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Black Cops Decry “Serious Breach Of Trust”

by Paul Bass | Feb 7, 2014 9:28 am

(25) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Legal Writes

Paul Bass Photo It wasn’t just one utterance of the “N word” over the police radio.

Dozens of African-American city cops gathered at the Amistad statue outside City Hall for a press conference Thursday evening to express “outrage” over “a series of disturbing racially discriminatory incidents” in their department beyond the recent utterance of the racial slur.

Three organizations representing black cops—the Silver Shields, the Guardians, and the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers—organized the press conference.

None of the officers spoke at the event. Instead, they surrounded local civil-rights attorney John Williams as he read a lengthy statement on their behalf.

The statement began by referencing the post-midnight utterance by an unidentified person of the word “nigger” over the police radio on Dec. 30 (originally reported here). That incident sparked an immediate internal affairs investigation aided by the FBI.

“It should be very clear the black officers are not just outraged over this once incident,” the statement read. “Over the past 18 months, under Chief [Dean] Esserman’s administration, there has been a series of disturbing racially discriminatory incidents that range from blatant officer misconduct to acts of intimidation.”

Esserman said Thursday night that he has been reaching out to local clergy and the NAACP and reaching out to groups within the department in addition to meeting with the black police officers in order to tackle the issue.

“Let me be unequivocably clear: Racist behavior in any form of expression will not be tolerated in the New Haven police department, neither to the citizens we serve nor amongst one another in the rank and file,” Esserman decalred. “As a New Haven police officer, I am offended and want to believe most New Haven police officers are offended by such behavior and words. Respect and integrity must be the bedrock of our profession.”

4 Incidents Cited

The black officers’ statement details four incidents, along with assessments of how the department handled them:

• The posting by a white police officer of “racially inflammatory comments on his personal Facebook page,” including a description of a high-ranking black female cop as “Miss Butterworth” (a slur). “For his highly inappropriate and unprofessional behavior, he was promoted to detective and assigned [to] the Bureau of Investigation in charge of processing evidence vital to major investigations,” the statement charged.

Esserman responded Thursday night that the “Miss Butterworth” comments had not been brought to his attention. When he learned about other racist statements the officer had posted, he said, “I sat with him and confronted him with what he had done and passed him over detective promotion until help was sought” for personal problems. “He was not promoted for his behavior,” Esserman said. “He was held back from promotion for his behavior until treatment was sought.” The officer became a detective in a subsequent round of promotions.

• The etching of a swastika on a police car parked in the underground garage at headquarters, which is not publicly accessible. “Over 30 officers were investigated by Internal Affairs, but the outcome remains unknown,” the statement read.

• Remarks that a white male sergeant made three months ago in front of a black female civilian staffer at the front desk at 1 Union Ave., police headquarters. The statement charges that Chief Esserman told representatives of black officers at a Jan. 27 meeting that “he had disciplined the sergeant,” which turned out not to be true.

Esserman said that he did file disciplinary charges before the Board of Police Commissioners, where the matter is now pending. “The case was fully investigated. Statements were taken and interviews conducted by internal affairs. Charges were filed.”

• The Dec. 30 “n word” incident.  The statement charges that Esserman waited until the Jan. 27 meeting with black officers before airing the issue within the department for needed discussion. Before that, “the incident was kept so quiet that it was thought to be a rumor.” Esserman subsequently addressed line-ups about the issues, held several meetings with department supervisors, and, in conjunction with Mayor Toni Harp’s administration, implemented expanded sensitivity training for all officers beginning this week.

Esserman responded that he believes the Guardians and Silver Shields “were correct” in urging him to address roll call and discuss the issue openly within the department. He said he took action within hours of the Dec. 30 incident by initiating an internal affairs probe, then bringing in the FBI when the trail went cold.

“A Bubbling Up”

Individual officers at the press conference Thursday said they were under a strict agreement not to comment publicly on the matters at hand.

The groups’ statement also decried “selective discipline” of black officers as well as a “significant lack of representation of black officers in the department’s command staff.”

“There has been a bubbling up for a while,” remarked one African-American beat cop. “People want to be heard.”

The groups’ statement does not identify specific remedies beyond a final request that “Mayor Toni N. Harp ... give these issues her immediate attention.”

