East Haven, Connecticut mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. may be eating his words tonight.
When asked by a television reporter what he planned to do for the city’s Hispanic community in response to illegal searches and alleged abuse by the local police force, he said, “I might have tacos when I go home, I’m not quite sure yet.”
The reporter also asked in the interview why there are no Hispanic officers on the police force.
Maturo later said that he was tired and been answering questions all day.
The governor of Connecticut called Maturo’s remarks “repugnant” and “unacceptable” and that his comments “represent either a horrible lack of judgment or worse, an underlying insensitivity to our Latino community that is unacceptable.”
Alleged abuse by city police against Hispanics
The reporter was talking about the arrests of four East Haven police officers by FBI agents Tuesday for their alleged roles in abusing Latino residents and business owners, performing illegal searches, making false arrests and harassing immigrant rights advocates.
Esdras Marin, a manager at La Bamba, a Latino-owned bar and restaurant named in the case who claims police harass him said, “Police come in two or three times a month and ask everyone in the restaurant for their identification,” he said. “And if you don’t have it, they threaten us and say they’re going to call the immigration office.”
According to 2010 census data, East Haven has a population of some 29,000 people, with about 10.3% identifying as Hispanic or Latino.
Allegations in the indictment against the police officers include the covering up of abuse. One officer allegedly kicked a suspected illegal immigrant to the ground, giving him a cut on the chin, and filed a “false report” to cover up what had happened.
Maturo said about the police officers, “They’re innocent until proven guilty”. and doesn’t believe the claims of widespread discrimination are accurate.
“My sincerest apologies go out to the East Haven community and, in particular, the Latino community for the insensitive and off-color comment that I made to WPIX reporter Mario Diaz yesterday regarding the recent events affecting our community and our police department,” Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. said in a statement. “Unfortunately, I let the stress of the situation get the best of me and inflamed what is already a serious and unfortunate situation.”
Maturo said change is on the way in an updated police handbook used when dealing with suspected illegal immigrants.
Meanwhile, federal authorities are asking the public to report abuse and discrimination while remaining anonymous, allowing them to remain anonymous if they are not sure if they are in the country legally.