Update at 1 a.m. Tuesday
Leaders from St. Rose of Lima Church in Fair Haven, who against the East Haven Police Deparrtment, stating that the U.S. Department of Justice's findings supports their allegations of racial profiling and police brutality against Latinos by the East Haven Police Department.
“Two years ago this month, our congregation and others in the community joined together in a vigil recognizing the start of this investigation,” said Father James Manship, a priest at St. Rose of Lima Church. “The Department of Justice’s announcement today vindicates the complaints of racial profiling by Latinos that have devastated our community for years.”
Angel Fernandez, a leader of the St. Rose Pastoral Council, stated: “Neither the Town of East Haven nor the East Haven Police Department has been willing to take any serious steps to curb anti-Latino abuse and harassment. Only a zero-tolerance policy toward harassment of Latinos and an end the intimidation of police officers and community members will address the community’s concerns.”
Update at 7:30 p.m.
East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo had some strong words following this afternoon's U.S. Department of Justice's press conference announcing that it had found the East Haven Police Department had engaged in discrimination against Latinos.
"I'm kind of upset," Maturo told East Haven Patch earlier this evening.
The mayor, who did not attend the Justice Department's press conference in New Haven this afternoon, said he felt the federal agency's report was "slanderous to our community" and "slanderous to our police department."
Maturo said he felt the department's findings did not include specifics regarding when and where the incidents of discrimination occurred, as well as "who they happened to and the officers involved."
"It just gave these broad statements (about things) that I'm not sure exist in our police department," he said of the report.
In addition, Maturo criticized the Justice Department for how the federal agency notified his office of today's press conference.
The mayor said his office did not receive official notification about today's 1 p.m. conference in New Haven until shortly after 12 p.m. this afternoon.
The Justice Department sent out a press release to local news media outlets alerting them of today's press conference just after 10:30 a.m. this morning.
"It seems very political to me," Maturo said, adding that members of the town's previous administration — including former Deputy Director of Town Affairs Paul Hongo — were in attendance at today's press conference. (See video of Hongo's comments following today's press conference in the gallery that accompanies this article).
Maturo, however, said he did receive a briefing from Justice Department officials regarding their findings via telephone later this afternoon following the press conference.
And the mayor added that he is ready to work with federal officials to help improve the town's police department.
"I'm ready to help work to make our good police department a better police department," he said.
Original Article (Posted at 3:30 p.m.)
The has "engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against Latinos in violation of the Constitution and federal law," according to the results of a two-year U.S. Department of Justice civil investigation.
"The residents of East Haven should not have to choose between effective crime-fighting and constitutional policing," U.S Attorney David Fein said at in New Haven that announced the investigation's findings. "By addressing the serious deficiencies we've uncovered, EHPD will not only ensure constitutional policing, but will also give the men and women of the EHPD the support they need to combat crime effectively."
A dispatcher with said that would not yet be making a public statement regarding the Justice Department's findings.
Calls placed a short time ago to East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo and President Sgt. John Miller were not immediately returned. A Justice Department official said at today's press conference they would be meeting with Maturo and other town officials regarding their findings this afternoon.
Launched in September 2009, the investigation was conducted under provisions of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 and the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Specifically, the Justice Department reported that its investigation found the East Haven Police Department targets Latinos for traffic enforcement and treats Latino drives more harshly after traffic stops in violation of the 14th Ammendment, Title VI and the Safe Streets Act.
The federal investigators further stated that they found the East Have Police Department "willfully enabled discrimination by failing to put in place basic law enforcement practices and procedures used by law enforcement agencies across the country to prevent discrimination."
The Department of Justice stated their findings are based upon:
- a statistical analysis demonstrating that Latino drives are disproportionally targeted for traffic stops;
- an analysis of traffic stops showing that officers used non-standard and, in some cases, unacceptable, justifications for stops that are not employed against non-Latino drives, and post-stop treatment that shows EHPD treating Latino drivers more punitively than non-Latino drivers;
- serious incidents of abuse of authority and retaliation against individuals who criticized and complain of EHPD's discriminatory treatment of Latinos; and failure to remedy a history of discrimination and a deliberate indifference to the rights of minorities, including EHPD's failure to guide, train, supervise and discipline officers engaged in unlawful discrimination
The Justice Department also found a number of serious deficiencies in EHPD's management, oversight and accountability systems that have enabled a discriminatory policing.
The federal officials said these deficiencies include:
- a failure to collect and report traffic stop data in accordance with state racial profiling laws;
- a failure to implement policies prohibiting discrimination;
- a failure to hold officers accountable through internal investigations;
- a failure to provide limited English proficient Latinos with appropriate language access;
- and a failure to abide by individuals' consular rights.
In addition — although officials stated they were not making formal findings — the justice department also noted two areas of "serious concern" regarding allegations of use of excessive force and unconstitutional search and seizures.
"These findings dhow that the East Haven Police Department systematically violated the constitutional rights of people it is supposed to serve and protect. By failing to have in place the most basic systems designed to protect individuals form unlawful discrimination, EHPD has fallen short of its obligations," Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, said. "The recommendations we make will put the police department on path toward correcting the serious deficiencies that have long played the department and regaining the communities trust."
The justice department's independent investigation was conducted by department attorneys, investigators and police executives and other experts who interviewed EHPD offices and resident in East Haven.
The investigation also involved an "exhaustive review of documents and data, including EHPD policies and procedures, incident reports and traffic stop activity.
This civil investigation was separate from any ongoing criminal investigations into the East Haven Police, justice department official said.
They added that federal law permits the attorney general to initiate a civil action in the name of the United States against the town of East Haven, East Haven Police Department and its officials "to remedy the pattern or proactive of misconduct and ensure compliance with the Constitution and federal law."
Justice department officials reported that they will work with East Haven officials to obtain their voluntary compliance through a court-enforceable agreement that will lead to sustainable reforms.
"Should the EHPD and East Haven choose not to cooperate in reach an agreed-upon remedy, the department may seek relief unilaterally from the federal courts," the justice department officials reported.
The civil investigation was conducted the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division in coordination with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Connecticut and with the assistance of expert police consultants.
Starting tomorrow, members of the community who may wish to provide information to the justice department in furtherance of the investigation can call 1-855-202-1830 or email Community.EHPD@usdoj.gov.
The Justice Department's full findings letter is included in the gallery that accompanies this article. The department also has a section of its website related to the East Haven Police Department investigation, where the document can also be obtained.
East Haven Patch will provide updates to this story with additional comments, reaction and video from this afternoon's announcement of the Justice Department's findings.