On the day where four East Haven police officers, including the local police union leader, were charged by federal authorities with civil rights abuses against Latino members of the community, the town’s mayor made stunning remarks to a New York-based TV crew.
WPIX11′s Mario Diaz asked Mayor Joseph Maturo, “What are you doing for the Latino community today?”
The mayor, a Republican who defeated Democrat incumbent April Capone by a slim 34 vote margin in November, replied, “I might have tacos when I go home, I’m not quite sure yet.”
Diaz said the mayor apologized for his comments and said it was “out of context.”
During the interview, Maturo also said he didn’t “get (Diaz’s) point” when the reporter stated there is only one Spanish-speaking officer in the 50-member department in a community with a large Latino population.
The community of 28,000 set along the Long Island Sound shoreline, has seen its Latino population double in the past decade, creating racial tensions, according to advocates of the Latino population.
The town first came into the spotlight in 2009, when a local priest, Father James Manship, was arrested while videotaping police officers allegedly harassing owners of a Latino market. Manship, whose parish is mainly Latino, became a loud voice against the town’s police department.
Maturo, first elected in 1997, served as the town’s Mayor for 10 years before losing to Capone in 2007. It took a recount for him to lose his seat, and another recount, this time in his favor, to get the top spot in town hall back in 2011.
Capone, who refused to publicly support the police department during the federal investigation and suspended police chief Leonard Gallo, was given a no-confidence vote by the town’s police department prior to her loss to Maturo.
Upon taking office, Maturo put Gallo back in charge and said he didn’t believe the police department had done anything wrong.
Tuesday, federal agents arrested four town police officers, Dennis Spaulding, David Cari, and Jason Zullo and Sgt. John Miller, accusing them of executing unreasonable search and seizures, making false arrests and using intimidation against local religious leaders, members of the Latino community, fellow police officers and police commissioners investigating them.
The four men have entered not guilty pleas. U.S. Attorney David B. Fein says the investigation is open and ongoing, and more arrests may be made.
Maturo said Tuesday he stands by his officers and police department.