African American police officers working in New Haven are outraged about a series of racially discriminatory incidents they say have happened within the department.
The officers, along with the New Haven County Silver Shields, the New Haven Guardians and the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers gathered Thursday at New Haven City Hall to discuss the situation.
The meeting was called after an incident last month during which a racial slur was reportedly transmitted over a police radio transmission.
“It should be very clear that black officers are not just outraged over this one incident, that being the use of the N-word over the radio transmission,” said John Williams, an attorney representing the group. “Over the past 18 months, under Chief Esserman's administration, there has been a series of disturbing racially discriminatory incidents that range from blatant officer misconduct to acts of intimidation.”
A statement from the group as a whole lists four separate racially discriminatory events dating as far back as the beginning of 2012, including the N-word incident.
The first alleged incident occurred just six months into Esserman’s term as chief.
A white male officer allegedly posted racially inflammatory comments on his personal Facebook page and also referred to a female lieutenant using a racial slur.
According to the group, the officer was not reprimanded and was promoted to detective.
Just three months ago, more than 30 officers were investigated by internal affairs after a Nazi swastika was found etched into the side of a city-owned police car that was parked in a secure police garage.
Finally, a white male sergeant working the police department front desk allegedly made a sexually and racially insensitive comment to a male coworker in front of a black female civilian staff member.
Group members say they are “outraged” with the past and current conditions that surround their day-to-day work place. They have asked that the chief and the city—mainly new mayor Toni Harp—give these issues their immediate attention.
In response to the press conference, Esserman said he welcomes working with any and all New Haven police officers to address the issues in a real, honest and direct way.
“Racist behavior in any form of expression will not be tolerated in the New Haven police department neither to the citizens we serve or amongst one another in rank and file,” Esserman said in a statement. “Each case was and is very thoroughly investigated promptly. These issues are issues of racism and cultural sensitivity are real in America.”