and other government agencies. And now please join Dr. Steve Morreale and industry thought leaders as they share their insights and experience on The CopDoc Podcast
[00:00:32.130] - Steve Morreale
Well, Hello, everybody. Steve Morreale, The CopDoc Podcast coming to you from Boston. And today we have the opportunity to go to New Haven, Connecticut, the interim chief, who is Renee Dominguez. Good morning, Renee. Thanks for joining us.
[00:00:44.080] - Renee Dominguez
Thank you for having me.
[00:00:45.160] - Steve Morreale
So let's get started. Why don't you begin to tell the audience about the New Haven Police Department? How big is it? How big is the city? Remember where there are listeners from all over the world? So put it in perspective for them.
[00:00:56.700] - Renee Dominguez
So we are budgeted currently for 406 sworn police officers and we serve a community of about 1300 citizens. Urban community. We have a lot of different businesses and universities here. We're home to Yale, but we also have Southern Connecticut State University. We have Albert Magnus, so rooted within or set within the neighborhoods are the higher learning universities and colleges definitely have seen our share of issues and concerns and violence and then also coupled with the run of your mill, if you will lower-level property crime type issues as well.
[00:01:33.340] - Steve Morreale
So in the state of Connecticut, where do you show up in terms of the size of the city or the second largest, third largest largest?
[00:01:40.300] - Renee Dominguez
Yeah. I would say we're the second largest behind Bridgeport and then its Harford Waterberry. And Stanford is somewhere in there. So we would be the top five largest city.
[00:01:47.170] - Steve Morreale
So tell us about yourself. How long have you been in policing? What Judith policing and what was your rise through the organization to now be sitting in the seat of the chief?
[00:01:55.920] - Renee Dominguez
So my story, which has been told multiple times, is the story of a little girl who used to watch the reruns of TJ Hooker on TV. And Heather Locklear was a female police officer there. And I don't know what her role really was when the TV show was being developed, but as a young girl, probably six or seven. You didn't see any females. And that is what made me want to be a police officer. Her character in that show. I've been a police officer for 21 years.
[00:02:23.140] - Renee Dominguez
At the end of in November, I'll have 21 years complete. Did my first two years in New Town Police Department, which is a very small police Department. Very big land wise. It's the second biggest in the state, but we only had about 40 police officers and local to New Haven. I'm from neighboring East Haven, so I wanted to move closer. I wanted the big city. I wanted the opportunities. I think you can stay with me sitting in this seat. New Haven is not disappointed. I've been to.
[00:02:48.480] - Renee Dominguez
I've been blessed throughout my career to be able to have really done everything I wanted to do. There's nothing that I could say. I wish I had an opportunity to do that. I started off as a walking beat on Winchester Avenue, which is a I'm in the Newhallville section of New Haven. So it's definitely one of the communities in New Haven, which historically sees a lot of gun violence. Unfortunately, that's where I learned how to be a that's how I learned how to speak to people.
[00:03:11.490] - Renee Dominguez
I think I'm a proponent of walking beat. Young officers who don't know anything about anything, having to be out there and learning from the community. Learning with the community. Getting to know the community and the most basic way you can by having to interact and speak is the best way you develop all of your skills that they can't teach you in the Academy. I was in patrol for a while. I became a canine officer, had a German Shepherd until I became Sergeant in 2013, and then from there, Sergeant to Lieutenant.
[00:03:35.860] - Renee Dominguez
And I was promoted to assistant chief in 2019. I was in charge of the patrol division and then interim chief or acting chief as of March of this year.
[00:03:43.720] - Steve Morreale
That's a big step. Are you the first woman in this position?
[00:03:46.930] - Renee Dominguez
I'm not the first woman acting chief now I'm the second. We had one other during my time as a police officer here, but we had one other, so we've never had a permanent Mount chief.
[00:03:56.070] - Steve Morreale
I see. Let's talk a little bit about what keeps you in policing. What would you say are the core values, the values you think are important for you and your command staff to instill throughout the organization, the expectations of your officer.
[00:04:10.120] - Renee Dominguez
So I think when you come to a city like New Haven and even any of the big cities, it's a different type of policing than it is and maybe some of the smaller cities. But you need to have the honest desire. That the cliche answer of why you want a police police officer. You need to be committed to working with and for the community. You need to be committed to understanding the needs of the community, understanding that you do not come from the same place, potentially as the community, and being able to be empathetic and DEA and to be able to do your job impartially with compassion.
[00:04:40.000] - Steve Morreale
It sounds cliche, and I don't mean to undermine what you're saying, but how do you drive that through the people who work for you? Let's go back. You're an assistant chief. For the first time, you're sitting around a table. You are in command staff rank, if y ou will, so that you're not at the Lieutenant level or the captain levels. You have to go from operational to strategic, right? So you begin to understand that you've worked for other people. You've been around that table before. Some have been autocratic how did your experiences begin to drive the way you choose to ask questions, to seek information, to engage the command staff in making decisions so that they're not unilateral.
