Connecticut's House of Representatives passes an anti-racial profiling law
The state Senate earlier passed the bill; the governor says he will sign it
It mandates police bar discrimination in who they stop, detain or search
Months ago, 4 East Haven police were arrested in a federal racial profiling probe
A few months after four East Haven police officers were arrested for allegedly targeting and harassing Latinos, Connecticut’s state legislature passed a bill Monday to beef up safeguards against racial profiling.
Titled “An Act Concerning Traffic Stop Information,” SB 364 mandates that local and state law enforcement agencies adopt their own “written policy that prohibits the stopping, detention or search of any person when such action is solely motivated by considerations of race, color, ethnicity, age, gender or sexual orientation, and the action would constitute a violation of the civil rights of the person.”
In addition, the legislation sets up reporting requirements for police whenever they conduct traffic stop, as well as a system for citizen complaints or for state authorities to collect and assess pertinent data from municipal departments.
Initially passed by the state Senate on April 19, the legislation made it through the House of Representatives on Monday and is now expected to be signed by Gov. Dannel Malloy.
“I will continue to insist that every effort is taken to protect individual rights in every community and that racial profiling is eliminated,” Malloy said Monday in a statement. “This is a real problem that deserves a real solution, and my administration is committed to carrying out the spirit and letter of this law.”
If and when the bill goes into affect, those pulled over after January 1, 2013, would get a copy of the “standardized form” filled out by police containing details about the driver and circumstances of their case. Those who feel they were profiled due to their race, color, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation can file a complaint, which must be reviewed by the local police department and be passed on to a state agency.
The bill doesn’t mention any locality or case specifically. But it follows the arrests, in January, of an East Haven police sergeant and three officers following a federal investigation into racial profiling. They all pleaded not guilty.
A civil lawsuit has also been filed related to that case.
According to a federal indictment, the four allegedly conspired to “injure, oppress, threaten and intimidate various members of the East Haven community” by profiling Latino residents during traffic stops, performing illegal searches and harassing Latino business owners and their advocates.
The men allegedly threatened and assaulted detainees, made false arrests – including a local clergy member – and later conspired to cover up evidence of their conduct by falsifying reports and blocking an investigation, prosecutors said.
The men also thwarted a police commission inquiry into their alleged misconduct, authorities said, calling on the support of local union leaders to block and intimidate municipal investigators.
“They behaved like bullies with badges,” said Janice Fedarcyk, assistant FBI director in New York.
Many Latino residents of East Haven – who make up about 10.3% of the town’s roughly 29,000 people – say that, for years, they have had to contend with an overly aggressive police force.
“They always come by and bother us,” said Esdras Marin, a manager at La Bamba, a Latino-owned bar and restaurant named in the indictment.
“Police come in two or three times a month and ask everyone in the restaurant for their identification,” he said. “And if you don’t have it, they threaten us and say they’re going to call the immigration office.”
The Rev. James Manship of St. Rose of Lima Church, a plaintiff in the civil suit , has accused since retired police Chief Leonard Gallo of fostering “a racist and dishonest police force” in East Haven.