East Haven Police Accused of Racial Profiling

The East Haven Police Department has been under scrutiny for months amid allegations some officers mistreat Hispanics.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC Connecticut

    The FBI arrested three police officers and one sergeant in East Haven accused of mistreating Hispanic suspects and residents while on patrol, law-enforcement officials said. 

    Three East Haven police officers and the sergeant were taken into custody early Tuesday and are on paid administrative leave. They are expected to be arraigned in federal court in Bridgeport on the civil rights-related charges, law enforcement officials said.

    An indictment charges Dennis Spaulding, David Cari, Jason Zullo and Sgt. John Miller with conspiracy against rights, deprivation of rights and obstruction.

    "They behaved like bullies with badges," said Janice Fedarcyk, Asst. Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the FBI.

    Authorities detailed more than 30 overt acts of the four officers violating the civil rights of Hispanics in East Haven, according to U.S. Attorney David Fein.

    "At its core, this is an abuse of power case," said Thomas Perez, Assistant U.S. Attorney General.

    The indictment says that some of the officers routinely kept patrol cars in front of Latino-owned businesses and stopped Latino customers who were entering or leaving the businesses, towed their cars and arrested or detained them.

    The arrests of the law-enforcement officials come weeks after the Justice Department issued a report saying some members of the department intentionally targeted Latinos for enforcement and traffic stops, and that there may have been efforts to cover up the alleged misconduct. 

    The Justice Department also found "serious deficiencies" in how the department is managed, officials told NBC New York.

    Rev. James Manship is among those who worked to document what he said was harassment of Latino businesses by police for no apparent reason. Manship was arrested and locked up while videotaping one arrest. He was later released. 

    The former chief of the East Haven Police has denied his department systematically engaged in any wrongdoing. But he acknowledged certain members of the department were being investigated.

    The New York FBI joined in the investigation to avoid any appearance of a conflict by the FBI in Connecticut, which works closely with local police departments.

    There was no immediate comment from an East Haven police department spokesperson either.

    East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. said he stands by the police department and the officers and sergeant who were arrested.

    "People of East Haven stand by this department," Maturo said.

    Gov. Dan Malloy commented on the allegations of racial profiling last week saying, "As governor, I will continue to insist that every effort is taken to protect individual rights in every community and that racial profiling is eliminated.”

    Some residents and civil rights groups have held vigils and rallies to protest the alleged police misconduct. Previous news reports suggested as many as 15 officers were under scrutiny for alleged misconduct.

    The union representing the four officers offered support after the arrests.

    "We stand in solidarity today with our brothers and sisters of the East Haven Police Department, and the entire Connecticut police community," said Jeff Machett, Executive Director of Council 15, AFSCME.  "Today the government has expressed doubt upon their integrity, but we believe in their hard work and their dedication to the police force and the people of East Haven, and we place our faith in the justice system that they will each be exonerated when all of the evidence is heard."