The East Haven Police Department has been at the center of a long-running controversy, or controversies. They have been accused, among other things, of racial profiling and civil rights abuses. As a result of the federal Department of Justice investigation, the town can expect to (hopefully) see some changes with how things are done.
Just last month the DOJ announced what is known as a consent decree between themselves and the East Haven police. This decree is an agreement entered into in order to halt a lawsuit in progress against the city. Basically, the police department is saying, “okay, we would rather make changes than move forward in defending ourselves against this suit.”
As reported at apublicdefender.com, the decree is 54 pages long and includes numerous stipulations for the department to adhere to. Among them are regulations regarding how officers write reports, how they initiate stops, and what can be used as justification for an arrest, search, or stop.
In response to the (substantiated) allegations of racial profiling, officers are not to use any demographic category (like race or ethnicity) as a factor in establishing reasonable suspicion or probable cause. This means they can’t use someone’s race as a reason to pull them over, search them, or arrest them.
Also important, officers of East Haven must now tell subjects if they have the right to refuse a search. Some police searches are voluntary—meaning an officer will ask for you to allow the search. But not everyone understands that they can refuse. Now, when an officer asks for consent to search, he or she must also inform the subject of their right to refuse.
While many of the stipulations seem like common sense, the DOJ investigation into the department showed that officers weren’t always acting with common sense.
Another interesting point of the decree is that it specifically states citizens have the right to watch and record police action and that officers can’t interfere with this right. This is a hot-button issue right now around the country, and particularly in areas where the police are under public scrutiny.
The people of a town like East Haven shouldn’t have to worry whether or not the cops are going to keep them safe or infringe upon their rights. You shouldn’t have to be wary of people whose wages you help to pay. But such is the case in many communities across this country.
If you have faced arrest on a criminal charge and you believe the charges are bogus, I may be able to help. Contact my offices today to discuss the case against you and your legal options.