U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch brought her national community policing tour to Connecticut and highlighted changes East Haven police have made over the last several years to strengthen ties with local residents.
Lynch spoke on Tuesday with East Haven officials, local Latino residents and other community members.
The town of East Haven was rocked by a U.S. Department of Justice civil rights probe that began in 2009 and found a pattern of police discrimination and bias against Latinos. The investigation resulted in town officials signing a consent decree in 2012 that required numerous improvements to the police department.
"Four years ago, the Department of Justice found that the East Haven police department was engaged in a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing against Latinos. In the years since, as a result of a consent decree and a clear commitment to change, this community has undergone a profound cultural shift. Police have embraced the challenge of earning back the confidence of the neighborhoods it serves. Community members and leaders are reporting increased trust and positive relationships. And law enforcement officers are working not only to fulfill the terms of the agreement, but to make their department a model for the state. I could not be more proud of the important progress you have made," Lynch said.
Lynch commended Connecticut law enforcement officials and civic leaders for working together to make progress on a "range of critical fronts" and for programs like Project Longevity, which aims to reduce gun violence; as well as efforts to combat domestic violence; address wage theft; end the school-to-prison pipeline; and assist undocumented residents who have been victims of crime.
"These efforts collectively serve as a testament to the ingenuity and cooperative spirit of Connecticut’s community leaders and law enforcement officials. They are a demonstration of the power of working together – across traditional professional lines – to forge innovative solutions to some of our toughest public safety challenges. And they are an example for local governments and community organizers from coast to coast as they work to revitalize the relationships between law enforcement officers and the neighborhoods we protect and serve," Lynch said.
Local residents and a federal monitor have said that East Haven police have made remarkable progress.
Later this week, some East Haven officials are expected to attend a community policing forum at the White House.
East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. and East Haven Police Chief Brent Larrabee said on Monday that they've been invited to a forum at the White House on Thursday, along with officials from about 40 municipalities across the country.
"The President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing recently released its final report which identifies and details best practices for Police Departments across the country," Maturo said.
He said the White House and the Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services are hosting a community policing forum in conjunction with the release of that report to discuss and share best practices the implementation of the recommendations of that report.
“As a result of East Haven's position on the forefront of the policing industry, we have been invited to participate in this exciting collaboration of leaders and police executives from across the country," Maturo said.
Lynch began the six-city tour in May.