Study: East Haven police ticket more Hispanics

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Students at Yale Law School on Friday released an analysis showing that more than half of the tickets East Haven police issued along two main roads went to Hispanic drivers, even though Hispanics make up less than 6 percent of the population.

Their report comes as the police department faces a federal investigation into bias allegations.

The report, aided by Yale statisticians, also said East Haven police officers substantially underreported the number of tickets issued to Hispanic drivers by reporting most of them as white. It cited one officer as reporting virtually all of his tickets were issued to white drivers and none to Hispanics, although nearly 80 percent of his tickets were issued to Hispanic drivers.

The Rev. James Manship, who was arrested last year while videotaping police officers in an attempt to document alleged harassment of Hispanics, said he was troubled but not surprised by the findings. The charges against the priest were later dropped.

"These numbers support the stories of racial profiling and police abuse that I have heard from my parishioners," Manship said in a statement.

Manship's church, St. Rose of Lima Church in New Haven, filed a complaint last year with the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division seeking an investigation of East Haven police for alleged brutality and racial profiling of Hispanics.

The Justice Department opened an investigation in December looking into nearly two dozen allegations of police misconduct.

The Justice Department sent a letter last week to East Haven officials saying the police department lacks modern rules of conduct for officers, written guidance on the use of force and cited concerns the department may not require officers to thoroughly report all uses of force.

The letter also said the department offers limited training, does not appear to have a system that allows supervisors to detect potential patterns of at-risk conduct by officers and its citizen complaint and internal investigation processes are flawed.

Federal officials said the investigation remains open and the agency has not reached any conclusions on the allegations.

But East Haven Mayor April Capone Almon, citing the letter, sent a suspension letter this week to Police Chief Leonard Gallo, who was placed on administrative leave.

"The question now is, Has there been a complete lack of leadership in these critical areas? At the end of the day my concern is how to prevent this from exposing the town to liability which would ultimately cost taxpayers' money," Capone Almon said in a statement, declining further comment.

Capone Almon earlier this month donated her kidney to Carlos Sanchez, a constituent.

Gallo, reached at home Friday, declined to comment on the Yale report. He has said he believes the suspension is politically motivated.

The study by Yale Law School students focused on 376 traffic tickets issued on two main thoroughfares in East Haven, a New Haven suburb. It concluded that 210 tickets, or 56 percent, were issued to drivers with Hispanic names. The Hispanic population in East Haven is 5.8 percent.

The study looked at tickets issued between June 1, 2008, and Feb. 28, 2009.

Dermot Lynch, one of the students who produced the report, said the problems run deeper than the chief. He said the department needs better supervision and professional diversity training.

The report compared the names of people on the tickets to what it called authoritative lists of Hispanic names developed by the U.S. Census and other researchers.

The report acknowledged the limited nature of data on ticket forms makes it impossible to conclusively explain the disparity but said the percentage of Hispanic drivers pulled over was well beyond their makeup in the town. The disparity virtually disappears when East Haven police participate in programs under state or federal guidelines, such as seat belt enforcement, the report said.

The report also comes after the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission earlier this month released a proposed ruling that the East Haven Police Department violated the law by not releasing records, including reports on the use of force, to Manship's church.