Wednesday, January 25, 2012

In the midst of the East Haven storm, an opportunity to build bridges

By Ed Stannard and Angi Carter
Community Engagement Editors

Sometimes -- not often -- a story hits us in the newsroom like a hurricane. There’s the initial blast, and then it keeps coming, with new angles, stories and developments. It’s all the reporters and editors talk about; other stories, however worthy, somehow go to the back or our minds.

The storm hasn’t stopped in the case of the arrests of four East Haven police officers for allegedly mistreating and discriminating against Latino residents. There was the indictment, full of horrific descriptions of beatings and intimidation. There was the press conference in Bridgeport, with officials’ soundbites of “bullies with badges” and “a cancerous cadre” in the East Haven Police Department. There was the context of a town under a cloud because of investigations by the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department and a lawsuit brought by Yale students.
Then Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr., just returned to office after a four-year absence, was asked, “What are you doing for the Latino community today?” He responded with his potential dinner plans: “I might have tacos when I go home. I’m not quite sure yet.”

For the record, most Latinos in East Haven, and those who are the subject of the alleged bias and harassment, are of Ecuadorean descent. Tacos are a Mexican dish. But as the WPIX-TV reporter pointed out, that’s not the point. Our editor, Matt DeRienzo, called Maturo’s comment “a blatantly racist, ignorant and arrogant slur.”

Clearly, there is ignorance, if not disdain, for East Haven’s Latino residents on the part of the mayor and, it appears, some members of the police force. And every resident of East Haven is now feeling the pain of being labeled as racists or victims.

You have shared your thoughts about this using social media networks and we curated your comments to augment what needs to be an ongoing discussion.

The people of East Haven are going to have to find ways to heal and improve understanding among the town’s diverse communities. But while we follow this issue and the stories that come up, we also want to help foster those solutions. We want to hear what you have to say about what can and should be done, what needs to be done. We’ll be discussing this in the coming days, and we hope you will join in that conversation.

Call Angi Carter at 203-789-5752 or email her at Call Ed Stannard at 203-789-5743 or email him at

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