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Report: East Haven Police Target Latinos

by Thomas MacMillan | Apr 23, 2010 10:48 am

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

Posted to: Immigrants

Thomas MacMillan Photo A week after the feds slammed the town’s police procedures, a damning new report prepared by Yale student attorneys indicates that East Haven police ticket Latino drivers at vastly disproportionate rates—then record them as white motorists, concealing the facts.

The new report, issued Thursday evening by Yale Law School students, states that over an eight-month period, nearly 60 percent of traffic tickets in East Haven involved Latino drivers. Yet police recorded the ethnicity of drivers as “Hispanic” in less than 5 percent of traffic tickets, according to the report. Read it here.

The Yale report follows just one week after the U.S. Department of Justice issued a letter to East Haven’s lawyer, stating that the department had found significant “areas of concern” in its investigation of policies at the East Haven police department. The Department of Justice has been looking into allegations—raised by a Fair Haven church—that East Haven police are engaged in harassment and abuse of Latinos.

East Haven business owners like Marcia Chacon (pictured) claim Latinos are subject to unwarranted traffic stops, harassment, and even violence at the hands of East Haven cops. Police have denied the charges.

The Department of Justice’s letter to East Haven listed seven different areas of concern, from inadequate oversight of officers’ use of force to a lack of a proper citizen complaint process. That letter prompted East Haven Mayor April Capone Almon to place police chief Len Gallo on administrative leave this week. He turned over his badge and gun on Wednesday. Read the letter here.

The police brass shake-up is the latest development in an ongoing story of alleged police harassment of Latinos just over New Haven’s border in East Haven—a border that separates not just towns, but two vastly different approaches to a growing local immigrant community.

The alleged ongoing harassment first came to light last year when a New Haven priest, Father James Manship, was arrested in an East Haven store while videotaping police who were allegedly harassing the storeowners. Click play to see his camera footage.

Manship Friday welcomed the traffic ticket report as quantitative proof that a problem exists, which will make it more difficult to ignore. “Now it’s some hard facts,” he said. “Are you going to keep saying we don’t have a problem here?”

Manship’s Fair Haven church, St. Rose of Lima, filed a complaint with the Department of Justice, which the department decided last December to investigate.

Last fall, as part of its own investigation into the East Haven Police Department, St. Rose of Lima requested to see records of traffic tickets issued by police on Main Street and Route 80 between June 1, 2008 and Feb. 28, 2009. Those tickets were analyzed by Yale student attorneys assisting St. Rose, resulting in Thursday’s report.

The East Haven Police Department did not turn over all the information requested by St. Rose of Lima. That failure is the subject of an ongoing Freedom of Information case.

In the newly released study, Yale students compared the names on the traffic tickets to lists of Hispanic names, including a list developed by the U.S. Census. The students then determined that 56.3 percent of traffic tickets in the eight-month period were issued to Hispanics. This is significant in a town with a Hispanic population of just 5.8 percent, the report states.

Yale students then compared their analysis of the ethnicity of drivers with the ethnicities reported by East Haven police. They found that police “failed to correctly identify the race of vast majority of individuals to whom they issued traffic tickets.” Police reported giving tickets mostly to white people. Police recorded Hispanic drivers for only 4.8 percent of tickets, according to the report.

An accompanying graph shows that one officer in particular, Dennis Spaulding, is responsible for 97 tickets issued to people with Hispanic names. Another graph shows that Spaulding reported issuing 120 tickets to white people, four to black people, and none to Hispanic drivers in the same period. Spaulding has been accused by name of racial harassment by Latino business owners.

Another graph shows that Hispanic drivers on average received higher fines following traffic stops than other ethnicities.

One section of the report states that traffic tickets were issued more proportionally by ethnicity when East Haven police were engaged in “Click It or Ticket,” a national program of seatbelt enforcement checkpoints. East Haven police stopped only five Hispanics and 35 white people at such checkpoints. The report suggests that since Click It or Ticket is a national program, “the pattern of discriminatory enforcement dissipates when the EHPD is operating under state and/or federal guidelines.”

