Man injured in police van
Man left partially paralyzed after injury in police custody
04:05 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

After Randy Cox suffered an injury in the back of a New Haven police van that left him partially paralyzed, officials in the Connecticut city have announced a series of reforms and police training requirements that include mandating the use of seatbelts in prisoner transport.

The announcement Thursday comes almost three weeks after Richard “Randy” Cox Jr., 36, suffered a serious injury to his neck and spine while in the custody of New Haven Police. The van came to a sudden stop and Cox, who was handcuffed and not in a seat belt, slid headfirst into the van’s interior wall.

Cox called for help, but the officer continued driving for more than 3 minutes before stopping to check on him.

Connecticut State Police are investigating the June 19 incident. Five New Haven police officers, including the van’s driver, were placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.

Connecticut State Police refused to comment on the status of the investigation when contacted by CNN on Thursday.

The reforms announced include eliminating the use of police vans for most prisoner transports and using marked police vehicles instead. Prisoners will now be required to be secured in any transport vehicle by the proper use of a seat belt.

At a joint news conference, the mayor and chief of police also said officers will now be required to immediately call for an ambulance if a prisoner requests or appears to need medical aid. The reforms also include a review of detention center policies, random checks of body cameras and department-wide training.

How Cox was injured

The city released six videos relating to Cox and his arrest, one of which shows Cox – unsecured on the van bench he was on – sliding forward and hitting his head. Mayor Justin Elicker previously said the van was not equipped with seatbelts.

The mayor has said New Haven Police arrested Cox on suspicion of illegally possessing a handgun and other accusations. Court documents obtained by CNN show Cox has been charged with “threatening in the first degree,” a felony, among other charges.

While a prisoner van transported Cox to a New Haven police detention facility, an officer who was driving “made a sudden stop to avoid a motor vehicle accident,” and Cox, in the back of the van, was injured.

Elicker said he and Chief of Police Karl Jacobson visited Cox in the hospital Wednesday, and during the visit, Cox struggled to say, “I can’t talk.”

“I think yesterday, seeing Mr. Cox in his condition, really brings home why it’s so important for us to take action to correct what happened,” Elicker said Thursday. “I’m a dad, I can’t imagine my children one day being able to walk and the next day potentially never being able to walk again.”

He added, “It’s just awful what happened to him. It’s just awful. My heart goes out to him and the family. His life is forever changed.”

Jacobson also said Cox had a hard time talking; he said Cox has paralysis and “is still struggling.”

“We’re committed to making sure this never happens again,” the chief said. “We’re committed and passionate about it.”

Seeing Cox in the hospital, Jacobson said, “was a very tough thing to see, but I think it’s important for us to see it because it’s our job to fix it and make sure it never happens again. And I’m never going to forget meeting him and him attempting to talk, and it was a very emotional thing.”

What happened to the officers

Some of the footage released by police shows several officers pulling Cox out of the van and putting him in a wheelchair. In the recordings, Cox repeatedly tells officers he cannot move and asks for help, but they keep telling him to sit up or move his legs or give him other directions.

Later, Cox is shown being dragged into a cell, where he is propped up against a bed. As an officer leaves, Cox falls onto the floor and ends up lying on his back.

The videos are from officers’ body-worn cameras and a camera that is inside the rear of the police van.

The officers placed on leave include the van’s driver, three officers at the detention facility and the facility’s supervisor, Elicker wrote in a letter shared with New Haven residents on his Twitter account last month. They are also the subject of a department internal affairs probe, he said.

“As the chief, I want my officers to know, yes, you can make mistakes, but you can’t treat people inhumanely,” Jacobson said Thursday.

The new reforms also require officers to complete training on the prisoner transport initiatives within the next two weeks and then be tested on the procedures.

The mayor said, “I want to reiterate that what happened to Mr. Cox was unacceptable, and we’re committed to making these necessary changes. We’re deeply committed to making these necessary changes for the city of New Haven, for the family, and for the integrity of the police department.”

He added, “We promised quick and decisive action and accountability and today’s new initiatives and reforms are important step in fulfilling that commitment.”

CNN’s Jennifer Henderson, Amy Simonson, Steve Almasy and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.