Looks like Sheriff Joe Arpaio may have some competition in the category of most overtly-racist public official. The same day four East Haven, Connecticut police officers, including the local police union leader were charged by federal authorities for violating civil rights laws and abusing Latino members of the East Haven community, the town’s mayor, Joseph Maturo said he planned to reach out to the Latino community by “having some tacos.”
East Haven is a community of about 28,000 and has seen its Latino population double in the past decade. The result has been increasing racial tensions, particularly with police officers. The fifty-member police department has only one Spanish-speaking officer, a fact Mayor Maturo didn’t see a problem with.
Racial tensions in the community first came to light in 2009 when a local priest was arrested while videotaping police officers allegedly harassing owners of a Latino market.
The incident sparked additional controversy when the former mayor, Democrat April Capone, refused to publicly support the police department during the federal investigation and suspended police chief Leonard Gallo. In return Capone got a no-confidence vote by the town’s police department just before her loss to Maturo.
Once Maturo took office he put Gallo back in charge and said he didn’t believe the police department had done anything wrong. It’s a position he maintains in the face of the arrest of four town police officers, each charged with conducting unreasonable searches and seizures, making false arrests and using intimidation against local religious leaders, members of the Latino community, fellow police officers and police commissioners investing them. The U.S. Attorney’s office has said that the investigation is open and ongoing and more arrests are likely.
Photo from CHRISTOPHER MACSURAK via flickr.