Local branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People vowed Friday to investigate recent incidents in New London’s public safety departments that they say suggest racial discrimination.
Scot X. Esdaile, president of the Connecticut State Conference of NAACP Branches, said in a press conference at that the organization will seek cooperation with both federal authorities and the national NAACP. Esdaile said an officer with the is accused of planting evidence on an African-American man following a traffic stop. He also criticized the for the termination of a recruit who would have been the first African-American firefighter to join the department since 1978.
Esdaile said the first incident occurred on Oct. 20, 2010. He said Lance Goode was followed by police officers and pulled over, and that an officer planted evidence on the scene that allowed for Goode to be arrested on drug charges.
The alleged act was captured on a cruiser camera, and Goode’s attorney obtained the video under the Freedom of Information Act. The accused officer, Roger Newton, has been pending an investigation.
“We are calling the U.S. Justice Department to come in and do a full-fledged investigation of this particular issue,” said Esdaile.
Esdaile said he was confident that the accusation would be upheld by the video, and criticized the action as a “total disregard and blatant disregard of public trust.” He said he felt the incident also cast a poor image on other police officers and called for a strong punishment.
“We want officers that involve themselves in criminal activity to be arrested, just like any civilian would be,” said Esdaile.
Goode was advised not to speak since he may file a lawsuit in the incident, but briefly answered some questions.
“His career was that important that my life, my family’s life, wasn’t important?” Goode said. “It’s ridiculous.”
New London NAACP president Don Wilson said he has been talking with Police Chief Ackley about the organization’s concerns. Rep. Ernest Hewett (D-39) said the incident should not reflect upon the entire department, but said strong action is needed against any officer who commits an act of corruption.
“We have bad police officers, and we need to root them out,” said Hewett.
Esdaile said the NAACP was also concerned with the termination of Alfred Mayo. Esdaile said Mayo was hired as a recruit by the fire department, went through state academy training, and was terminated two days before the conclusion of this training.
Esdaile said he considered that Mayo was fired for minor infractions, such as the accusation that he wrote the academy class’s name in cement, and that Fire Chief Ron Samul made the decision without hearing both sides. He also criticized the lack of diversity in the department, saying that minorities make up about half of New London’s population.
“The people that serve them should actually be a reflection of the community,” said Esdaile.
Esdaile said he would call upon the national NAACP to investigate the matter, along with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, to see if it is a violation of affirmative action laws. He said Mayo has received the support of the New Haven Firebirds, an organization of minority firefighters, and the Phoenix Society, a nonprofit organization to assist survivors of severe burns.
Mayo’s attorney, Gary Chicchiello, said he was unsure of Mayo’s test scores but that he had passed the tests and received his certification.
“The reasons for the termination, at least the reasons that were given, were fairly insignificant,” said Chicchiello.
The termination has been upheld by Mayor Daryl Finizio. Mayo, a Norwich resident, said he is unsure what his next step will be, saying that he could be required to go back to the state academy if he tries to join another department.
“I can’t just go to a department,” he said. “It’s a whole process.”
Finizio said the recommendation for Mayo’s termination was made by Fire Chief Ron Samul and Personnel Coordinator Bernadette Welch. Finizio said he did not immediately accept the recommendation and asked to review the test scores, personnel files, racial makeup of the class and instructors at the state fire academy, and comparisons for individuals sent to the academy from New London from the past decade.
Finizio said he also consulted with Chief Administrative Officer Jane Glover and City Council President Pro Tempore Wade Hyslop, both of whom are African-American, and that both agreed with the recommendation of Samul and Welch. Finizio said he also came to the conclusion that the termination was justified based on Mayo’s “low test scores and other problems in his personnel file.”
“The mayor is committed to ensuring that city departments, especially the fire department, look like the people within the city of New London,” said Zak Leavy, Finizio’s executive assistant. “However, he will not lower the standards of excellence that the city will hold people accountable to.”