Conspiracy. Excessive Force. Obstruction of justice. These are just some of the crimes federal investigators Tuesday charged members of the East Haven police force in Connecticut with. What's even more shocking about the charges is that they allegedly stem from a pattern of racial profiling and mistreatment of Hispanic immigrants by police. The New York Times reports:
"They stopped and detained people, particularly immigrants, without reason...sometimes slapping, hitting or kicking them when they were handcuffed, and once smashing a man's head into a wall. They followed and arrested residents, including a local priest, who tried to document their behavior. They rooted through stores looking for damning security videotapes of how they had treated some of their targets, described by one of them on a police radio as having 'drifted to this country on rafts made of chicken wings.'"
To call the police's behavior appalling would be an understatement. It's so outrageous that if a Hollywood movie about cops depicted these deeds, the filmmakers would surely be accused of sensationalism. Unfortunately for the victims, exaggeration doesn't appear to be a factor here. If found guilty of obstruction--the most serious offense they've been charged with--the officers could face a 20-year prison sentence. Despite the graveness of these crimes, East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. gave an amazingly flip answer when asked by a reporter how he planned to advocate for the Latino community in the aftermath of the police scandal.
"I might have tacos when I go home," he told WPIX-TV's Mario Diaz. "I'm not quite sure yet."
Huh? The reporter tried his best to coax the mayor into making a more thoughtful remark. "You do realize that's not the comment to say right now, that you might have tacos tonight," the reporter told him. But Maturo held his ground, saying that he might also have spaghetti for dinner since he's of Italian heritage.
Um, okay. Four officers have been charged with falsely arresting and physically abusing Latinos in the community, among other vile offenses, and the mayor's first instinct is to play these despicable crimes down by talking about tacos. Incredible.
After public outcry against his taco comment reached a fever pitch, the mayor apologized for the remarks Wednesday, but many doubt the sincerity of the apology. Local group Reform Immigration For America responded to Maturo's callous quip by delivering 500 tacos to his office.
"With this delivery, we are sending an open invitation to Mayor Maturo to start an honest dialogue with the Latino community."
Let's hope Maturo takes them up on the offer. At present, Latinos not only I can't can't trust the local police but also the local leadership. If the mayor doesn't have the decency to discuss xenophobic police misconduct with the seriousness the topic deserves, it's questionable that he should remain in office.