Thomas MacMillan Photo Harp met with members of the groups recently to discuss the matter. She told the Independent this week she believes that Chief Esserman (pictured) is handling the matter appropriately; she said she is “excited” about the expanded sensitivity training. “We’re a multicultural city,” she said. “If you’re not comfortable with that, perhaps you should” work elsewhere.

Harp also said her administration is finalizing paperwork to renew his contract, which expired this month.

Harp issued the following written statement Thursday evening about the officers’ press conference:

“I take the concerns of these African-American police officers very seriously, as I would the concerns of any police officer who comes forward with an issue about a potentially hostile work environment. My concern is compounded, however, to the extent any pattern of harassment or racism is identified, and warrants an important conversation about cultural sensitivity and awareness. That conversation is now taking place internally at the New Haven Police Department and also between the police department and my administration.”

The concerns of the black officers was the subject for the second week Thursday of a private discussion with the chief and department supervisors following the weekly data-sharing CompStat meeting at headquarters.

Chief Esserman also met recently with representatives of the Latino police officers’ group. The Latino officers did not participate in Thursday’s event,

“We are outraged that someone would do this,” Lt. Tony Reyes, head of the Latino officers group, said of the “n word” incident. “The administration has demonstrated sensitivity and taken swift and appropriate action.”

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posted by: Threefifths on February 6, 2014  8:48pm

Racism is endemic to all law enforcement agencies.I have family In new york and other states who are police officer active and retired.The one’s who are retired tell the active one’s it was the same Racism when they were on the force.It never stops.

Black cop says white colleagues arrested her knowing she was one of them

By Arturo Garcia
Thursday, December 5, 2013 22:19 EST

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/05/black-cop-says-white-colleagues-arrested-her-knowing-she-was-one-of-them/


Alone, Undercover and Black: Hazards of Mistaken Identity

By CRAIG WOLFF

http://www.nytimes.com/1992/11/22/nyregion/alone-undercover-and-black-hazards-of-mistaken-identity.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

Black cop killed by white officer: Horror in East Harlem as off-duty rookie is shot pursuing suspect

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/black-killed-white-officer-horror-east-harlem-off-duty-rookie-shot-pursuing-suspect-article-1.372647


And rank does not mean anything.

Racial Profiling Gone Wrong: Bigot Cops Didn’t Recognize Off-Duty Chief

http://www.africanglobe.net/headlines/racial-profiling-wrong-bigot-cops-didnt-recognize-duty-chief/

posted by: concernedcitizenNewHaven on February 6, 2014  8:57pm

“post-midnight utterance by an identified person of the word”

Identified? Are you sure?

Can we some how start calling out ALL racist language, even when spoken by those of color? One black man calling another black man the n-word IS RACIST! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-23953276

posted by: RACISMISALIVEANDWELL on February 6, 2014  9:47pm

How disrespectful and utterly disgusting that Black cops have to coexist in such a racist Police Department.  Heads should roll for this one, beginning with the Chief!

posted by: cp06 on February 6, 2014  10:01pm

Ugh, why the public praying? Seriously, I don’t see what that is going to accomplish, if anything it discredits an otherwise serious issue.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on February 6, 2014  11:14pm

As a supporter of law enforcement nationwide, I find this matter in the city in which I will always love, to be reprehensible.

Officers risk their lives on a daily basis while outside of the headquarters, they certainly shouldn’t have to endure this kind of treatment inside.

Sensitivity training is always a good thing. But instituting a zero tolerance atmosphere for this kind of behavior is much better.

I would recommend the firing of any officer that spews a racial epithet.

Moreover, any officer that demonstrates that type of behavior should never be promoted to anything.  In fact, he or she should be demoted to send a message of support of a zero tolerance atmosphere.

If I can get a promotion for doing something negative, how much sense will it make for me to change?

These officers stood with Mayor Harp when she was running for mayor.  Now they need Mayor Harp to stand with them in deeds, not in words.

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on February 7, 2014  12:58am

The portrayal of individuals as moral, ethical, honest, and true to the oath that is sworn when one becomes an officer, speaking out in judgment of the entire NHPD, with a public press event, is so far from the truth of events that have occurred, and calls for some personal reflection, modesty, restraint, because it was once said ” let he who is without sin to cast the first stone.”

