Thursday’s announcement comes nearly three weeks after Richard “Randy” Cox Jr., 36, suffered serious neck and spinal injuries while in the custody of New Haven police. The van came to an abrupt stop and Cox, who was handcuffed and unattached to the seat belt, slid headfirst against the inside wall of the van.
Cox called for help, but the officer continued driving for over 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 driver, have been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.
Connecticut State Police declined to comment on the status of the investigation when contacted by CNN on Thursday.
Announced reforms include eliminating the use of police vans for most prisoner transport and using marked police vehicles instead. Prisoners will now need to be restrained in any transport vehicle using a seat belt correctly.
At a joint press conference, the mayor and police chief also said officers would now be required to call an ambulance immediately if a prisoner requests or appears to need medical assistance. The reforms also include a review of detention center policies, random body camera checks and department-wide training.
How Cox was hurt
The city released six videos relating to Cox and his arrest, one of which shows Cox – unsecured on the bench of the pickup truck he was riding on – sliding forward and hitting his head. Mayor Justin Elicker previously said the van was not equipped with seat belts.
The mayor said New Haven police arrested Cox on suspicion of illegal possession of a handgun and other charges. Court documents obtained by CNN show Cox was charged with “first degree threat,” a felony, among other charges.
As a prisoner van was transporting Cox to a New Haven police detention facility, an officer driving “made a sudden stop to avoid a car accident”, and Cox, in the back of the van, was injured.
Elicker said he and Police Chief Karl Jacobson visited Cox in the hospital on Wednesday, and during the visit Cox struggled to say, “I can’t talk.”
“I think yesterday seeing Mr. Cox in his condition made it clear 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 being able to walk one day and the next day they can never walk again.”
He added: “It’s just awful what happened to him. It’s just awful. My heart goes out to him and his family. His life has changed forever.”
Jacobson also said that Cox had difficulty speaking; he said Cox was paralyzed and “still struggling”.
“We are committed to ensuring this never happens again,” the chef said. “We are committed and passionate.”
Seeing Cox in the hospital, Jacobson said, “was a very difficult thing to see, but I think it’s important for us to see him because it’s our job to fix him and make it happen. never happen again. And I’m never going to forget meeting him and him trying to talk, and that was a very emotional thing.”
What happened to the officers
Some of the footage released by police shows multiple officers pulling Cox out of the van and putting him in a wheelchair. In the tapes, Cox repeatedly tells officers he can’t move and asks for help, but they keep telling him to sit down or move his legs or give him other directions.
Later, Cox is shown being dragged into a cell, where he is leaning against a bed. As an officer leaves, Cox falls to the ground and ends up lying on his back.
The videos come from the officers’ body-worn cameras and from a camera that sits in the back of the police van.
“As 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 undergo training on prisoner transport initiatives within the next two weeks and then be tested on procedures.
The mayor said: “I want to reiterate that what happened to Mr. Cox was unacceptable, and we are committed to making these necessary changes. We are deeply committed to making these necessary changes for the city of New Haven, for the family, and for the integrity of the police service.”
He added: “We have pledged swift and decisive action and accountability and today’s new initiatives and reforms are an important step in delivering on that commitment.”
CNN’s Jennifer Henderson, Amy Simonson, Steve Almasy and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.