[00:05:20.290] - Steve Morreale
They're not just yours, therefore the benefit of the organization. And you understand what I'm trying to ask. How do you run meetings differently?
[00:05:27.720] - Renee Dominguez
I think first, being a female made things very different in a positive way throughout my career and the leader that I am, it's always been more nurturing. It's always been more concerned. It's always been. Then tell me why don't just complain about something. Tell me why. Let's fix this together, rising to the level of assistant chief. And now, if you have that power to be able to change the way things are done in an organization that historically has been run by men, historically has been run by men who say this is the way because nothing against men.
[00:05:55.200] - Renee Dominguez
This is the way that it's been done forever. And this is the way. We're going to do it. And I'm going to make the final decision. So I think sitting at the table and asking questions and honestly listening to those answers and then implementing some of the ideas from the people below. Maybe it's coming from an idea from a police officer because they are more likely everyone below me is more likely to follow what I put out when they don't agree with it. If they know that their ideas are heard and some are actually implemented.
[00:06:22.420] - Renee Dominguez
So I am doing what I need to do for the organization, of doing what I need to do for the city and for the community. However, I hear you and I'm going to try to make your needs and wants and desires as much part of that plan as possible.
[00:06:33.910] - Steve Morreale
So I'm happy to hear that there are some probing questions that come to mind for me. And as The CopDoc Podcast is really looking at leadership and how do we become innovative? How do we meet our responsibilities? My question would be, Where did you learn to lead? And are you still learning?
[00:06:50.370] - Renee Dominguez
Always learning along the way. I've had good and bad supervisors, but there are certain ones that I took how I become a police officer. I had a Lieutenant when I was a walk and be in. She was extremely, extremely involved in the community, quote, drives Christmas drive. And that's how I learned how to be a successful district manager. We have ten districts in the city of New Haven, each head by either usually Lieutenant, but I was a district manager as a Sergeant and also a Lieutenant and learning hands on how to do certain things, especially with the community and the community policing aspect that's outside, maybe outside the box.
[00:07:22.090] - Renee Dominguez
But it wasn't for what we were doing in Newhallville. But then also each time I've moved locations or each time I've moved to Visions, finding who knows the most about what you're doing and picking their brain to be able to because you don't know everything. My best mentor was Chief Reyes. He selected me to be his assistant chief, and I honestly felt he saw whatever in me now that I could handle this role in whatever is next for me and groomed me and gave me the tools that I needed to be able to be successful.
[00:07:51.840] - Renee Dominguez
But obviously there's way more that I needed to learn that I couldn't learn in the short amount of time that I was with him. But he gave me the building block, and I think it's important to find those people who give you the building block, and sometimes it's changed the way you're leading like this isn't working, you know, knowing your strength and knowing your weaknesses. I know where I'm we and putting somebody who balances me out as one of my assistant chief.
[00:08:10.510] - Renee Dominguez
So one of the books that I use an awful lot and it sounds like I don't mean they'd be putting words in your mouth, but is leading with questions with Michael Marquardt. You may not be using this book, but the idea of leading for questions is pretty interesting. What's going on? What are we doing? How are we doing it? How can we do it better? Those kinds of things. My question for you as a leader yourself is how do you impact other leaders to follow or to adapt to the kinds of ways you prefer to engage others in the organization? In other words, you leave a meeting. You've got two assistant chiefs, maybe bring some captains in the district commanders if they're going out and yelling and screaming at people that's really countermanding or contradicting what I think you want. How do you begin to groom or suggest to others a different way as people did to you? A different way to lead, a different way to approach.
[00:08:57.490] - Renee Dominguez
I think some of it is seeing me doing so how I am getting down with the officers at line up and roll call and being involved with internally within the police Department. And I try to be as much as involved as I can. So that my style of how I want to run the police Department is seen firsthand and then others with different styles blend and mold and change. And you're not going to change everyone to be me, nor do I want that. But your question, my number two, when I was an assistant chief, was my complete opposite.
[00:09:25.930] - Renee Dominguez
He was gruff. He was old school, if you will. He was a legacy. So his father was here and he was just definitely rougher than I was and would have wanted. But it was about watching him and then critiquing him whether he wanted to hear it or not. But if I had to physically be there, so you have to be there. You have to be around because you can't just hear it. Someone complaining about one of your leaders. Well, you need to watch it because you're not able to give positive or negative feedback or even constructive criticism on how to do better if you're not watching it firsthand and being able to say, Well, I think you could have done it this way, and maybe it would have been better received.
[00:09:59.940] - Steve Morreale
That can start right down from field training officers, right? You're observing what's happening exactly. You're observing what happening and say afterward, you come back and I think reflection. And that's a big question for me. Do you do a lot of reflecting? How did I do today? How did we do today? How could we improve it? And who the hell? Rene. I see a little smart on your face. It's a smiley smart. I'm lucky enough to see you on video of oh, this is audio only, but what caused that reaction?
