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New London - The state and local chapters of the NAACP called for federal intervention into two different cases of alleged discrimination in the New London fire and police departments during a press conference Friday night at City Hall.
"We want to make it public that we are upset how business is conducted with minorities in this city," said Scot X. Esdaile, state NAACP president.
Esdaile and Donald Wilson, president of the New London chapter of the NAACP, pointed to what they said are two very serious situations involving the alleged planting of drugs by a New London police officer and the firing of a black New London Fire Department recruit.
K-9 Officer Roger Newton, 27, was placed on paid administrative leave Jan. 6 after Lance Goode, who is black, alleged that Newton, who is white, planted drugs at the scene of Goode's October 2010 arrest on drug charges. Goode gave a copy of the police video of the traffic stop and arrest to The Day on Jan. 5.
"There is blatant, undeniable evidence," Esdaile said of the video. "We demand an officer not be put on leave. We want an officer who participated in illegal activity to be arrested."
Esdaile also addressed the case of Alfred Mayo, who was hired last summer by the New London Fire Department only to be fired in December, two days before he was to graduate from the state fire academy. Esdaile said Friday that Mayo's firing was just the latest case in a department that has not hired an African American since 1978.
"He's been chief since 1985 and this department he leads is now a direct reflection of his work," Esdaile said of Fire Chief Ronald Samul, who is in his 27th year in the post. "He should take full responsibility for that."
Both Mayo and Goode attended the press conference. Both had filed complaints with the state NAACP, Esdaile said.
In Goode's case, Esdaile said, one police officer showed "blatant disregard for the public trust here in the city of New London."
Esdaile said he has a meeting scheduled for next week with Assistant U.S. Attorney Ndidi Moses to discuss the allegations that Newton planted drugs at a crime scene.
"Police officers are supposed to protect and serve, not protect and plant drugs," Esdaile said. "This thing is going to court in the future."
State Rep. Ernest Hewett, D-New London, who spoke at the press conference, said he attended because the evidence shown in the video is "undeniable."
"It's not a bad eye on all of New London, but if we have bad police officers we need to root them out," Hewett said. "It was something I just could not get past."
Wilson said he's had "good talks" with Police Chief Margaret Ackley about the allegations against Newton and that Ackley has been supportive of the local NAACP chapter.
"It's a blatant attack on everyone's freedom by people in positions of authority," Wilson said of the allegations. "It's really, really a bad situation when someone wearing a uniform can come up and take your liberty."
Firefighters from two black fraternal organizations, the Hartford Phoenix Society and the New Haven Firebirds Society - including its founder, George Sweeney, the first black firefighter hired in New Haven in 1957 - attended as a show of support for Mayo.
Mayo has said he'd just like his job back and has no intention of bringing a discrimination lawsuit against the city.
Esdaile said the group will file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and hopes for a meeting with Samul and the state Department of Public Safety.
Mayo has said he was fired because he was written up for non-serious transgressions while at the academy, including carving "Class 48" into wet cement, which he denies. His test score, Mayo said, was 79, well above the 70 needed to pass the academy.
"With these types of 'problems' manifesting themselves within the Recruit Class, I am very reluctant to believe that this Recruit possesses the attitude, the honesty or reliability that the Fire Department expects and demands from an entry level Firefighter," Samul wrote in recommending Mayo's termination.
Samul, Esdaile said, should have heard both sides of the story before firing Mayo, "especially when he knows he doesn't have diversity in his department."
In an online chat Thursday, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said that after much review he took the recommendation of Samul and Chief Administrative Officer Jane Glover and City Council Public Safety Liaison Wade Hyslop, both of whom are black, to fire Mayo.
Hyslop did not attend the press conference Friday and did not return calls for comment.
"I am highly sensitive to the reality that this individual was the first African-American fire recruit in over 30 years," said Finizio in Thursday's chat. "... It was a very difficult decision to make, and I assure the people of New London that in the year ahead you will see my commitment to diversity in this department is steadfast. But the City of New London will not lower our standards of excellence for anyone."
Finizio did not attend Friday's press conference, but a spokesman said after the event that the mayor has met twice with Wilson, the NAACP chapter president, to discuss the termination.
Wilson, though, said he is upset with Mayo's termination. "We're trying to get justice here," he said Friday. "I don't believe Mr. Mayo was dealt with fairly. There's a lot of things that just don't look right."
Wilson said he hopes Friday's press conference will help to ease any racial tension there may be in the city. "I feel good about what New London is doing as a whole," he said. "We're moving in the right direction. All I can truthfully say is we would like to get together and live like a community of brothers and sisters."