WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — New Haven clergy are calling for the resignation of West Haven Police Chief Joseph Perno, citing police response to peaceful protests Sunday.
Dashcam video shows the moment witnesses allege a female driver accelerated into a group of people marching against police brutality. Protesters called foul after West Haven police let the driver go but arrested three rallygoers.
Pastor John Lewis and Reverend Dr. Boise Kimber called a press conference in front of the police department on Friday afternoon, demanding action against the driver and denouncing the police response.
“The mayor ought to look very seriously at this department and how this department is operating,” said Kimber, “They brought their dogs out. This is not the ‘60s; this is not Birmingham, Alabama.”
“No one is throwing bottles; no one is breaking windows,” said Lewis. “They’re standing for their right and for justice. There are certain things that [the police] have discretion that they can do. They have wiggle room. When do they allow that discretion to connect with their moral meter?”
Reverend Dr. Marcia Smith raised her family in West Haven. She said she was disturbed by what she saw over the weekend.
“What I saw was hatred,” she said. “We’re standing for justice. We’re standing for fairness. We have a right to be here.”
A Board of Police Commissioners meeting scheduled for this week has been pushed to the end of the month. Public comment is allowed, but only one speaker at a time is allowed inside the police building. Clergy members believe the City is using the pandemic as a shield against transparency and public comment.
“Even the governor has lifted the number of people that can go in a building, so what’s the problem here?” asked Kimber.
News 8 has reached out to the mayor and the police department for comment.
In a Facebook post on Monday, the chief wrote that: “Once the rally had ended there was an incident at the intersection of Main Street and Kelsey Avenue. I will not elaborate on said incident at this time due to the fact that the investigation is ongoing.”