[00:10:22.240] - Renee Dominguez
My husband is a police officer. We went to the Academy together 21 years ago, and he's an officer control 21 years, and we debrief my days. And I also I have my work ex-husband because we fight enough that he would probably be my ex husband, my other Assistant Chief. And we do the same. But it's a daily basis, and it's a prep coming in. You just came off this community meeting and I got beat up a little bit, or I wish I answered it different and rewatching myself in news interviews, and my husband re-watches me.
[00:10:50.470] - Renee Dominguez
But it's a different perspective, right? Because he gives me the perspective of the officer and also as my husband. But he really tries to be what the officers here might not tell me, he will tell me, but every single day I'm like, what could I have done better? How can we move forward? What am I lacking on? What are we not realizing is important to the officers or is important to the community that we're missing and we could be doing it seems like a small thing, but it has a big impact.
[00:11:13.630] - Renee Dominguez
I do feel like I have a good team here, my command staff who are able to be honest and give me ideas and we work it as a team.
[00:11:22.170] - Steve Morreale
So, as you know, we met when I was doing training, I guess on your behalf, I had the opportunity to work with the University of New Haven, and I was able to speak to a good number of your field training officers, and I really was thoroughly impressed in terms of their mannerisms, their thoughts, their thought process and their concern for the community, which for a bigger city was surprising to me because I've been around. But I also know that when you're in that front office, there are those who think you are in the Ivory tower.
[00:11:48.700] - Steve Morreale
You are so far removed. You don't know what the Hell's going on yet. I hear you say that you're spending some time on the street and enroll calls to get personal feedback, which I think is very important. But how do you avoid jumping the chain of command?
[00:12:02.080] - Renee Dominguez
That's a great question, because I feel like if I do that or when I do that, it just completely implodes everything that we're installing into the officers, like, you can't just go to the chief. Right. So I think it has to be more of a here I am in front of you. I'm coming to deliver whatever message it is I'm coming to deliver if something happened, or sometimes I just go just to be there. Right? I really have nothing to say. But here I am. I know you guys are working 16 hours because we're so short, you're getting held over, and I'm here.
[00:12:28.740] - Renee Dominguez
I'm thanking you. But it's it is important to while I'm listening, and I'm taking advice. And my command step is taking advice that I'm not implementing anything that isn't coming from the captain of patrol or isn't coming from the ISU investigative Services commander, because then it seems all I'm trying to do is micromanage. And all I'm trying to do is that I don't trust you, whoever it is that I'm skipping to be able to make these decisions, we need to be able to be making them together.
[00:12:53.320] - Renee Dominguez
We meet weekly to make sure that we're having these conversations with the command, stop with the leaders, my captains and my system chief, and sometimes lieutenants, depending on where they are, so that everything that I want, they're hearing from me so that they can kind of push it out to the troops. Obviously, it's not always perfect, but we try.
[00:13:10.110] - Steve Morreale
Well, I understand. So what you're saying is, wherever possible, you're coming back to the table, you're telling people what they heard, you're getting their feedback, you're allowing them to have input before you would make a decision rather than making a unilateral decision.
[00:13:22.060] - Renee Dominguez
[00:13:22.530] - Steve Morreale
Okay. Let's talk about so many of the things that have gone on in this country and so many of the black eyes that have happened because of the stupid hit, the inappropriate behavior of other officers and other places, including in your own Department at times. But how do you use those as teachable moments? Let's talk about the elephant in the room, George Floyd and Minneapolis and all of the things that happened and having Yale in your backyard and BLM and all of those things tell me, walk me through what the Department began to do when they saw that, saw the reaction to that, and then tried to say, we still got the police through this noise, everybody.
[00:13:59.940] - Renee Dominguez
George Floyd, I think it was the weekend after, we the Police Department organized as many officers as we can get on voluntary basis. We stood in front of the police Department and we held signs that we don't support police brutality. We got out in front saying, we see this, and this is not what we've signed up for. I think it was a very hard decision to be made because we weren't fighting against the police officers. We were just saying, we the new human police Department that is not in line.
[00:14:29.010] - Renee Dominguez
Police brutality in any form is not in line with our values, nor that's how we police the community and the citizens of New Event. And we stood together and all the officers stood together because I don't think there's one officer that you were going to say, no, no, I would do that again. I think that was justified use of force. That is not going to be what we said. There are so many things that could have been different in that scenario that could have changed the course of that day, but weren't.
[00:14:50.950] - Renee Dominguez
So that is also where we learn and how we have to teach and what we have to do as an organization better. And yes, police accountability bill was the next thing to come off of that to be able to say, hey, listen, we know what's better for you by legislation and you have to do this. But as you were looking at this, the new Event police firm is doing already the majority that's in there. There are some things we had to change. Wording for use of force was a big one.
