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St. Rose Claims Victory
by Thomas MacMillan | Oct 25, 2012 8:12 am
Posted to: Immigrants, Legal Writes, Fair Haven
As years of harassment at the hand of East Haven cops come to an end, Latinos are beginning to move across the border from New Haven.
Father James Manship (pictured) of St. Rose of Lima Church in Fair Haven said he has learned in the past week of three Latino families who are moving to East Haven.
He offered the anecdote as evidence that things really have changed in the neighboring town, thanks to the work of Latinos, many of them immigrants belonging to his congregation, who refused to be victimized by East Haven cops.
Manship made those comments at a Wednesday afternoon press conference in the basement of his church. Manship was joined by parishioners to discuss the news that East Haven has signed a settlement with the Department of Justice, agreeing to comprehensive reforms of the police department.
The settlement comes after a lengthy investigation by the Department of Justice, which found a “pattern and practice” of race-based police harassment of Latinos in East Haven. The investigation would never have happened if members of St. Rose had not spoken out about the abuses, said Angel Fernandez, a parish leader at the church.
Fernandez (at left in photo) hailed the settlement as validation of and vindication of the many immigrants who shared their stories with Department of Justice investigators.
“Imagine how frightened and hurt they were when those incidents occurred,” Fernandez said. Imagine how hard it was when then East Haven police Chief Leonard Gallo refused to acknowledge a problem, and was rehired by Mayor Joseph Maturo after being fired by his predecessor, Mayor April Capone Almon, Fernandez said. Any question about the “honesty and dignity” of the Latinos who voiced complaints has been laid to rest, Fernandez said.
“We are proud of our role,” he said.
Marcia Chacon (pictured), the owner of My Country Store in East Haven, said she began experiencing police harassment in 2008. Cops would park outside the store and pull over anyone who left.
“The harassment became so severe that it essentially terrorized the entire Latino community in East Haven,” she said. “I didn’t think we’d ever get this far. Now I’m very happy.”
The routine harassment Latinos faced across the town border has subsided, Manship reported.
Father Manship acknowledged “the many years that our sisters and brothers in the African American community” have experienced similar harassment in East Haven.
In addition to the three Latino families that are moving to East Haven, Manship also noted that Officer Carlos Ramon, a longtime New Haven cop, was recently sworn in as an East Haven officer.
Fernandez highlighted several significant aspects of the settlement agreement. For instance, the default outcome of any kind of police retaliation against the Latino community is termination. Cops have to report every single time they unholster their gun. And officers must report on each other’s misconduct or face penalties themselves.
“This is a serious thing, and a sad thing, in many ways,” Fernandez said.
Josh Rosenthal, a Yale law student who has been working on the case, said a judge will be in charge of seeing that the settlement is carried out. In a related criminal case against four East Haven cops, two have pleaded guilty and a trial is scheduled in January for the other two, Rosenthal said. A civil case against East Haven—in which Chacon and Manship are plaintiffs along with a handful of others—is on hold pending the outcome of the criminal case.
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Perhaps Father Manship can now explain to the larger community outside of his flock what steps he has taken to address the may known violations of motor vehicle regulations and laws within the “undocumented” immigrant community? Unregistered, uninsured, and unsafe vehicles operated by unlicensed drivers endanger everyone; hampering the ability of law enforcement to control these issues within any specific area or community does not serve the interest of public safety in any rational manner.