In conclusion, the report states that the disproportionate level of traffic stops involving Hispanics, provides “indirect support” for allegations of racial harassment and abuse. Combined with the improper recording of ethnicities, the findings “may suggest EHPD officers lack the training and supervision they need to fairly enforce the law,” the report states.

Tafari Lumumba, a student attorney working on the case, said the report will be sent to the Department of Justice, “to supplement their investigation.”

The ultimate goal is to “change the culture of the department,” Lumumba said.  Chief Gallo’s administrative leave is a “good first step,” but the policing problems in East Haven are department-wide.

“It’s not just one or two bad apples,” Lumumba said.

Meanwhile, police harassment continues in East Haven, Lumumba said. He and the rest of the legal team still receive phone calls every week from people complaining about the use of racial slurs by police, or reports of police “putting their hands on people.”

“Not much has truly changed,” Lumumba said.

“As recently as Sunday night, somebody else was accosted and threatened,” Manship said.

From the beginning, St. Rose of Lima has been trying to document what has been happening in East Haven, Manship said. “But we’ve been told by town officials that it’s not happening.”

On Friday afternoon, Chacon was behind the counter of her Main Street business, My Country Store. She said the policing situation has improved recently. However, “People still tell me they are stopped for no reason,” she said. “Some people are still afraid.”

The ouster of Chief Gallo is a sign of justice, Chacon said. But more needs to be done. New regulations need to be implemented at the police department, she said.

Asked for comment about the traffic tickets report, Mayor Almon’s office emailed a statement released after the mayor ordered Chief Gallo to administrative leave:

“Department of Justice has noted a complete lack of training, guidelines, oversight and supervision in a number of critical areas. The question now is; has there been a complete lack of leadership in these critical areas? At the end of the day my concern is how to prevent this from exposing the town to liability which would ultimately cost taxpayers’ money.”

Previous Independent stories about alleged racial profiling in East Haven:

FOIC Slaps East Haven
Feds To Probe Racial Profiling Claims
Immigrant Advocates, Supremacists Clash
March Aims At Immigration Clampdown
Routine Police Work? Or Retaliation?
Case Dismissed, Priest Goes On Offense
Priest’s Video Contradicts Police Report
White Supremacists Pay A Visit
City Priest Pleads Not Guilty
Cross-Border Cops Arrest Father Jim

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posted by: cba on April 23, 2010  11:05am

What is a student attorney ? Has he or she taken the written bar exam ?

posted by: William Kurtz on April 23, 2010  11:25am

Alphonse, “race” and “ethnicity” are social and cultural constructs, with little-to-no biological foundation.  In other words, what large numbers of people perceive as a racial or ethnic distinction is one.  It’s one of the few areas where perception is reality (unlike, say, “Obama is a Muslim” or “the US is a Christian nation”). 

Sorry; I know no one has made the observation that “Latinos aren’t a race” yet but I just wanted to get a head start.

posted by: Bill on April 23, 2010  11:37am

The report says “and the actual race, as suggested by the Hispanic name analysis.”

I didn’t know you could tell someones race by their name. So I guess someone named White is white and someone named Black is black.

posted by: FairHavenResident on April 23, 2010  11:39am

Wow, some people will never get it. Please read the report before commenting or disregarding the facts.

The first 2 comments are good examples of the problem East Haven has had for years.

posted by: Sad but True on April 23, 2010  11:59am

You can bring the race to East Haven but you can’t take the racism out of that town.  Sad to stay but anyone who knows you don’t drive in that town after certain hours, and trouble will find you there even if it is in a uniform.

posted by: Just wondering on April 23, 2010  12:35pm

What charges did the “hispanic” drivers get sited for.  For example “No License” is a charged that must be issued and can not be given a verbal warning.  Minus “no license” tickets, how many hispanics were issued tickets.  Any answers yale???

posted by: Dblock@sbc.net on April 23, 2010  12:44pm

Are these “hispanics” or are they illegal aliens being ticketed?