[00:15:13.810] - Renee Dominguez
It changed and is being implemented currently, but we already wear body cameras. We already had a duty to intervene, not a standable on policy. But it was already in our use of force policy. So there were many things that I and I will shoot our Horn here that we are have always been innovative, have always been trying to see what is that next step to try to get ahead of it instead of playing catch up earlier on.
[00:15:37.300] - Steve Morreale
You were talking about, in essence, the importance of relationships and by the walking beats and such. And by exposing young people who are now our new officers. And that's a challenge, the recruiting and retention, I would think, and also the way that people relate to computers and not with people all of the time. So how do you push that out? How do you build relationships? Here's a question, Renee. And by the way, we're talking to Chief Renee Domingez from the Haven Police Department. How do you measure that?
[00:16:06.780] - Steve Morreale
Because we don't we count beans. We don't count how many relationships we make, how many community meetings that we do. And it seems you're shaking your head. If you do now, I'm very proud of you. If you don't, I wonder why we shouldn't, because it seems to me that is a byproduct of policing the community.
[00:16:23.400] - Renee Dominguez
Yeah, I think it's in policing. We don't do a good job in measuring with, but we have to have somebody else come in and measure our successes. Police officers and an agency don't necessarily measure wealth. What I will say is, I'll give you an example. After George Floyd, we were the scene of many, many, many protests. We get about five thousand people on the front steps of the police Department. We had no arrest on any of our protests. We had the first protest was the most combative. It was the most angry.
[00:16:50.760] - Renee Dominguez
And I think we learned from that. And we changed our approach. Nobody came into our police Department and defaced it. No one broke windows, no one looted. And I think that that's a way of measuring our relationships. Our relationships are with the community are what allowed the community to grieve, to express their opinions in anger and emotions. We were there to keep people safe and to support in what our role was. But we didn't see what many police departments in the state and around the country saw following those protests.
[00:17:22.900] - Renee Dominguez
And I think that that's absolutely measurable of our community policing and the why behind it.
[00:17:27.100] - Steve Morreale
The question that I would ask is about training, and I mean training, how important training is to you, how important leadership development is how you do that, what's your idea, whether it's SMIP or the National Academy or some leadership experiences for your officers as they move up from Sergeant and beyond. What's your philosophy?
[00:17:46.720] - Renee Dominguez
So I think that's an area of improvement for us. And we've been working on in the past, I'd say five years, especially since I've been in this role and even as the assistant chief role. So we do. We send at least two a year to Sip. We haven't sent anyone to the National Academy in a while. So that's something that we have on the horizon. But they're so backed up because it's COVID. So we're on the waiting list, if you will, for spaces, but then also utilizing other trainings.
[00:18:10.180] - Renee Dominguez
There is the three-part FBI series for command executive level and then supervisory level. And we're doing all three series, hosting all three series here, the first one being next month because we ask these officers to become sergeants, and we give them a one day first line supervisor training sometimes. And then we expect them to go out there and to stop thinking like, like an officer, start thinking like a boss in in New Haven. If you're working at midnight shift, there's two supervisors and then a supervisor of them.
[00:18:36.700] - Renee Dominguez
So we're asking you to supervise way too many people, then is probably the books are telling us that we should have the ratio.
[00:18:44.440] - Steve Morreale
A span of control, right.
[00:18:45.460] - Steve Morreale
The span of control. There you go. And we're doing it sometimes without enough training. So we have sent our sergeants that our lieutenants definitely in the past five years. And with these new promotions that I just made to a week-long Command College, if you will, where we try to bring in not only policing but academics to try to just give them as much information as we can and prepare them as best as we can. Some of it obviously is on the job, right? You can.
[00:19:09.270] - Renee Dominguez
You can plan for a critical incident and you can do clinical incident management, and you can do all the role playing and the tabletop. But until you have two police officers shot on Elm Street, that's really testing. But we are looking at expanding how we're training and not just training for the role you're in training for your next role, for your next rank, because you need to your Sergeant. Well, you need to think like the captain, don't just think like the Lieutenant know where you're going.
[00:19:34.150] - Steve Morreale
I like that. And I think certainly we see that in the military, and we have not done a good job in policing to adopting some of those things. So anything you can do to step that forward can be very valuable and keep the talent inside create this secession planning within the Department. One of the things that we talked about during training that seemed to resonate with your officers was the DEA that they needed to change the mindset as a field training officer, this could be for sergeants, too, to have a coaching mindset, the mindset of coaching and having a positive mindset rather than a negative mindset.
[00:20:07.060] - Steve Morreale
Police can complain about anything, you know that. And certainly I've done my share of that. But in other words, somebody's got to have hope. And I think police officers, for the most part, do have hope. Even in the worst of times, you say I got to go out and do my job, the pillars of policing and officer wellness talk about that and what's going on in the Department and what you think has to happen in policing overall.
