NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - Federal investigators probing allegations that East Haven police harassed and used excessive force against Latino residents have urged town officials to be vigilant against retaliation toward cooperating witnesses.
The Justice Department's civil rights division, which opened an investigation into the profiling claims in September 2009, asked town officials in a letter reported by the New Haven Register to detail what steps they are taking to prevent any retaliation against federal witnesses. It was not immediately clear what prompted the letter from Jonathan M. Smith, chief of the division's special litigation section in Washington.
The probe is separate from a criminal investigation in which FBI agents have been gathering evidence for the potential prosecutions of some officers.
East Haven Mayor Joe Maturo Jr. said town officials have been stressing all along that there will be no retaliation against anybody who helps federal investigators.
"Everybody is supposed to cooperate with the Department of Justice and the FBI," he said.
Maturo, who took office last month, spoke Monday with officials including Smith in a teleconference that the mayor said was intended to open communication with the new administration. He said he was told that the Justice Department expects to conclude its work shortly and the investigation could result in a consent decree, which would spell out any violations of federal law and mandatory corrective measures for the town and police department.
Last week, Maturo reinstated Police Chief Leonard Gallo, who had been on paid administrative leave since April 2010 when the civil rights investigation identified preliminary concerns over police issues including outdated policies.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in New Haven said he could not comment on the letter, and a spokeswoman for the civil rights division did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Information from: New Haven Register
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