© 2023 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

East Haven Police Fulfill Terms Of Consent Decree For Anti-Latino Bias

Natalie Cioffari
East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo announces that the terms of the consent decree between the town's police and the U.S. Department of Justice have been met.

A reform agreement has come to an end between the U.S. Department of Justice and the Town of East Haven, Connecticut.

In 2011, the Justice Department found the town’s police had systematically discriminated against Latinos.

That Justice Department investigation was prompted by reports that East Haven police harassed Latino residents in shops, racially profiled them and used excessive force. The investigation began after police arrested a priest named Father James Manship for videotaping officers.

“It was completely out of control, no supervision. A leadership that just allowed the department to do its corrosive culture.”

Two officers were convicted and two others pled guilty in a civil rights probe in 2012.

Since then, the Justice Department has monitored East Haven police to make sure they comply with federal standards.

Father Manship says he’s seen a major change after the intervention.

“If you were to go stop into the stores along Main Street, the Latino restaurants and bodegas, you’ll find the police stop in and connect with the people developing those relationships with the whole community.”

Over the last five years, the chief and about half the department have been replaced. Police use body cameras and they prioritize hiring officers who speak Spanish. New Chief Ed Lennon says the department has learned how to police itself.

“Our officers are some of the best trained, both locally and nationally, and we take complaints about our own very seriously. We have made great strides in bridging the gap with all members of our community, and we hold officers accountable for their conduct.”

Lieutenant David Emerman was hired to help with community outreach. He says police now spend a lot more time with the Latino community.

“The officers get out and talk more, they get out, walk and talk, they get out, stop in the businesses, and have improved in that relationship as well.”

Loretta Lynch was President Obama’s attorney general and oversaw the consent decree. In a 2015 visit to East Haven, she said the town’s police department should be held up for the rest of the country as an example of good policing.

“This could have been a situation where the police just sort of checked a box and did what they did to show the Department of Justice they were complying. But if the people who really felt victimized don’t see a difference, then we would not view it as a success.”

East Haven says it's the only jurisdiction in the country to have met every requirement of a Justice Department consent decree on time and under budget. 

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.