[00:20:27.930] - Renee Dominguez
Well, if this isn't my wheelhouse, not quite sure what is. I have been a member of our peer support and the coordinator. We've had a peer support team my entire career here, so 19 years. I don't know if it was before that. I'm sure it was. And over the years, we've taken more and more steps to be more than just a team that we have because you're supposed to have it. Our officers mental health is one of the key pieces of being able to do the job well, especially to be able to get through the tough times, because the easy times are not the times we need to worry about.
[00:20:58.450] - Renee Dominguez
We need to make sure that you're prepared for those tough times we instituted with the Union support backing up support that we had everyone had mandatory check in with EAP. We brought EAP in. You had to go for 30 minutes. We always did quarterly for our special victims, for our Bureau of Identification and a few in the Detective Bureau because the cases that they see can only see a dead baby so many times, you can only go to a sexual assault of a child so many times.
[00:21:24.280] - Renee Dominguez
And it not affect you. So we do those quarterly. But we said, why are we forgetting the officers who the other night in three days, we had three homicides the same officers were at those three homicides. If that doesn't affect you, I don't know what does. But we don't talk about that, and we don't deal with them. We say, oh, the Detective Bureau is being worse. No. So we instituted yearly checks. You don't have to talk, but you have to go. And I get no feedback because it's confidential.
[00:21:47.920] - Renee Dominguez
But I could tell you that our EAP provider says everybody comes in and everybody leaves feeling this was a positive thing. And I've got feedback from the officers. Thank you for remembering us. Some of them people are resistant, righ, you're always going to have that group, and you're not going to hang that group, but you offer it to them because you might get them at the right time. Right? We're thinking about out of the box things like a comfort dog. There's a couple in the state.
[00:22:09.750] - Renee Dominguez
I have a really fantastic Lieutenant who is in charge of our CIT, is in charge of our hostage and negotiation and is really embedded in officer wellness and not just mental health, but officer physical wellness and diet and a whole bunch of things that he has a lot of great ideas if he wants to report. And one of them is the comfort dog. So we're looking about funding, but it's for the community. It's for crazy traumatic events. Bring that comfort zone out. But it's for our officers as well.
[00:22:34.060] - Renee Dominguez
We just had a firefighter in New Haven who died in the line of duty like it's for that.
[00:22:37.750] - Steve Morreale
One of the things that strikes me. And I'm so happy to hear that there is this opportunity for people to vent and to talk about the things that they see and how it impacts them. And certainly I've seen my share of things in life, and nobody ever gave me that opportunity. I'm not sure if I'm still wounded by that, or I just cover it up really well. I mean, you know how we are, but you have to be resilient. Not all can be, but one thing that strikes me in.
[00:23:02.920] - Steve Morreale
The question I want to ask you is why you chose to take the staircase to management and leadership. So many people and your previous chief, DEA Esserman, used to say that so many people in America raise their hands as police officers to be sworn and they will retire at the same rank. You know that that's true of so many people. Probably 90% of police officers start as an officer and end as an officer. Not that that's a bad thing, but you chose to step up and take the chance.
[00:23:31.330] - Renee Dominguez
You know how comfortable it is. Look, you're a canine officer. What a great gig, right?
[00:23:35.410] - Renee Dominguez
[00:23:35.910] - Renee Dominguez
[00:23:36.550] - Steve Morreale
And then you say, no. I don't know. Maybe I want to do something else and have be responsible not only for me and my dog, but for other people. What the hell were you thinking?
[00:23:45.660] - Renee Dominguez
So I'm definitely a type A personality. I'm definitely a TakeCHARGE type of person. I did ten years as a patrol officer before I decided to take a Sergeant position because I wanted to make sure that the people that I were leading would be able to say, Well, she did the work, she knew it. So I do think that you get to a point in your life as a police officer where you feel it's time for something and that something could be. It could have been when K nine, it could be just going somewhere else.
[00:24:12.270] - Renee Dominguez
But for me, it was time, and I wanted to be a part of the change. And I wanted to be a part of progress and the police from. And I wanted to change the things that I didn't like. And I couldn't necessarily do that as well as I could if I started the staircase, if you will. So that's what kind of led me to take the Sergeant test. And it was for me at the time. We couldn't keep our dogs when you made Sergeant and almost held me back.
[00:24:36.510] - Steve Morreale
But because you didn't want to give up the dog.
[00:24:38.350] - Renee Dominguez
I didn't want to give up my dog. I ended up retiring him. I didn't want to retire him. He had a couple more years left. I definitely felt I could have worked him, but at the same time. But I am grateful that I've made that choice, because if I didn't make that choice, I wouldn't be here because I would have skipped the next in the next. In the next, it would have all been delayed. But, yeah, I knew that. Like you said, cops complain, right? And so I could be there and I can complain or can say, oh, this is a problem.
[00:25:00.520] - Renee Dominguez
How can we fix this? And you have a better voice as you move up because more people are listening. You have the right ears at the table. You're able to make some change happen.
[00:25:09.900] - Steve Morreale
What mistakes have you made as you look back that were valuable because you had to correct, and you had to understand what mistakes as a lead or had you made. Think about the first mistake you made as a Sergeant that you say, hey, that didn't go so well.