Another question for yale>

posted by: Ben Berkowitz on April 23, 2010  12:54pm

Dear East Haven Community,

When will this be embarrassing enough that you grow-up with the rest of the country?

Why does it take Yalies, The Feds, the Media and a New Haven preacher to bring this to light?

It makes me think that your community is tolerant of this.

No seriously, I have lived here 31 years…I’ve been in your delis and overheard your BS racist ignorant banter…you are tolerant of it and its disgusting.

posted by: EHFD on April 23, 2010  12:56pm

I must say, I have been keeping up with this issue for years now and was in the middle.  After reading this report, I believe I understand what is going on.

1. police are giving tickets to drivers with no license
2.  The extra $158 for the no license, puts the average amount for hispanics above the rest.
3. East Haven has been calling immigration, this upsets immigrants rights groups.
4. Hispanic is not a race, so police correctly wrote in white if they were white hispanics and black if they were black hispanics.

agree or disagree,  lets debate!

posted by: what? on April 23, 2010  1:38pm

How many cars were towed because of the police checkpoints? What were the results of having no insurance or proper registration?
  One reason for complaint was one checkpoint was near or in front of store. That disturbed business flow that day.
Police and Mayor are in a Political battle.
Police take an oath to following of state and U.S. laws.
Plates are borrowed by the person not considered personal property.

posted by: nfjanette on April 23, 2010  1:56pm

Either the violations for which tickets were issued are legitimate or not.  If not, I’m concerned about the allegations of harassment; otherwise, not so much.

posted by: frank burns on April 23, 2010  2:26pm

Shame on these bad cops.

posted by: Ellis Copeland on April 23, 2010  2:37pm

Shocked.  Shocked I tell you.  Racism among East Haven cops.  The same cops who shot a young black man years ago?  No, it can’t be.

When will you defenders of these street thugs wake up?  East Haven is as bad, or worse, than any place in the Deep South.  Maybe if you don’t like being called out on your obvious and blatant prejudice you should move to Dixie.  Wait, they hate Italians too.  Might not work out so good.

The mayor is doing the right thing and should be applauded.  Would to God New Haven had a mayor with one-tenth the integrity and courage.

posted by: dee on April 23, 2010  3:24pm

EHFD, if in fact “Hispanic is not a race, so police correctly wrote in white if they were white hispanics and black if they were black hispanics,” how do you account for the fact that sometimes cops DID indicate “Hispanic” on their tickets? The law instructs police officers to indicate race OR ETHNICITY on their tickets. Hispanic is an “ethnicity,” is it not? According to the report, EH police officers put “W” for white, “B” for black and “H” for Hispanic in the box on the ticket to indicate race or ethnicity. That they didn’t use an “H” when the person was clearly Hispanic tells you all you need to know: That the EHPD tickets Hispanics disproportionately more often than whites, and then lies on the ticket to cover this fact (a clear indication that they know it’s wrong). What the tickets were for, the amount of the fine, and whether or not they were deserved is immaterial. WHEN tickets were written to Hispanics, more often than not the cops lied on the ticket about the ethnicity of the person they’d stopped. That’s the bottom line.

posted by: Cap on April 23, 2010  7:02pm

I didn’t get past the part that said it was written by Yale law students. Once I saw that, I figured nothing after it would have an ounce of objectivity or common sense, so why bother reading it.

posted by: Tony EH on April 23, 2010  9:28pm

I think outside of Spaulding’s 2 block patrol area he sits in each night, a very troubling situation is that Cari is still on the job after he lied and ffalselyarrested someone, and that was caught on tape! Then 3 officers tried to tamper with a computer for the stores ssurveillancefootage, without a warrant.  Yet nothing has been done and its been well over a year. If that was on tape one can only imagine what goes on off it.

posted by: cba on April 24, 2010  4:20pm

This purported study is marginal at best since it targeted 2 streets in the Town. If you were to study the tickets issued on Congress and Dixwell in the City of New Haven, it could also show a discrepancy of tickets issued to African American. Do we then concluded that the police department is violating constitutional rights of a particular group ?  To rely on such a skewered study serves no valid purpose except to boost some ” student attorney” ‘s ego

posted by: dee on April 25, 2010  12:36am

cba, you clearly don’t know anything about East Haven. Main street and Route 80 are the two main thruways across the town, one in the south of town and one in the north. They were chosen because EVERYONE drives on those streets when driving in or through East Haven.

