The Hamden Police Department has launched an internal investigation by the Ethics and Integrity Unit after body camera footage of a traffic stop and arrest from February 2018 became public this week.
“This matter is being taken very seriously, a complete and thorough investigation is underway, and I’m confident that when completed appropriate action will be taken,” Hamden Mayor Curt Leng (D) told NBC Connecticut Thursday.
Police said Officer Andrew Lipford’s body camera is rolling after the driver of a BMW, Victor Medina, fled from a traffic stop and led them on a chase ending in his driveway.
The video shows the officer’s gun is drawn in the shadows from the flashing lights.
“If you do something that you’re not told you’re gonna get shot,” Lipford is heard saying in the video. “Do you understand, do not move.”
Attorney Frank Cirillo is representing Medina. He said he obtained the video he shared with NBC Connecticut during the discovery phase of his client’s case.
“I was shocked when I saw it at first,” Cirillo said.
“That’s got to be very scary for anyone, I don’t think most of us have had a gun pulled on them in their lives,” he added. “I can’t imagine what Mr. Medina was going through at this time period.”
Police did not arrest the passenger in the car. An officer is heard saying, “come on over cause this faker is pretending like he don’t speak English.”
Moments later one of the responding cops is heard spelling out the initials for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying, “three letters, I-C-E.”
“That’s offensive to any reasonable person,” Cirillo said.
Brad Macdowall and five other Hamden town council members shared a statement on Facebook describing the video as “disgraceful and unacceptable.”
“The police violated policies that our community entrusts the police to enforce and follow,” the post said. “A Civilian Review Board would hold the Police Department accountable and prevent incidents like this from happening. The threat of ICE involvement is in direct opposition to the arrangements we have been assured exist in Hamden. We must work together to ensure Hamden is and remains a sanctuary for our community.”
NBC Connecticut asked Macdowall how the review board would be any different than the already existing five-member citizen Police Commission.
“This is purely investigative, we’re gonna get the bottom of what happened and we’re here to protect the residents in issues of police malpractice,” Macdowall said.
Cirillo’s client has plead not guilty to charges including DUI and engaging police in a pursuit.
“(Medina) wishes it didn’t have to come to this,” Cirillo said of the video becoming public, “but he feels like maybe somebody else could be prevented from being put in his situation after this.”
The group of council members said in their Facebook post that the results of the internal investigation and any associated punishments should be made public.
So far, the officers in the video remain on duty and they have not been disciplined.
Ronald Suraci, of the Hamden Police Union, released a statement on Thursday:
"It is apparent to me that the media and other individuals affiliated with the Town of Hamden are jumping to conclusions about the appropriateness of the officer’s conduct without the benefit of a complete and thorough review of the facts and circumstances leading to the arrest of Victor Medina on the night of February 8, 2018. Town leaders and the public should reserve judgment and comment of the officers until such time as the results of an untainted and unbiased investigation are revealed. I am confident that when such an investigation is completed that the officers will be cleared of any wrongdoing."