After conducting a two-year investigation, the Department of Justice released a report slamming the East Haven Police Department (EHPD) in Connecticut for pervasive discrimination against Latinos in violation of the Constitution and federal law. In a letter to East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. (R), DOJ Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez noted that not only did the EHPD consistently engage in discriminatory traffic enforcement, “treating Latino drivers more harshly than non-Latino drivers after a traffic stop,” but that it conducted “unauthorized immigration investigations” of Latinos, reflecting a discrimination that is “deeply rooted in the Department’s culture”:
The letter described the discrimination as “deeply rooted in the Department’s culture,” and cited a statistical analysis showing how Latinos were “intentionally targeted” for traffic stops. It provided the example of a particular officer’s stops — 40.5% of which were of Latino drivers.
Overall, the investigation found that 19.9% of traffic stops made by the EHPD were of Latino drivers, concluding it “shows pervasive discrimination against Latinos on every level of EHPD traffic enforcement activity.” The report also said officers were able to target Latinos by focusing on customers leaving Latino businesses.
In addition to the high rate of traffic stops, the report accused some EHPD officers of conducting unauthorized immigration investigations. The report mentioned “numerous incident reports” where EHPD officers contacted Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to check on the status or seek an immigration detention of a Latino person. Investigators said the tactic was “used to harass and intimidate Latinos rather than pursue legitimate law enforcement objectives.”
East Haven is 88.5 percent white, and only 10.3 percent Hispanic or Latino, so Latino drivers are twice as likely to be pulled over than their share of the population would suggest.
The report also accused the EHPD leadership of obstructing the investigation by “creating a hostile and intimidating environment” for those willing to cooperate. The EHPD did not comment on the report. The DOJ intends to meet with community leaders but said it “may suspend or terminate federal funding if the town fails to address the civil rights violations.”