The police chief of East Haven, Connecticut has stepped down after four of his officers were arrested and charged with violating the rights of Latino citizens.
According to The LA Times, federal authorities began investigating East Haven police in 2009 after local activists said that police had used its power to abuse Latinos. Last December, the Department of Justice released what it found, saying there was a pattern of discrimination at the police department during the period of Jan. 1, 2009, to Dec. 31, 2010.
According to the indictment, some of those patterns included the assault of individuals while they were handcuffed, unreasonable searches and seizures, and arresting and detaining without probable cause. One of the officers reportedly slapped a man handcuffed in his car, and another threw a man to the ground and kicked him while he was handcuffed.
The investigation also found 40% of all traffic stops by one officer involved Latinos. East Haven’s population of Latino drivers was about 8.3% at the time.
The indictment also accuses unnamed union leaders of trying to block misconduct investigations.
Chief Len Gallo’s resignation was announced last Monday at a news conference, with Mayor Joseph Maturo reportedly saying he was putting together a search committee to find a replacement.
But wait, it gets better.
Right after federal officials announced charges against the four officers, the same mayor was asked by reporters, “What are you doing for the Latino community today?” He replied, “I might have tacos when I go home. I’m not quite sure yet.”
The governor spoke up in outrage soon after.
“The comments by East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo are repugnant,” the governor said in a statement. “They represent either a horrible lack of judgment or worse, an underlying insensitivity to our Latino community that is unacceptable. Being tired is no excuse. He owes an apology to the community, and more importantly, he needs to show what he’s going to do to repair the damage he’s done. And he needs to do it today.”
Maturo later issued an apology on a radio program. “It was stupid, it was insensitive and I gave my detractors … a reason to make matters worse with a ‘gotcha’ and an insensitive and stupid answer to something I should have never said,” Maturo said. “Unfortunately, I let the stress of the situation get the best of me and inflamed what is already a serious and unfortunate situation.”
What do you think punishment will be for the officers? Should the mayor step down also? Can police officers be coerced into such behavior by colleagues and employees or is this a willful choice? Will we all just get along ever?