posted by: robn on April 25, 2010  6:48am

“...At the end of the day my concern is how to prevent this from exposing the town to liability which would ultimately cost taxpayers’ money.” Mayor Capone

The punch line of this story slays me. After years of racist behavior (.i.e. the infamous “Boys on The Hood” t-shirt worn at the EHPD) ....years of poor training and policing (i.e. the Malik Jones incident where an EH cop broke protocol, conducted a high speed chase across town lines and then put himself in a dangerous situation where he had to discharge his firearm (killing somebody))...after all this, the celebrated mayor gets rid of her political enemy (the police chief) and instead of condemning the behavior, she reduces the Yale data to a liability issue for taxpayers. Wheres the morality? East Haveners need to take a long hard look at themselves.

posted by: kamb on April 25, 2010  9:41am

I say congrats to the EHPD for ticketing people who are not supose to be on the road due to no licenses, non registered cars, no insurance, wheather they are black, white, asian, or aliens from mars.

These cops are doing there job. No one is stealing, putting drugs in someones pocket, or beating someone in a dark alleyway.

EHPD keep up the good work and all of you ‘lovers of non-law abiding citizens’ should unregister your cars, fail to renew your license, fail to pay taxes and embrance what you tolerate for other people to do.

posted by: Arclight69 on April 25, 2010  11:55am

I would like the Yale students who did this “analysis” to do another one that shows how many dollars the illegal aliens cost the legal taxpaying public in the state in the way of indigent health care, bilingual teachers, lost revenue from having no driver license and insurance, food stamps and subsidized housing.  This would be a worthy cause to do a statistical analysis of as it would show how much of the citizen’s tax dollars could assist the legal citizens with their problems instead of coddling those here in violation of our laws. Why don’t they do this and publish the results in the NHI or are they afraid of the results?

posted by: Threefifths on April 25, 2010  3:24pm

East Haven should change it’s name to Arizona!!!

posted by: redbone2luv on April 25, 2010  3:31pm

Dose anyone realise that the easiest way to get to the farms and restaurants on the shoreline to go to work is RT80 and RT1 especially if you are an illegal alien and the car your in is not got all the proper papers.

posted by: Mike on April 25, 2010  5:54pm

In order to know if this studies shows what the Yalies claim. They (the Yalies) should do a traffic study on both main st and rt 80 near the city-line with New Haven. If after doing their study of noting the race of all drivers and the percentage is 5.8% then the may have something. It will be much larger as many New Haveners come into East Haven. To quote the percentage of EH’s population is stupid.

posted by: citysavior on April 25, 2010  7:17pm

lets not blame this all on Chief Lenny Gallo. This was happening under pascarella prior to Gallo and nobody made a big deal. Wasn’t Guy Nappi on EHPD back then? Isn’t Nappi with 41 years on the department just as responsible as a command staff member. Didn’t Nappi figure out that the policies were out dated and knew that the minorities were being targeted?? This sound like the Mayor is using Gallo as a scape goat. be careful east haven taxpayers, this is going to cost you more than the Capone arrest did in wasted money.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on April 25, 2010  9:10pm

cba,
That’s a good point, but as dee points out, Main Street and Route 80 would yield a fairly accurate demographic of all of East Haven, not just the Hispanic community. While I’d agree that Congress and Dixwell might have a greater number of minority drivers, Main Street and Route 80 are more comparable to Whalley Avenue, where the demographics of drivers match the demographic of the city.

