Moral Low Ground

Society

East Haven, Connecticut Cops Dennis Spaulding, David Cari, Jason Zullo and John Miller Arrested by FBI for Brutality Against Hispanic Immigrants

Four police officers in a Connecticut seaside town were arrested by federal agents Tuesday over allegations of abuse of Hispanic immigrants.

The Associated Press reports that East Haven officers Dennis Spaulding, David Cari, Jason Zullo and police union president Sgt. John Miller were all arrested and charged with conspiracy against rights, which could result in ten years behind bars. Some of the officers also face charges of deprivation of rights, obstruction of justice and use of unreasonable force.

The officers beat people while they were in handcuffs, unlawfully searched Hispanic businesses and harassed and intimidated witnesses, advocates and even other officers who attempted to investigate or report their colleagues’ wrongdoing. Police abuse of Hispanics was rampant in East Haven for years; the Justice Department initiated a civil rights investigation in 2009 that found widespread discrimination. That probe concluded that East Haven officers made life miserable for Hispanics.

When longtime  East Haven resident Santiago Malave, who is actually a parole officer, tried to talk to a police sergeant about the blatant discrimination, he was told point-blank that “You Spics don’t have rights here.”

For others, the pain of discrimination and abuse was much more physical.

Yadanny Garcia alleges that he was stopped and ordered to the ground by officers who shocked him three times with a Taser gun, beat him, and told him to “go back to [his] country.”

Jose Luis Albaraccin was arrested after he questioned a police officer, hauled off to the police station, sprayed with pepper gas and beaten.

When Edgar Torres told police officers he would complain that he’d been Tasered four times for no reason, one of them threatened to kill him.

These are but a few of the allegations against the East Haven Police Department. Officers have also harassed out-of-town patrons of local Hispanic businesses, ticketing and towing cars, removing license plates and harassing Latinos for no other reason than their ethnicity. “They destroyed our future here,” lamented Mario Marin, who owns a once-busy restaurant.

“In simple terms, [the arrested officers] behaved like bullies with badges,” Janice Fedarcyk, assistant director of the New York FBI office, told the AP.

Lawyers for the accused officers say their clients are model cops.

“John Miller is a hero in East Haven,” his lawyer Donald Cretella told the AP. “He’s decorated. He’s a wonderful family man. Hopefully, we’ll clear his name.”

“At this early stage it’s our position Mr. Spaulding is not guilty of the charges,” Frank Riccio Jr., Spaulding’s lawyer, told the AP. “He’s been nothing but an exemplary police officer. That’s why this is shocking.”

What’s truly shocking was the response of East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo when asked what he is doing for the Hispanic community.

“I might have tacos when I go home,” he replied.

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