[00:25:23.770] - Renee Dominguez
I think some of it is that transition where you're learning how to lead and not be afraid, friend. I think that's a stumbling block for new Sergeant. I think it puts you back. It allows people to take advantage of you. And I think that initially I was navigating that. And if I even now have to say what my weakness would be, it's that confrontation. I obviously do it because I'm here. But still, that's the piece that I need to think about going into it and making sure that I don't fall on a motion of a person and being like, oh, I feel like that's where New sergeants, even with tennis father, like, old baby, is a nice person oh, but he's tired.
[00:26:03.420] - Renee Dominguez
Oh, she's this. And sometimes those are factors. But sometimes we have policies, procedures, rules, regulations for a reason. Discipline is the hardest thing to do, especially, in fact, not in your nature. If that's your weakness.
[00:26:15.180] - Steve Morreale
What keeps you grounded. How do you handle work life balance. And how do you drive that through the organization?
[00:26:20.640] - Renee Dominguez
A lot of Mom guilt, and you buy a lot of Christmas presents. No work life balance is difficult. And the higher you ascend through the ranks, you are expected to be everywhere and do everything. And the job comes first. I had kids late in life. I have a three year old and a six year old. Both are girls. I do this for them as much as I do it for my children. That are the 317 police officers beneath me because
[00:26:45.330] - Steve Morreale
Children in, quote, marks. I saw that children in quote marks, yes.
[00:26:47.800] - Renee Dominguez
Children are because they're my kids, right? They're my kids. Not that they do behave like children. Sometimes I can see were here. Mom is the chief, and to them they can't grasp. But mom is the chief of New Haven. Even it. But they can do whatever they want. And if that's not a reason to keep doing this, but to try to balance it, then I don't know what it is, but it is difficult. And you know what? And I talk about my husband often. She is the first one to say, Take a minute, go to the park, put the phone down, and you have to, because if there's a major catastrophe, yes, I'm here.
[00:27:18.460] - Renee Dominguez
I don't have to answer my emails when it dings on my phone. And you have to remember that. And I say that to a lot of the new moms and new dads here, especially. And I had one girl come into my office, DEA Lieutenant, and she just she's a Detective, and she had just gotten promoted and put into Homicide. And she's like, I don't want my daughter to miss me and to not know I'm here. How do you do it? And I said to her, her mother was an assistant chief of a big Department.
[00:27:42.910] - Renee Dominguez
I said, do you remember growing up that your mom was absent and she's like, no, my mom was always there. I said, I guarantee you she wasn't. But she made those moments important. And that's what we have to focus on. The moments have to be important because the job has to get done. We are expected to be here, especially we're doing more with less. But if you're not good in your personal life, you're not good at work and you have to take it to step back some time.
[00:28:04.110] - Steve Morreale
I run into that myself. Renee. And I want to remind everybody we're talking to Renee Dominguez, who is the chief of police in New Haven, Connecticut. But one of the books I'm reading, and I'm not always good at it is Setting Boundaries and figuring out. Okay. I know I have to do some work, and I know, but I have to find some time for this or for that, especially for kids, for my wife or things around the house because we can get sucked into so many things.
[00:28:25.900] - Steve Morreale
I've got to do this. That to me, is important. But I do want to ask, what books are you reading? What books do you read or where do you get information that helps you begin to think differently?
[00:28:35.800] - Renee Dominguez
I wish I can say I've read a book in the past eight months.
[00:28:39.160] - Steve Morreale
Yeah, you've got other things on your plate. Where do you get information?
[00:28:43.390] - Renee Dominguez
Yeah, no, I try to read as many of the things that come in the newsletters that come in from IACP, the newsletters that come in from her. All of the links that we get to different types of this is what's going on this country as part of the country, how to bring that to your Police Department. I tried to stay up to date on trends and what is going on in order to think ahead? Think this is something we didn't do? Are we doing this better and to bring it to the Police Department, one of my lieutenants gave me a leadership book that literally is still sitting there.
[00:29:14.740] - Speaker 2
Was that, wait a minute. A Lieutenant gave you a leadership book. Was that one of these things like,
[00:29:20.470] - Renee Dominguez
No, it was. I know you're overwhelmed. I know this is tough. We appreciate what you're doing for us. Think of it from a different way and take some time out. But I appreciate that, right? So in the past, you can do that to your chief. So I like that. I've thought of in a different way. However, I'm still able to lead the city in the police Department with just as much quality leadership as I think that we're doing here. And I think our morale is up. I think while our crime is also up, if we had elevated crime and morale, that was a dismal levels.
[00:29:54.000] - Renee Dominguez
That's a terrible combination.
[00:29:55.530] - Steve Morreale
Do you do a comp stat or something similar?
[00:29:57.340] - Renee Dominguez
We do that right now. We do it, Zoom, and we do it every other week.