Arclight69,
The only taxes illegal immigrants do not pay are federal income taxes. This is relevant because illegal immigrants are not making millions at high-wage jobs. They are most likely working low-wage jobs and getting underpaid on top of that. So when we look at their actual income, if they were citizens they wouldn’t be paying federal income taxes anyways because they make too little, or they would be paying a very, very small amount. However, I acknowledge that even if it were a small amount, when multiplied to millions of illegal immigrants, it would add up to a significant amount that is not being added to the economy. While its true that illegal immigrants are likely not contributing 100% of what they should, they are not some enormous drain on our economy and are probably quite low on the list of things that are draining resources, capital, and energy.
America is the country of immigrants. Look at Grand Avenue 10-15 years ago and look at it today. The radical improvements are largely due to the new immigrant community, just as Wooster Squares early success was due to Irish immigrants and is now famous thanks to Italians. If we want to be completely serious, Whalley Avenue could use to immigrants to revitalize its commerce, same goes for Dixwell and Congress.

posted by: dee on April 26, 2010  12:16am

And let’s not forget the tens of thousands of illegal immigrants working in this country with forged social security numbers. These people are having Social Security and Medicare taxes taken out of their checks without ANY ability or intention to collect when they get old. You think those two programs are in trouble now? They’d be many more times worse off without the input of illegal immigrants who won’t ever expect to be paid back.

posted by: The Professor on April 26, 2010  6:49am

Arclight 69,

The study you suggest has already been done.  In 2007, the Congressional Budget Office published a study of the impact of undocumented immigrants on state and local budgets.  ... here’s a link to the study: http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/87xx/doc8711/12-6-Immigration.pdf

The study concludes that there is some fiscal mismatch going on—states and localities don’t fully recoup all of the money that they spend on services for undocumented immigrants (although you should note that undocumented immigrants are NOT eligible for many government benefits, including food stamps and welfare; if they get them, the problem is that they’re defrauding the government, not that they’re in the country without proper paperwork).  I agree that this is a bit unfair to cities and states, but I fail to see how this has any bearing whatsoever on the conduct of EHPD.

Are you suggesting that the solution to fiscal mismatch is to basically declare open season on all Hispanics, thereby leaving the city with a decently large police bill?  I fail to see how the solution to the problem is to spend even MORE money trying to throw people in jail or slapping people with tickets that they may or may not pay.  Furthermore, when this ill-advised strategy is implemented in such a blatantly discriminatory way, the city opens itself up to lawsuits that can sap even MORE money from the city’s coffers. 

Or maybe your comment belies some even worse beliefs.  Maybe you mean to imply that discriminatory police action is justified when the group targeted by adverse action isn’t contributing a sufficient share to city coffers.  If it came out that the police were unfairly targeting black drivers, would you come out and argue that it’s okay because the average black American pays less in taxes and receives more in government benefits than the average white? 

I think that it’s absolutely legitimate (and important) for people to discuss the problem of fiscal mismatch.  But we really should reject the idea that fiscal mismatch somehow justifies discriminatory actions. 


And dblock,
If you’d looked at the report, you’d see that it studies how many Hispanics are being ticketed, regardless of their citizenship and/or immigration status.  That’s a huge part of the problem here—you can’t tell what a person’s immigration status is just by looking at the person.  Instead, sufficiently overzealous police agencies seem to turn to blatant racial profiling and cast a wide dragnet without regard to who it ensnares or how it affects them.

But even if there were some way to determine someone’s immigration status by simply looking at them, we have to ask whether it’s morally justifiable to deport an otherwise law-abiding member of society simply for the fact that he or she does not have proper paperwork. 

Now, if someone sneaks into the country and, say, robs a convenience store at gunpoint, I’m not opposed to deportation (although I doubt that would solve the problem—if someone really wants to get into a country, he or she can). But the fact of the matter is that undocumented immigrants commit crime at a LOWER rate than native-born citizens (http://www.ailf.org/ipc/special_report/sr_022107.pdf). 

So again, if an undocumented immigrant works hard, provides for his/her family, and abides by local laws, should we deport that person?  Or should we devote our government resources to dealing with people who actually, you know, cause problems? 