The true motivation of this farce is to create political pressure on the new Mayor to have Esserman resign, or retire, and place the person of their back room negotiated dealings as the new Chief. Careful you don’t get what you want, but one thing is guaranteed by this, once this move fails to get the person appointed, or gets their choice appointed, and that person turns on them as no self respecting leader will allowed themselves to be hostage to a group of folks who will believe they are political power houses, most of these officers, will realize the work they have to do to maintain their political edge, is beyond their work ethic. At that point they will fall vulnerable to the next group, probably younger than them, and reap what they have sewn. Racism, disorganization, divisiveness, passive aggressive behavior, jealousy, animosity against your peers, regardless of their race, sex, sexual preference, or religion. Good Luck.

posted by: Theodora on February 7, 2014  1:52am

Upon reading this, I have to say that the press conference was ridiculous and unwarranted. Some anonymous cowards have done stupid things. Someone else posted something on the internet. Welcome to the world.

posted by: Truth Seeker on February 7, 2014  2:02am

It is so unfortunate how so many honest and hard-working African-American officers with great reputations in that department are being swayed by a small handful of well known ill-intentioned scammers, with INFAMOUS reputations within the department, looking to magnify this incident in order to advance their personal agenda.  The person responsible for this stupid and cowardly act has not been identified, and it is totally possible he may have been someone outside the NHPD with access to their police frequency (like the incident in West Haven).  However, when there is an agenda, I guess the facts don’t really matter. 

The black officers’ attorney (another clue of an ulterior motive) says, “Obvious examples of this [second-class treatment of black officers] can be seen through the significant lack of representation of black officers in the department’s command staff.”  Really?!  Did he do his homework?!  He makes is seen there is little-to-no representation.  The fact is black officers are well represented at the command level of the police department:
- (1) Assistant Chief (one Hispanic AC)
- Head of the Academy
- Head of Internal Affairs
- (4) District Managers plus (1 Hispanic DM)
- Head of Inspections Unit
- Head of Records Division
- (1) Shift Commander
- (6) total lieutenants are black and (8) of (20) are minorities. 

MAYOR, do your homework and don’t get scammed; you owe it to ALL the good officers of that department to conduct a fair an unbiased investigation.  WRONG IS WRONG. 

Good luck with this NHPD… you’re gonna need it!  Glad I’m gone; I miss the people, not the nonsense.

posted by: RACISMISALIVEANDWELL on February 7, 2014  3:07am

To concernedcitizenNewHaven, I truly appreciate your logic, you’re great! NOT!  As you suggest, lets forget all about these incidents and that they ever occurred!  And while we are at it, lets blame Black people for calling each other the “N” word, because this is what this article is really about!!

Do me a favor, stick to the subject and stop making a mockery of these very serious and disgusting incidents.  Just remember, today this is occurring to others, tomorrow it could be you and your loved ones.  I’m quite sure you wouldn’t downplay or minimize such an issue then!

posted by: Ozzie on February 7, 2014  8:04am

First of all how do we know this comment was made by a white Police Officer when the word is constantly used during greetings of black people during conversations as a term of endearment between each other , it’s also just about every other word you hear in a rap song but that seems to be excepted by society.  As for the Miss Butterworth comment and Swastika it just goes to show you that those pre-employment psychological exams are nothing more than a money maker When people can take them one time and they’re labled as a ticking time bomb , but can come back after a year and then they pass the test. Or when they have been a police officer for years and try to get a job and are told your profile doesnt meet the criteria of an entry level police officer .But those are other stories

posted by: HewNaven on February 7, 2014  10:40am

I also would support a zero tolerance policy for the utterance of any racial slur (e.g. nigger) or any caricature (e.g. Ms. Butterworth). The officer involved in the facebook incident should have been fired immediately. How can we trust someone like that to serve and protect us? As for the radio incident, if they find out who did it, make that person the first example of NHPDs new zero tolerance paradigm.

posted by: Threefifths on February 7, 2014  11:17am

To all of you.Read this story.It is more then Just the N word.

4 Incidents Cited

The posting by a white police officer of “racially inflammatory comments on his personal Facebook page,” including a description of a high-ranking black female cop as “Miss Butterworth” (a slur). “For his highly inappropriate and unprofessional behavior, he was promoted to detective and assigned [to] the Bureau of Investigation in charge of processing evidence vital to major investigations,” the statement charged.

The etching of a swastika on a police car parked in the underground garage at headquarters, which is not publicly accessible. “Over 30 officers were investigated by Internal Affairs, but the outcome remains unknown,” the statement read.

