by Jeremy Leaming
East Haven, Conn., Mayor Joseph Maturo, perhaps not surprisingly, is displaying staunch support for the city’s police department after the U.S. Department of Justice lodged criminal charges against several of its officers for misconduct aimed at the city’s Latino community.
As The New York Times reported this morning, federal authorities, after lengthy investigations, have accused a group of East Haven police officers of targeting the Latino community. “They stopped and detained people, particularly immigrants, without reason, federal prosecutors said, sometimes slapping, hitting or kicking them when they were handcuffed, and once smashing a man’s head into a wall,” the newspaper reports. “They followed and arrested residents, including a local priest who tried to document their behavior.” The FBI arrested four East Haven officers yesterday, The Times reports, “on charges of conspiracy, false arrests, excessive force and obstruction of justice over what the indictment described as years of mistreatment of individuals, especially Hispanics, and efforts to cover it up.”
Maturo (pictured) told The Times that it was “a sickening feeling to have your officers arrested, but nevertheless they’re innocent until proven guilty.” He added that he has “confidence” in the entire Department.
The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division following an investigation of the East Haven Police Department (EHPD) issued a report concluding that it engaged in discrimination against the Latino community, and failed to take action to stop the misconduct.
The EHPD “engages in a pattern of systematically discriminating against Latinos by targeting Latinos for discriminatory traffic enforcement, treating Latino drivers more harshly than non-Latino drivers after a traffic stop and intentionally failing to design and implement internal systems of control that would identify, track and prevent such misconduct,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said in press statement. “We found that the pattern of practice and unlawful conduct was deeply rooted in the Department’s culture.”