[00:30:00.940] - Steve Morreale
And is that accusatory or is it more problem-oriented and solution-oriented?
[00:30:05.830] - Renee Dominguez
Yeah. It's a different concept than when Compstat began following the same. Everyone is accountable. The districts are accountable for reporting on the crime and giving solutions. But what we've utilized concept more for is for the public, for transparency. We invite the public to our Compstat. We invite all our partners to our concept in our district manager meetings and in our command staff meetings is kind of where we get to those. What are you doing? How could you do it better? But my style isn't accusatory.
[00:30:31.630] - Renee Dominguez
Sometimes there's frustration. Absolutely. But we try to do most of that internal work internal. So we're not embarrassing somebody because that doesn't work in my mind. That's not how I want it.
[00:30:42.760] - Steve Morreale
So a couple of things, we're winding down, but I want to ask a couple of questions and then one final question, what's your opinion? You said body cams. Talk about your opinion. Body cams. How has that changed policing?
[00:30:53.170] - Renee Dominguez
We've had body camera since 2017. I will tell you that there has never been a time all I wish we didn't have body camera on. The majority of DEA complaints are cleared for body cameras. Many times people come in to make a complaint. They're like, oh, well, we're going to watch the body camera and they'll withdraw. This was in the beginning before it.
[00:31:09.280] - Steve Morreale
You mean you have that on tape?
[00:31:10.990] - Renee Dominguez
[00:31:12.840] - Steve Morreale
[00:31:13.350] - Renee Dominguez
Yeah, but, I mean, it makes our officers better, right? You know, you're being videoed. That's definitely a piece of it. Think about how you speak to people, and it's a tool for training because we try to use it instead of pulling video from around the country, which sometimes we have to do. And sometime it's better because, again, you don't want to embarrass somebody from or making a mistake. But when you can watch yourself, even if it's as simple as how you spoke to somebody, that's corrective behavior.
[00:31:35.080] - Renee Dominguez
That's the best teaching tool. So I am a proponent of the body cameras. I think that they've been nothing but useful for us to obviously Cato fire a police officer in the past, in the recent past. And it was the body camera. If without that body camera wouldn't have known, however, we've cleared a lot of police officers who we wouldn't have been able to, and we've been able to show the community this is the why behind it. It's not that we're hiding something. It's not that.
[00:31:58.120] - Renee Dominguez
Well, of course they did. The police are doing the investigation.
[00:32:00.670] - Steve Morreale
So SROs, how do you feel about them? There's been this cry to say, Get them out of the school. Do you have them?
[00:32:06.040] - Renee Dominguez
[00:32:06.370] - Steve Morreale
And how important are they to you?
[00:32:08.260] - Renee Dominguez
So last year, maybe it's probably 18 months now. The assistant chief and the other is in chief that on a task force about SROs specifically in our new human schools. And while there was people who didn't want the SROs, the majority of the staff and the parents want SROs in our schools. So we have been forced to reduce the A number at one time. We probably had twelve SROs, but we also are a Department of A with 500. So we've decreased the number of rows right now to five, and we're hoping that we will be able to increase probably next year's school year.
[00:32:41.670] - Renee Dominguez
They're tremendously important. They're important for building relationships with the kids, and we have them in the high schools. But they do a lot of work in the middle schools and they'll respond or they'll do some talks at some elementary schools. So that's the number one reason to have the SROs because when you ask many police officers, why did you want to be a police officer? Their answer is, well, I had this SR and that's why they want to be a police officer because the SRO has impacted their lives more than they knew.
[00:33:04.230] - Renee Dominguez
But also the amount of intelligence that our SROs have when we have an incident and it involves the school age kids is something that we would lose. And we would be even further behind investigating and preventing crimes.
[00:33:14.790] - Steve Morreale
Well, it seems to me too. It's relationship building. It's relationship building with parents, with school officials, with custodians and coaches, and never mind the students. That's big.
[00:33:23.820] - Renee Dominguez
Yes, it's huge. It's invaluable.
[00:33:25.660] - Steve Morreale
Right. Thank you. 30 by 30. We talked about it a little bit here you are a woman in policing, a woman in position of power or authority in policing. And there is this movement to say we want to try to get by 2030, 30% women in policing. What's your sense of that?
[00:33:41.080] - Renee Dominguez
I think we're seeing that more and more now where women are coming into policing. And I think it's for reasons like seeing a female chief, New Haven and Bridgeport in Connecticut, two of the biggest, both acting female chiefs. I think where in the past it was seen as such a man's world, and it still obviously is dominated by men. But so many more women are becoming police officer. So many more women are rising through the ranks. It shows to other women, maybe be on the fence.
[00:34:07.650] - Renee Dominguez
No, there's a place for you here. And many times we do it better. It's just a different type of policing. And it has its police. And I was a police officer for 20 years and I was in a time when I was in Narcotics and I was told, oh, take the back. Right. You didn't want women to go in and I had to prove myself. And I'm not saying you don't have to prove yourself. Part of you absolutely do. That still mentality. However, if there's 30% of us, we're proving a lot less because we belong here and we should be here.
