People were stunned when they heard that East Haven, Connecticut Mayor Joseph Maturo said he “might have tacos” in response to a question about what he was going to do to reach out to the Latino community in light of a federal probe of four of his city’s police officers.
But to people familiar with East Haven, it sadly came as no surprise to hear the now infamous remarks Maturo made in expressing his solidarity with the indicted police officers. These incendiary remarks highlight the city’s tragic and bigoted history of its treatment towards minorities.
East Haven has a dark history of institutionalized racism that has manifested itself in the form of racial discrimination and profiling by the local police department and city officials.
In 1997, East Haven police shot and killed Malik Jones, an African-American, during a high-speed car chase. No criminal charges were filed by the state or federal government. As a result, Jones’s mother, Emma Jones, took the officer responsible and the city of East Haven to court, accusing them both of violating Malik Jones’s civil rights. After years of litigation, Ms. Jones was awarded $900,000 in compensatory damages in 2010.
East Haven police were once more in the headlines in 2009 after arresting Reverend Joseph Manship, who was arrested for videotaping police officers in an attempt to capture evidence of discrimination towards Hispanics. His arrest prompted a study by Yale University law students and statisticians that examined traffic tickets issued between June 2008 through February 2009. The students concluded that nearly 60% of the tickets were issued to Hispanics. The East Haven Hispanic community is less than 6% of the population. The Department of Justice became aware of the troubling incidents and launched an investigation of its own. The Department’s report concluded similar findings of disproportional traffic violations issued to Hispanic drivers.
As a result of the Justice Department’s investigation, the FBI recently arrested 4 East Haven officers on allegations of abuse and excessive force. According to the indictment, Officers Dennis Spaulding, David Cari , Jason Zullo and Sgt. John Miller assaulted already handcuffed individuals and harassed, intimidated and unlawfully searched Hispanic business owners.
“We basically have a very good police department,” Maturo told the New Haven Register when asked about the federal indictments. “I stand by our police department from top to bottom.”
Let’s hope East Haven’s dark history of racial insensitivity doesn’t repeat itself again.
Photo courtesy of the New Haven Independent.