NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)-- Some of the candidates for mayor of New Haven went head to head on the issue of crime and the people who fight it. The police officers union held a forum to help them decide which candidate they will back.
"People want jobs, people want safe streets and people want schools that teach," said Sundiata Keitzulu.
In front of a room packed with members of the New Haven Police Union, Local 530, mayoral candidates faced off. Union leaders held the debate after they felt the need to be more active in the decision making process.
"We do read the papers and we do watch the televisions and it's become political. So we felt, we might as well get involved a little bit more than we have been," said Louis Cavaliere, Union President Local.
The goal of the debate is to decide which candidate has the best interest of the people and the police force at heart.
For an hour, candidates spoke about why they should receive the union's support.
"It's important, that when we run for office, A. that we tell the truth. And B., that we stand up for our children and for our neighborhoods," said Henry Fernandez.
And tackled issues like what to do about rising pension costs and the importance of community based policing.
"If you asked me how I define community based policing, it's the best way to rebuild trust between our police department and our communities," said Justin Elicker.
"I think that we've got to redevelop our block watches. We've got to reinvigorate our management team so that they feel like when they make a decision, it's listened to," said Toni Harp.
In a city plagued by crime, union members say endorsing a candidate will show they're committed to the people they serve and protect each day.
"We want to make New Haven have a strong police force. We want to make it safe. We want the community to have good feeling about the police department," said Craig Miller, Vice President Local.
In the end, organizers said the first ever union sponsored debate was a success.
"The turnout was great. I'm very impressed," said Miller. "I think a lot of questions were answered. A lot of people came out. And it was very nice to see everybody."
Union leaders say they'll take some time to discuss the candidates and results of Monday night's debate with members. Then they'll bring it to a vote.
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