Finally, Cap,

If you really believe that the YLS students are wrong, read the report and tell us why you think so!  Plenty of other people have done that on this comment board.  I think there are legitimate criticisms that can be made of YLS as an institution (as there are of any educational institution), but the charge that YLS students would basically rig numbers to back up some preconceived notion is pretty serious.

Now, I do think that some institutions have so discredited themselves that we should look critically at anything they say.  But even an institution that’s wrong 99% of the time is still right the other 1% of the time, so the idea of completely refusing to even consider the points that are being made is wrongheaded unless your ultimate goal is to bolster YOUR preconceived notions regardless of what the evidence indicates.

posted by: mikepc45 on April 26, 2010  10:51am

All this would stop if our leaders in Washout would secure our national borders. Until this happens all this bologna is hot air commentary.

posted by: that's odd on April 26, 2010  11:40am

Cap - huh?  Yale is the top law school in the country.  YES, LET’S JUST IGNORE THEM.  Makes total sense.

posted by: Steve Ross, Human on April 26, 2010  12:13pm

Cap,

Your comment defines willful ignorance. Congrats on your stark apathy.

posted by: erge on April 26, 2010  1:57pm

Copied this from a facebook post- intersting.

The methodology in the report by the Yale law students is shockingly bad, and pretty clearly will over-classify people as Hispanic, but especially in a community like East Haven which has a very large Italian-American population. They took lists of Spanish/Latino first names and family names. They then tried to match first names with first names, last names with last names, and middle names with both. In addition to actual matches, they included matches within 2 letters.

I was shocked that they would be so sloppy as to use first names, and to allow matches within two letters. So Marie is a Hispanic name? Carlo, or just Carl? Maria really is a common Hispanic first name, but is also a common Italian-American first name, and it’s not unheard of for people of other ethnic groups to name their children Maria, as I’m sure you know :). For that matter, John is only two letters off Juan, so according to the Yale law students, John Smith is a Hispanic name…. See More

There are well-developed statistical techniques that could have been used to make more realistic assessments of the chance, especially since the zip codes of the people who were ticketed would have been recorded, and could have been used to weight the probabilities of a particular name being Hispanic or not. Direct-mailers have been doing this sort of thing for 20 years - e.g. if they want to target Jewish people, they have lists of Jewish surnames, but if they don’t want to waste money sending things to Swedish people named Rosenberg, they also take into account first names and zip codes. However, the goal here seems to have been not to get at the truth, but to provide political support for a position that all the people in East Haven are racists.

I would have been very interested to see what fraction of the East Haven population as a whole comes out as “Hispanic” based on their names. I’d guess something like 30-40%. I would also expect the fraction of drivers ticketed in East Haven to be more heavily Latino than the overall population of East Haven, just because the streets they used for the analysis are the closest shopping districts to Fair Haven, which is predominantly Latino.

posted by: Alphonse Credenza on April 26, 2010  3:56pm

Perhaps this research shows that, in East Haven, Hispanics offend traffic regulations more than other drivers.  Or that there are more Hispanics driving in East Haven than Asians.  The simplest explanation is usually the accurate one. 

Neither of these graphs appear to prove the bias the Yale students claim.

By the way, what is an Asian?  An Indian?  Lebanese?  Chinese?  Korean?  What hogwash.

posted by: Pedro d'Ibiza on April 26, 2010  5:18pm

so many problems with this article. Starting with the fact that “Hispanic” is not a “race”. I am Hispanic, and I am usually mistaken for Italian. Secondly, the “students” assert that police are “covering up” alleged profiling by listing them as “white”. I assume they mean Caucasian. At least 50% of hispanics have Caucasian complexions, as do I. So the students, who clearly need to spend more time in class, simply are maming bold assertions w/o proof.
...

posted by: Alphonse Credenza on April 26, 2010  5:29pm

William - thanks for thinking of me, before I even commented!

You are entirely correct.  There is no foundation in fact to racial or ethnic classifications in the US. 

How would you classify 1st generation Americans from Peru of Japanese ancestry (yes, there are quite a few!)?  Try that on for size.

No wonder some of the East Haven cops were so confused.  The system of classification is ridiculous.  Get rid of it!

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