East Haven Officers Found Guilty of Violating Hispanics' Civil Rights

Oct 21, 2013

East Haven police officer Dennis Spaulding and his wife leave court in late September in Hartford.
Credit Melanie Stengel / The New Haven Register

A federal jury in Connecticut has found two police officers from the town of East Haven guilty of violating the civil rights of Hispanics. The Justice Department has said the town systematically discriminated against Latinos.

Prosecutors alleged that officers David Cari and Dennis Spaulding made unreasonable searches and seizures, and arrested Latinos without probable cause. During the trial, lawyers for Cari and Spaulding said federal prosecutors didn't prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Dierdre Daly says otherwise. She's the Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut.

"I believe the takeaway is that no one is above the law and no one is beneath the law's protection," she said. "In this department, there were a series of incidents with a number of different victims that showed a pattern of use of excessive force and unlawful arrests and seizures."

Daly praised the verdict.

"The verdict is a swift an unambiguous confirmation that a jury found that in a series of incidents these officers violated people's constitutional rights," she said.

The officers were arrested with two others back in early 2012 for allegedly harassing and abusing Hispanic immigrants. Hours later, a reporter asked the town's mayor what he would do to support Latinos. He responded by saying he might have tacos for dinner.