NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) - A U.S. Justice Department investigation into the East Haven Police Department has found a pattern of discrimination against Latino residents.
The Department of Justice says within the police department there's a pattern of discrimination against Latinos: racial profiling, harassing and assaulting residents, and intimidating anyone who dared to complain.
"We found significant deviations from standard police practices that resulted in covering up or exacerbating the police department's disparate treatment of Latinos," said Roy L Austin, Jr., Deputy Assistant Attorney General.
The U.S. civil rights investigation began in September of 2009 in East Haven, where Hispanics and their advocates say police targeted them with traffic stops and false arrests.
The U.S. attorneys laid the blame for this at the feet of the management. However, one of the first things newly re-elected Mayor Joseph Maturo did was reinstate Police Chief Leonard Gallo . He had been placed on administrative leave by former Mayor April Capone while the investigation was ongoing.
"It has nothing to do with Chief Gallo. These are still only innuendoes," said Maturo. "The chief has been off the job for a year and a half, a lot of this happened when he was on paid administrative leave."
News 8 was unable to find anyone in the community who would respond to the Justice Department's results. They all said, they fear retaliation by police, but Father James Manship of St. Rosa de Lima church in New Haven has been an outspoken critic. His video of alleged police harassment in an East Haven grocery store helped spark the investigation.
"It's absolutely astounding to me that the mayor would reappoint the chief who presided this department's demise," Father Manship said. "Formed this culture of racial profiling. Obviously, people are still concerned, but this is a great step."
This step doesn't force the department or the mayor to take any specific action, though federal officials hope the town will voluntarily comply with their recommended changes and they will be monitoring them.
Former Mayor April Capone had cooperated with federal investigators though it put her at odds with many inside the police department. On Monday, she said all this could cost the taxpayers millions of dollars in litigation.
"I was asked earlier today if I felt vindicated. And certainly I don't feel anything of this sort," Capone said. "I feel sadness for the people of East Haven."
While this was an investigation into civil rights violations, there is still an ongoing criminal investigation as well.
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