The New York Times on Our Profiling Case

Today, the New York Times covered our case against racial profiling in East Haven, CT. My team and I have been working on this case for more than a year as part of the Worker and Immigrant Rights Clinic at Yale Law School:


Nina Bernstein

Since 2008, officials in East Haven, Conn., a working-class suburb with a long history of toxic relations between the police and minorities, have played down Latinos’ complaints of accelerating police harassment and brutality.

Local officials appeared unperturbed when the Justice Department opened a rare investigation last fall into allegations of discriminatory policing in the town and Yale law students went to court to force the release of police records. The police chief denied any bias and blamed any problems on the failure of federal immigration policy. The mayor said she was unaware of any racial discrimination and supported the police.

But in recent days, the town seemed to have turned an unexpected corner.

In an unusual step, the Justice Department warned the town attorney in a letter on April 15 that its preliminary review showed the Police Department was a shambles, with no modern rules of conduct for officers, no check on their use of force, inadequate training and no functioning citizen complaint system.

On Wednesday, the mayor, April Capone Almon, backed by a quick and unanimous vote of the police commission board, ordered the veteran police chief, Leonard Gallo, to turn in his badge and gun, placing him on administrative leave.

And on Thursday, just as the Yale students completed a damning analysis of recent traffic tickets — almost 60 percent went to people with Hispanic surnames, who make up about 6 percent of the town’s population — a different revelation became an Internet sensation. Weeks earlier, the mayor had donated a kidney to Carlos Sanchez, a local office worker she barely knew.

If that gesture might someday be remembered as a turning point in the town’s troubled relations with its Hispanic population, Mayor Capone Almon maintained that she had never thought of it as a way to build bridges.

“He was just a person who needed help,” said the mayor, who has recovered from the operation on April 8. She was bracing for a round of national television and radio interviews about her organ donation to Mr. Sanchez, who had posted an appeal on Facebook.

To Valarie Kaur, one of the law students who prepared the complaint to the Justice Department and battled for police documents under the Freedom of Information Act, the spotlight on the town was a chance to highlight the larger issues at stake.

“This is a promising moment for East Haven,” she said. “In the midst of a national debate on policing and immigration, East Haven has the opportunity to lead by example — to change the culture of the Police Department, enforce the law and protect all its residents.”

Read the rest of the story here.