• Remarks that a white male sergeant made three months ago in front of a black female civilian staffer at the front desk at 1 Union Ave., police headquarters. The statement charges that Chief Esserman told representatives of black officers at a Jan. 27 meeting that “he had disciplined the sergeant,” which turned out not to be true.

posted by: Anderson Scooper on February 7, 2014  11:42am

Racial animosity in New Haven? Even in the NHPD?

That racism still exists in our society is sad, but hardly news. However I wonder if the actions described above are the way to move things forward.

This sure feels more like, “Teacher, teacher,... Billy called me a bad word” than anything institutionalized within the department.

The one thing I’d like to add is that the politics within this town always seem to be herding us into ethnic groups, instead of bringing us together as one great city. Is it ever going to change?

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on February 7, 2014  11:46am

BLJ and HewNaven,

My guess is that the police union contract prevents that type of punishment (demotion or firing) for this behavior.

Are you both honestly calling for firing someone solely because of a “Miss Butterworth” comment on facebook? Hypothetically, would you also call for the firing of a black male officer that called a white female lieutenant “Betty Crocker”? It’s ignorant and innappropriate, but worthy of firing?

Hopefully the swastika and “n-word” incidents are further investigated because those seem like the most egregious instances. Is it possible that the swastika was carved when the police car was out in public and it wasn’t noticed until it was in the underground garage (perhaps a dissatisfied civilian who thinks of police as nazi’s) and that the “n-word” was not uttered by a white New Haven police officer?

posted by: HewNaven on February 7, 2014  12:20pm

Are you both honestly calling for firing someone solely because of a “Miss Butterworth” comment on facebook? Hypothetically, would you also call for the firing of a black male officer that called a white female lieutenant “Betty Crocker”?

I actually mistook Miss Butterworth for Aunt Jemima. BIG Difference. I would actually not consider Ms. Butterworth or Betty Crocker to be racial caricatures. But, what if he called her an ‘Aunt Jemima’ ? I think most would agree that should not be tolerated.

I feel strongly about the zero tolerance policy. Officers should be reliable role models for children. They should be trustworthy. They should display good judgement at all times. They should act like adults. So, they should never use a racial slur. Its incongruent with what is expected of them.

If you’re wondering if I have a double standard for law enforcement versus others, I do. They should be held to a higher standard than most other professions. They hold too much power to act like idiots.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on February 7, 2014  1:37pm

I think distinctions need to be made between officers that are on-duty versus off-duty, and interactions between the general public versus fellow officers.

For me, there is an enormous difference between an on-duty officer using their power and authority to belittle a civilian and an off-duty officer posting a comment on Facebook about a high ranking officer. In the first instance, yes I agree that officers should be held to a higher standard, but I don’t see how the second instance is much different from a school teacher posting a comment about the assistant principle on their Facebook over the weekend.

If officers are making an uncomfotable work environment for fellow employees while on-duty then that sounds like a fairly simple workplace environment issue.

If the “n-word” or swastika were done by a white police officer then they should be fired because its likely that they aren’t fit for duty.

posted by: Trustme on February 7, 2014  1:50pm

Incidents like this should bring unity, but all I read is division.

posted by: EPDP on February 7, 2014  3:17pm

A single utterance of the n-word causes the entire New Haven Police Department to drop everything and launch a major investigation, even bringing in the FBI.  Meanwhile, the rest of the City is in flames with most of the City too dangerous to walk the streets at night.  The only safe area in New Haven is the green zone around Yale, East Rock, some parts of Westville, and Morris Cove. Lord help those who are forced, due to financial circumstances, to live in any other neighborhood in New Haven.

posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on February 7, 2014  3:35pm

@Jonathan Hopkins,

“Are you both honestly calling for firing someone solely because of a “Miss Butterworth” comment on facebook? Hypothetically, would you also call for the firing of a black male officer that called a white female lieutenant “Betty Crocker”? It’s ignorant and innappropriate, but worthy of firing?”

If you read my comments in their totality, you would never have injected the “Betty Crocker” name. 

I have a history of being fair to all people regardless of ethnicity, because all ethnicities have been fair to me.

Here’s a line I wrote that you conveniently overlooked. “I would recommend the firing of any officer that spews a racial epithet.”

