Amanda Raus, Chris Podosek
The town of East Haven and the U.S. Department of Justice have reached a proposed agreement to resolve the DOJ investigation into the police department, which was accused of violating the civil rights of Latinos.
The town of East Haven and the federal government have reached a proposed agreement to resolve the U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the police department, which was accused of violating the civil rights of Latinos.
In September 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice began investigating allegations that the East Haven Police Department engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful discrimination against Latinos because of their race, color or national origin.
In December 2011, the federal department completed its investigation and issued a letter finding reasonable cause to believe that police department engaged in unlawful discrimination against Latinos and other misconduct.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the proposed agreement resolves allegations that police used of excessive force, made unconstitutional searches and seizures and retaliated against people who witnessed police misconduct or criticized East Haven police practices.
In a letter of intent, Joseph Maturo Jr. outlined a schedule to obtain necessary approvals from other town officials to enter into a binding agreement that will lead to broad institutional changes in police policies and practices. You can see the schedule here.
"Entering into this agreement with the Department of Justice, and avoiding costly, prolonged, and protracted litigation, is in the best interests of the Town and the taxpayers," Maturo said in a statement. " While the cost to implement the provisions of the agreement is expected to be significant, this agreement represents another step toward turning yesterday’s challenges into tomorrow’s opportunities.”
Once fully executed by the town, the proposed agreement will be filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut for approval.
“We are pleased that Mayor Maturo has made a clear commitment to rebuild the East Haven Police Department by agreeing to enter into a court-enforceable agreement that will result in constitutional and effective policing for all persons who live, work and travel in East Haven,” Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division said in a news release.
“There is no place for invidious discrimination by law enforcement officers, and today’s commitment from the mayor signals a new day for the East Haven Police Department,” David Fein, the U.S. Attorney for the District Connecticut said in a statement. “Once the proposed agreement is in place, the men and women who courageously serve on the police department will get the support they need to carry out their duties in a lawful and respectful manner, while ensuring strong public safety for the people of East Haven.”
The proposed agreement highlights seven areas:
Biased-free policing, including measures on mandatory training, collection and analysis of data on police encounters, development of a meaningful language access plan, notification to consulates when foreign nationals are detained and steps to promote biased-free policing in EHPD’s hiring, promotion and performance assessment processes;
Use of force, including the development of current policies on use of force and measures that provide for comprehensive training, consistent force reporting and thorough force reviews and investigations by supervisors and the internal affairs officer;
Searches and seizures, including the development of up-to-date policies and measures on applying for search warrants, documenting consent searches, notifying supervisors of felony arrests and other “contempt-of-cop” situations, inspecting detainees for injuries, and preserving individuals’ First Amendment rights to observe and record police activity;
Policies and training, including measures to ensure that officers and supervisors have sufficient guidance to carry out their law enforcement responsibilities in a lawful, effective and ethical manner;
Civilian complaints, internal investigations and discipline, including measures to ensure that all allegations of officer misconduct are received and thoroughly investigated and that officers who engage in misconduct are held accountable by a disciplinary system that is fair and consistent;
Supervision and management, including steps that provide for close and effective supervision to assist officers in carrying out their duties in lawful manner and systems that allow supervisors to identify, correct and prevent misconduct; and
Community engagement and oversight, including measures to create robust partnerships with all segments of the East Haven community, disseminate public information on reforms and policing activities, and solicit feedback on the relationship between EHPD and the community.
The full text of the 2011 Findings Letter, the Letter of Intent and the proposed settlement agreement are posted online.
The announcement comes the same day that one of the officers, Jason Zullo, pleaded guilty in connection with his arrest in January.
According to federal prosecutors, Zullo rammed his police cruiser into a couple on a motorcycle and then struck one of the injured riders. In court Tuesday, Zullo admitted to leaving the incident in which his cruiser hit the motorcycle out of his police report. He could face up to two years in prison.
"Mr. Zullo is the father of two very young children. Although I think we could have beaten this case and wish that he had tried it, his view is that if he's got to do a little bit of time, given the children's age, he's home before they've missed him," said Norm Pattis, Zullo's attorney.
The Department of Justice has agreed to withhold civil action until Nov. 15 so the mayor can receive necessary approvals.