Three East Haven police officers and one sergeant were arrested by the FBI on Tuesday, in Connecticut, on suspicion of racial profiling. They are being accused of mistreating Latino suspects and residents while on patrol, law-enforcement officials told the media.
They were all taken into custody early Tuesday and placed on paid administrative leave. Officials said the officers and the sergeant will be arraigned in federal court in Bridgeport on the civil rights-related charges. The arrests brings to an end the ongoing investigation into racial profiling in the town. Threats, assaults, false arrests and cover-ups of evidence were allegedly involved.
They behaved like bullies with badges, said Janice Fedarcyk, assistant FBI director in New York.
The defendants could not be reached for comment and the East Haven Police Department referred press inquiries to the Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr.'s office.
It's unfortunate that it had to come to arrests, said Maturo Jr., who defended that his office stands behind the East Haven Police Department.
They're innocent until proven guilty, he said.
But, after being prodded by CNN affiliate WPIX as to what he plans to do to help the Latino community, Maturo responded: I might have tacos when I go home, I'm not quite sure yet.
Sgt. John Miller and officers David Cari, Dennis Spaulding and Jason Zullo were arrested Tuesday for reportedly conspiring to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate various members of the East Haven community, profiling residents during traffic stops, performing illegal searches and harassing Latino business owners and their advocates, according to the official indictment obtained by CNN.
On one occasion in 2009, Spaulding and Zullo allegedly assaulted two Latino individuals they arrested under false pretenses by allegedly slamming their heads into the station's cinderblock wall.
On another occasion, Miller allegedly struck a handcuffed detainee while he was being propped up by two other patrol officers, according to the indictment.
The Department of Justice released a scathing report of East Haven's discriminatory policing against Latinos, based on an investigation that began in September 2008.
In a letter to Maturo, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas J. Perez wrote that the practice was deeply rooted in the department's culture. He cited evidence of how Latinos in the community were intentionally targeted.
Maturo said that he does not believe such allegations are accurate.
We have an open community here, he said.
In a news release, the mayor said: The Town of East Haven is prepared to do all that is necessary to address the consequences of this morning's grand jury indictment. While the Town has several factors to consider, the most important priority is ensuring the continued protection of our Town's residents. To that end, I met with several shifts of officers at our Police Department this morning to ensure that police service to our Town would not be interrupted today and moving forward.
According to the 2010 Census, East Haven has a population of approximately 20,000 people, with 10.3 percent identifying themselves as Hispanic or Latino. The majority of the town's population, at 88.5 percent, is white.