As a police officer, I find it more than reprehensible when another police officer is found to be violating rights or abusing his/her authority. It seems day in and day out we see it in the news and each time I pray that somehow it will be the last time. Officers and administrators who engage in abusive behavior are a detriment to the profession and the American way of life. Furthermore, and from a more personal perspective, they place the lives to honest officers such as myself and the vast majority of other officers across this nation, in jeopardy by eroding public trust and breeding contempt.
Recently I wrote a few articles here about local law enforcement usurping the authority of the Federal government in enforcing immigration law in Maricopa County, Arizona (see Joe Arpaio: Racial Profiling and Civil Rights Violations and Joe Arpaio Won't Go Away Quietly; Finds Support From Local Posse). It seems that Joe Arpaio isn’t the only one who feels the need to pick on Latino’s in order to feel better about a self perceived lack of immigration enforcement on the part of the Feds.
On Tuesday, four East Haven, Connecticut police officers were arrested by the FBI on charges they had abused illegal immigrants and falsified reports in order to cover for injuries to those immigrants. According to an indictment against the officers, East Haven PD officers engaged in illegally searching Latino owned businesses and harassed or intimidated individuals, witnesses, and other officers who tried to investigate or report the abuses.
One of the accused officers allegedly took great pride in harassing Latino drivers whom he said “drifted to his country on rafts made of chicken wings.” Still another of the accused officers was said to have slapped a handcuffed Hispanic man whom he had detained in his patrol car while another of the four threw that man to the ground while he remained handcuffed and began repeatedly kicking him. And these are simply a few of the examples of abuse that have been alleged.
In 2010, the police chief of East Haven P.D., Leonard Gallo, who was in charge during these incidents, was placed on administrative leave as a result of the federal investigation. Not surprisingly, the new Republican mayor of East Haven reinstated him after taking office this past November.
So what is it going to take to rid our nation and more importantly our police forces of racial bigotry? I wish I could give you a fool proof answer. As I have said before, I believe that training is paramount but I also believe that better screening of a recruit’s character prior to hiring and through the training process in conjunction with proactive federal enforcement of civil rights laws is the answer. It is up to each of us as Americans to demand a well educated and progressive police force from our elected officials. But in order to expect a progressive professional force, we must first get active in local politics and take responsibility ourselves, for electing progressive leaders who share our viewpoint that freedom, equality, and opportunity are important qualities that will make America a place where dreams, not nightmares, come true!