New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson, wearing a white uniform with a black tie, is seen standing a podium with two of his colleagues watching from behind.
New Haven Police Chief Karl Jacobson announces his decision to recommend the firings of four officers accused of negligence in an incident that left Randy Cox paralyzed. Jaden Edison / CT Mirror

One year after Richard ​“Randy” Cox suffered paralyzing injuries while in police custody, city police commissioners voted to fire two of the officers involved in the arrestee’s mishandling — with plans in place to vote on firing two more officers later this month.

That was the upshot of Wednesday night’s special meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners, which took place online via Zoom.

With 65 people in attendance, the commissioners voted to fire Officer Jocelyn Lavandier and Officer Luis Rivera for their roles in the June 19, 2022, incident that left Cox paralyzed from the shoulders down.

[RELATED: Randy Cox was paralyzed in a New Haven police van. Here’s a timeline of the aftermath.]

In each vote on Wednesday, four commissioners voted yes and two abstained.

The abstentions likely stemmed from not every commissioner being present at previous executive session board meetings where Police Chief Karl Jacobson made his case for why these officers should be fired, Commission Chair Evelise Ribeiro and fellow Commissioner Mike Lawlor explained on Wednesday at the end of the 10-minute public meeting.

“For the record, we did have hearings earlier on the two officers, and not every member was present, and they may have chosen to abstain this evening” for that reason, Ribeiro said.

The commissioners also voted to table taking any action on the chief’s recommendations to fire two more officers involved in Cox’s mishandling, Sgt. Betsy Segui and Officer Oscar Diaz, until June 28, because those officers’ lawyer was not able to be present at Wednesday’s meeting.

The termination votes took place as criminal cases against Rivera, Lavandier, Segui, Diaz, and the now-retired ex-city police officer Ronald Pressley continue to make their way through state court.

Each has been arrested and charged with one misdemeanor count of second-degree reckless endangerment and one misdemeanor count of​“cruelty to persons” for their roles in Cox’s mishandling. All five arrested cops have pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Click here to read a previous article about why Jacobson moved to fire Segui, Diaz, Lavandier, and Rivera from their jobs with the New Haven Police Department after an Internal Affairs investigation found that all of the involved officers violated a number of department general orders, including rules of conduct that require city cops to be law abiding and work with integrity, trustworthiness, courtesy, and respect.

Click here to read how these officers defended their actions in interviews with IA, including by claiming they thought Cox was drunk, intentionally noncompliant, or otherwise faking his injuries.

“What happened to Randy Cox was unacceptable and the Board of Police Commissioners’ vote to accept Chief Jacobson’s recommendations to terminate these officers was the right one,” Mayor Justin Elicker said in an email statement sent out after Wednesday’s vote.

“When an individual enters the custody of the New Haven Police Department, there is an obligation to treat them with dignity and respect and in a manner that ensures their safety and well-being. In my judgement, the actions of these officers fell far short of that obligation, and they do not reflect the high standards to which I know our police officers hold themselves to everyday as they put their lives on the line to protect and serve our residents and keep our community safe.”

Asked for comment after Wednesday’s vote, Stephen McEleney, an attorney representing both Rivera and Lavandier in the police commission termination proceedings, wrote by email, ​“Elm City Local intends to have these terminations decided by an independent arbitrator rather than encourage further pillorying of these dedicated officers in the media.”

This story was first published June 7, 2023 by New Haven Independent.