The unilateral way the Mayor of East Haven selected his new chief of police does little to inspire confidence.
After a federal investigation found Latino residents of this Connecticut town had been harassed and brutalized by police, the least that Mayor Joseph Maturo could have done was have a transparent process.
Instead, Maturo decided to assign John Mannion to this position. Mannion was a deputy to Leonard Gallo, the chief of the department under whose tenure the harassment happened.
Mannion has a huge task ahead to reform the controversial police department. The new Chief must implement urgent reforms to clean up the police force and investigate whether other officers were involved. Pending reforms include establishing ongoing communication with Latino and other communities and implementing system-wide training on cultural competency and building relationships with residents.
Most reform proposals, however, will come from an eight-member committee Maturo established to reform the department. Recent reports show former Police Chief Gallo is still in this committee. Gallo must leave this position right away-and Maturo must commit to replace him with a Latino member, preferably someone familiar with East Haven’s Latino community, who are mostly Ecuadoran.
When the Police Department takes strong and fair action, it won’t just send a message of trust to the community, but also to the court handling the case of four police officers who are allegedly involved in this unforgivable police abuse situation.
The judges must weigh the extent of these officers’ alleged actions very seriously. The rift this alleged discriminatory behavior created in the relationship between immigrant communities and police is deep and has a direct impact on public safety.
Therefore, we’re sure the judges will disregard the shameless motion by one of the officers accused, to drop the charges because of the “Barnum-like pre-trial publicity” the case has received. This request is simply disgraceful.
This humiliating scandal is not just news for one day. The sentence in this case must be fair. We hope East Haven uses this dark chapter to become a model of change.