My overall point is this, what is the benefit in allowing any officer to create a hostile working environment? Wouldn’t it be prudent to remove an officer who wishes to behave in such a manner, rather than destroy the morale of many?

I don’t like to see anyone fired.  But the chief in my view made a huge mistake.

Additionally, what message do you send when you promote an officer who has displayed such immaturity?  My greater concern is for the general public.  If an officer or officers, can behave in this manner towards their own co-workers, I pray for the people on the street who are innocent.

posted by: RACISMISALIVEANDWELL on February 7, 2014  3:43pm

JustAnotherTaxPayer, do you remember a few years ago when the Police union descended upon City Hall, blocked traffic, held an intimidating rally in front of City Hall and stormed Destefano’s Office? I Do!  A near riot occurred because of police layoffs!

Now lets fast forward to yesterday.  These Black Officers held a peaceful press conference in front of City Hall detailing racist and discriminatory behavior within the NHPD.  I found nothing wrong with this. As a taxpayer, I want transparency within the police department.  Especially a Department that my taxes are paying for.  If individuals are displaying racist behavior in house, it’s definitely being displayed on the streets of New Haven.  For individuals to become so bold in their racism, it shows that a racist culture does exist within the NHPD. 

JustAnotherTaxPayer, you wrote “The true motivation of this farce is to create political pressure on the new Mayor to have Esserman resign, or retire, and place the person of their back room negotiated dealings as the new Chief.” .........” At that point they will fall vulnerable to the next group, probably younger than them, and reap what they have sewn.”

I guess you are proposing that hey should just endure bigotry and racism and act as if nothing has ever occurred!  Silly logic for silly people!

posted by: just my view on February 7, 2014  7:24pm

@Jonanathon Hopkins - you write:“If the “n-word” or swastika were done by a white police officer then they should be fired because its likely that they aren’t fit for duty.”

I must ask - what if the acts were done by black or latino officers?

posted by: AdranaS:) on February 7, 2014  10:20pm

What is clearly lacking here is a fact check. It’s pathetic that these officers would take this position. The officers violated dept. rules. For that reason, they were disciplined. Not because they are black. If anything, more white officers are disciplined than black officers. Their Attorney should probably have spent some time researching these statistics. It is available for those that actually want to look into this information. These black officers are simply trying to take advantage of the new face in city hall, a black mayor. The timing is just perfect. In reality, blacks are pretty well represented in NHPD if you take a look at the break down
Duff - shift commander
Mckoy-Housing liaison
Mcfadden-pal director
Means-district commander
Brown- “
Sharp-”
Miller-”
Johnson-OIC animal shelter
Hunter-Asst. to the Chief
Brown-Asst. to the Chief
Knox-OIC victim services
Scott-Mayors Security detail
Helliger-commander of records
Dease-Property room supervisor
Schloss-Dept. Quarter Master
Campbell-Head of Internal Affairs
Taft-OIC Background
Joyner-Academy Director
Reddish- Assistant Chief in charge of internal investigation AND the person responsible for investigating all the incidents these officers are alleging the administration handled improperly (So, is what they are implying that this fellow black officer didn’t do his job & is committing racist acts as well?)
If you pay attention, it is pretty easy to see that black officers are in charge of a lot of different facets of the inner workings of the dept. They hire new cops, they train new cops & investigate those who are accused of committing wrongdoings.
They are represented in every division & all 8 SROs are minorities.The officers who assign extra duty are ALSO black(Lett/Ponteau) &the; one who hires overtime officers & creates daily work assignments(Barrett).
The current admin is doing their jobs better than any predecessors I can think of in a long time. The dept. itself is 50% minority WOW FACT CHECK people!

posted by: obi on February 8, 2014  8:31am

@Truth Seeker,  why do you include hispanics? Atty. Williams is representing AFRO-AMERICAN officers and for good cause. And the group was smart not to have a mixed group. They (hispanics) have their own issues, never include others and should fight their own battles, should not benefit from others struggles or organizations. They have the best of two worlds as it is.

posted by: AdranaS:) on February 8, 2014  9:06am

lets get the facts right

posted by: Jones Gore on February 10, 2014  12:57pm

Well the racism is affecting black officer no doubt. And white offers are complaining about the Chiefs management style.

This black citizen doesn’t have any complaint while the city is generally safer under this chief. We all have our agendas and concerns, mine is safety. I’ll let the police union and police ethnic organizations address their internal concerns.

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