East Haven agrees to settle after police discrimination allegations
By WFSB Staff
EAST HAVEN, CT (WFSB) -
The town of East Haven has worked out an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve the allegations of racial profiling and brutality by its police department.
The proposed 54-page agreement provides four comprehensive reforms in seven core areas. The four areas include: biased-free policing, use of force, search and seizures and policy and training.
"This should be the start of a new beginning for our community and new relationships," said East Haven Mayor Joe Maturo. "And we want to move forward."
The changes being proposed by the U.S. Department of Justice will be monitored every day. A court-appointed overseer will be brought in to help the town on making decisions on how to spend money.
"If we're going to have to borrow money and it's going to be expensive," Maturo said. "I'd rather pay to be a better police department, get the training and what's needed than have it spent on long litigation with Department of Justice."
Officer Jason Zullo appeared in Hartford Federal Court on Tuesday afternoon, and after pleading guilty, he is expected to serve no less than 12 months and no more than 24 months in prison.
According to federal prosecutors, Zullo followed a person on a motorcycle and deliberately hit the vehicle at least twice, speeding up as he hit it. Pattis said Zullo inadvertently hit the motorcycle while trying to make evasive maneuvers.
Zullo was arrested for violating the civil rights of Latinos in East Haven in January along with three others, Officers Dennis Spaulding and David Cari as well as Sgt. John Miller.
Miller pleaded guilty to depriving civil liberties on Sept. 21 after he reportedly punched a man in the chest while he was handcuffed.
On Tuesday, Maturo held a press conference to discuss the release of the settlement between the town and U.S. Department of Justice. During the press conference, the town was asked if the police were going after Latinos in town.
"I don't think that's a fair question," said Joseph Zullo, who is legal counsel for the town of East Haven. "The agreement speaks for itself. The town is committed to constitutional policy."
Angel Fernandez was one of the people who filed an initial complaint about the racial profiling that started the investigation into the department.
"We want institutional changes," he said. "We want the kind of change where it will never be possible again to hire anyone who is responsible for these types of things."
Leaders of the Latino community in East Haven are expected to hold a celebration of the announcement at the St. Rose of Lima Parish Wednesday afternoon.
"We are very grateful to the Department of Justice for the hard work they have put into investigating the complaints of racial profiling put forward by members of our community," said Father James Manship, who is the pastor at St. Rose of Lima Church, in a statement Tuesday. "We are optimistic that this settlement will introduce the institutional change necessary to reform a deeply troubled police department."
A third party compliance expert, who will work inside the police department, will be appointed to monitor whether the town is complying with the settlement. The expert will be by the town and Department of Justice.
This settlement still has to be approved by several boards in East Haven including the board of fiance and town council.
Copyright 2012 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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