Photo: DOJ Says East Haven, CT Cops Discriminate
The Justice Department announced today that a federal grand jury sitting in Bridgeport, Conn., returned an indictment charging four East Haven Police officers with conspiring to violate, and violating, the civil rights of members of the Latino and undocumented East Haven community. This morning, Sergeant John Miller and Officers David Cari, Dennis Spaulding and Jason Zullo were arrested without incident.
According to allegations contained in the indictment, from approximately 2007 through 2011, Miller, Cari, Spaulding and Zullo, while acting under color of law, conspired to injure, oppress, threaten and intimidate various members of the East Haven community in violation of their constitutional rights.
The indictment alleges that Miller and others maintained and perpetuated an environment in which the use of unreasonable force and unreasonable searches and seizures was tolerated and encouraged. It is alleged that Cari, Spaulding and Zullo engaged in unreasonable searches and seizures, including unlawful searches of premises and arrests of individuals without probable cause or based on false and misleading information, and that Miller, Spaulding, Zullo and another officer used unreasonable force during lawful and unlawful arrests.
It is alleged that this unreasonable force was used when victims were unarmed, neither resisting nor interfering with the police, but rather securely under the control of the police or otherwise cooperative. In some cases, the victims were handcuffed with their hands behind their backs when officers assaulted them. Some of the victims were particularly vulnerable because they were undocumented aliens or otherwise marginalized, having little perceived standing in the community, and thus unlikely to raise objection to the abuse.
The indictment further alleges that Spaulding and Zullo intimidated, harassed and humiliated members of the Latino community and their advocates. Spaulding and Zullo also allegedly conducted unreasonable and illegal searches at Latino-owned businesses, and Spaulding allegedly intimidated and harassed advocates who worked to defend the rights of members of the Latino community.
The indictment alleges more than 30 overt acts by the four defendant.
In one incident excessive force was used against an individual in the parking lot of a Latino-owned restaurant and bar. Spaulding then arrested the individual under false pretenses to cover-up the assault and prepared a false report to justify the false arrest. There was a February 2009 incident during which Spaulding, Cari and other officers illegally searched a vehicle parked outside of a Latino-owned grocery store. Inside the store, Cari and Spaulding, under Miller’s supervision, then arrested a religious leader, who is also an advocate for Latinos, on false pretenses.