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Wrong apology sought from East Haven’s mayor

Rushing to condemn East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo Jr. for political incorrectness or insensitivity, his critics have let him get away with the worse offense: his complicity in the perjury committed by his town’s police officers.

When Maturo told a reporter last week that his response to the Latino community’s concerns about police misconduct might be to have tacos for dinner, he wasn’t being racist, though he happily has been presiding over bigotry. Rather the mayor was expressing contempt for those concerns — as he already had done immediately upon last week’s federal indictment of four East Haven police officers.

“We basically have a very good police department,” Maturo told the New Haven Register. “I stand by our police department from top to bottom.”

This is the department that, since March 2009, had been exposed for falsifying the written record of the arrest of a Catholic priest who was videotaping the harassment of Latinos by East Haven police. The officers charged the priest with threatening them with what they thought was a weapon at a Latino grocery store. But the audio on the priest’s video recorded the officers as acknowledging that he only had a camera. In court the charge against the priest was dismissed quickly and his video of the lying cops was broadcast repeatedly throughout the state.

But no one in authority in Connecticut’s government did anything about the perjury by the police — not the judge who dismissed the case against the priest; not the prosecutor who handled the charges; not East Haven’s police chief, later suspended by Maturo’s predecessor as mayor but quickly restored to office upon Maturo’s election two months ago and now, retired; not then-Gov. Jodi Rell; not Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane; and not Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, now U.S. senator, and other members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation who now have gotten upset only about “tacos.” Even Gov. Malloy’s first comment about the case, last week, was only a demand that Maturo apologize for “tacos” — which the mayor already had done.

The East Haven police enjoy no presumption of innocence in the matter of the priest. While nearly everything else in the federal indictment remains to be proved, the priest’s case was already fully documented and concluded. Anyone could compare the signed arrest report against the video and audio of the incident and the dismissal of the charge.

That case and the lying officers behind it are what Mayor Maturo should be apologizing for, just for starters. His “taco” remark is only a snide little manifestation of his refusal to acknowledge and correct what is wrong with the East Haven police. What’s wrong there won’t be corrected by the mayor’s supporting the department “from top to bottom” when it is plainly corrupt from the top down, with a chief who endorsed perjury by his officers.

But then everyone in authority in Connecticut who knew about the case of the priest and decided not to risk political trouble with police officers, their unions and bigots throughout the state and leave justice to the U.S. attorney’s office or to God should be apologizing too.

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.

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