“I’m lucky enough to do a job I love every single day and that’s why I felt I had to do something in response to the events that happened in Minneapolis,” said Lt. Joe Murgo of the East Haven Police Department.
He stood with department officers Friday on the East Haven Green, joining a rally calling for justice for blacks who died at the hands of police. Murgo knew it was an important moment.
“I’ve been a police officer for 17 years and I’ve been a black male for 38 years,” said Murgo.
And with those two reasons he joined organizer Kristin Carr.
“I couldn’t standby idly anymore while this was happening, said Carr. “I felt like I had to do my part for the community.”
Nearly 100 people met on the Green to hear from Murgo and Carr about how police, the community, and society can improve.
For Carr, it started with black history.
“Learning more about it has really opened my eyes to what they have to face every day,” said Carr.
Murgo noted that historically, there has been tension with the department.
“East Haven in the past has been synonymous with tense relations, and we’re not going to sit here and deny that that’s true,” said Murgo.
In 2012 the department entered into a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice after a series of incidents involving discrimination, excessive force and unreasonable search and seizure. In 2017, that federal consent decree was dismissed after five years of reforms.
“We have basically modeled our police department after a lot of the 21st century recommendations,” said Murgo, referring to the guidelines in the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing report, released under President Barack Obama.
“Quite frankly, nobody from that old perception of the police department is employed here anymore.”
He says they have a younger staff and are continuing to implement changes.
He says a majority of officers do their job well, and those that do have to hold others accountable.
“I think we can all agree that the three officers who stood by had a responsibility and they could have changed the course of history forever.”
And he says they’ll continue improving the department for the better.
“We are a part of the community. We live here, we send our kids to school here, and we are nothing without the community support.”