[00:34:35.110] - Renee Dominguez
And there's a place for us here and you could do the job just as good as any man.
[00:34:38.080] - Steve Morreale
Thank you for that. I think that's so important. And I grew up at a time where when I was an MP, the first women were allowed to be MP. So I lived through that. And when I came back towards policing and was going to get into policing, it was the first time that women were allowed in in the 70s as police officers, not matrons. And I saw the resistance and the reluctance and the pushback. And yet was the father girls. And having worked with a lot of women in my lifetime, both the DEA and in the police Department, I have to agree in support that we should have more women in policing who has been a believer in you inspired you that is either getting older or is no longer here, that you would love to sit down and catch their Sage advice.
[00:35:18.380] - Steve Morreale
Would that then what would you ask?
[00:35:19.900] - Renee Dominguez
I'm going to go personal. I would say my grandfather, who was deceased, he was a New Haven fireman. He's one of the other reasons why the pool for civil service. And he died when I was 16 years old. So I had no idea that this was going to actually be my path, right? Because you say a lot of things when you're younger and you don't do them. But just to say I wish that he was here going through a different error in being a fireman. What am I doing?
[00:35:45.910] - Renee Dominguez
Well, what should I I do differently. How would this align up to 50 years ago? Because there are things that we could learn from the time that he was in there because it was a different time. It was more of a people were together. There was more of camaraderie, there was more of Brotherhood and sisterhood, and there was more love for civil servants by the community. What could I do to bring some of the past to the present and to be able to effect change in a way that he saw during his life.
[00:36:12.110] - Renee Dominguez
But I think I just want more. I mean, he would give it to me like it is. And I wish that he could be watching my career and let me know because he would be one of the ones who said, you messed up here. You could have done this better. And this is how you improve. And he was just a wise man. Navy veteran, World War II. So I think he would have a lot of perspective.
[00:36:29.330] - Steve Morreale
Part of that greatest generation. So I am going to give you the last word we're talking to Renee Dominguez is and I very much value and thank you for your time and your input. I think it's very valuable, but I want to give you the opportunity to have the last words as it relates to people who are sitting on the fence, DEA and female about coming into this profession.
[00:36:49.520] - Renee Dominguez
This is the greatest profession you will ever be a part of. Not only are you able to serve a community in which you were, you have an extended family that you can't explain. You can't try to let others understand. It's an extension of your family. And if you are concerned about being a police officer because of the times that we are in, that's the reason to be a police officer. If you are concerned about being a police officer because you don't know if you would pack it, I promise you, you are the people who would make probably the best police officers, the ones who are open books, blank canvases, ready to learn, thinking that you're not adequate, knowing you have to train harder and learn harder and study more and read more join the police Department.
[00:37:30.860] - Renee Dominguez
You will not be disappointed. And it honestly is the best thing that I ever did. I have no regrets. I still love the job. If I didn't, I wouldn't be here.
[00:37:38.690] - Steve Morreale
It's a great way to end. Thank you. So this is Renee Dominguez, the interim chief for the New Haven, Connecticut Police Department. I appreciate you taking the time. Steve Morreale, I mean to you from Boston, Renee, in New Haven today. Another episode is in the books, so thank you very much for being here, Renee.
[00:37:54.400] - Renee Dominguez
Thank you for having me.
[00:37:55.310] - Steve Morreale
I appreciate it. Stay tuned for more episodes. Hi everybody, a few things before you leave first. Thanks for listening. I'm so gratified to see the downloads rising in the last few months, not only from the US but from across the globe. It's surprising and humbling to find students, colleagues, and practitioners listening. We have a growing number of listeners in Canada, Ireland, England, Northern Ireland, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Columbia. I appreciate your time and energy and welcome feedback. Please feel free to reach out to me by email at COPD Podcast at gmail.com.
[00:38:25.000] - Steve Morreale
Check out our website at COPD podcast. Com. Please take the time to share a podcast with your friend. If you find value in the discussions. We've had so many amazing guests in more to come who have shared their wisdom, their thoughts, their viewpoints, and their innovative ideas. Most importantly, a huge thank you to those of you who show up for work in policing every day, not knowing the kinds of calls that you'll be sent on are the kinds of situations you'll find yourself in. You risk your lives for people many of whom you don't know.
[00:38:51.560] - Steve Morreale
And for that we owe you a DEA of gratitude. A big thanks. Hope you stay safe, healthy, and look forward to hearing from you and hope you'll continue to listen to upcoming episodes of the Cop Dock Podcast.
[00:39:03.210] - Outro
Thanks for listening to the Cop Doc podcast with Dr. Steve Morreale. Steve is a retired law enforcement practitioner and manager turned academic and scholar from Worcester State University. Please tune into The CopDoc Podcast for regular episodes of interviews with thought leaders in policing.