'Town hall' meeting to air allegations of mistreatment in New London

New London - Donald Wilson, the city's NAACP chapter president, wants to get everyone who has something to say about allegations of mistreatment of minorities by the police and fire departments in the same room.

Wilson said a "town hall" meeting Tuesday will include a panel of civil rights advocates and public officials who will discuss racial profiling, police misconduct and unfair hiring and promotional practices.

He has invited state Rep. Ernest Hewett and a member of the religious community to serve on the panel and hopes Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, Police Chief Margaret Ackley and Fire Chief Ronald Samul, among other city officials, will attend.

Ackley, Finizio and Samul did not respond Friday to an email requesting comment.

The public discussion, Wilson said, began late last year with Alfred Mayo, a black firefighter recruit who was fired and removed from the state fire academy in December, three days before his class was to graduate.

Mayo said last week that he is scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon in Hartford with Assistant U.S. Attorney Ndidi Moses, who serves as the civil rights coordinator for the U.S. Attorney's Office Civil Division.

Mayo, who was to become the first black firefighter hired by the city since 1978, has claimed he was unfairly treated and fired. He said he has filed complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Justice.

In a termination letter, Finizio said Mayo's "conduct does not meet the standards that the City of New London looks for in a New London Firefighter." Finizio said that he fired Mayo after discussions with Samul and personnel coordinator Bernadette Welch, as well as with Chief Administrative Officer Jane Glover and Councilor Wade Hyslop, both of whom are black.

The NAACP also has taken up the case of Lance Goode, a black city resident who has accused Officer Roger Newton, who is white, of planting drugs during an arrest. Newton has been on administrative leave since Jan. 6. Goode gave a copy of the police video of the traffic stop and arrest to The Day on Jan. 5 that Goode says shows Newton dropping drugs near Goode's car.

Wilson said he met for two hours Thursday with Ackley to discuss his concerns, ranging from the Newton arrest to perceived racial profiling during traffic stops. Ackley, Wilson said, is committed to protecting individual's civil rights and "having the police do what's right."

Second allegation of set-up

Wilson asked Ackley to review all of Newton's drug arrests after a New London man incarcerated at Osborn Correctional Facility claimed he was "set up" by Newton during a January 2011 arrest.

Terence Boyd's family members have said Boyd claimed he was set up "since day one," almost a year before Goode accused Newton of similar misconduct.

Boyd's nephew, Christian Hauser, who is a police officer in Farrell, Penn., said earlier this month that he didn't believe his uncle's claim until he saw the video of Goode's arrest. Hauser said as a police officer, he at first didn't believe a "brother of the badge" would plant drugs on a suspect.

State NAACP president Scott X. Esdaile said the U.S. Justice Department has received a copy of the Goode arrest video.

"We're hoping to sit down with the Justice Department and push for that police officer to be fired," Esdaile said earlier this month.

Wilson also discussed with Ackley the shooting of Curtis Cunningham in August by Officer Thomas Northup. Cunningham, who is black, is paralyzed after Northup, who is white, shot him five times following the alleged theft of an ice truck, Wilson said.

Cunningham has filed an intent to sue the city. City police have not filed charges as they wait for results of a state police investigation into the shooting. State police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance said that report is complete but awaiting review by the state's attorney before it is released to the public.

"From what everybody's saying, (Northup) was probably a little quick on the gun," Wilson said. "The guy (Cunningham) couldn't go anywhere."

Wilson would like to gain access to the city's "yellow cards," which officers are required to fill out after every traffic stop. The cards, Wilson said, include the date, time and nature of the stop, the offense or violation and the race and gender of the vehicle operator.

Those cards go to the state African-American Affairs Commission. Reached Friday, the commission's executive director, Glenn Cassis, said yellow cards have been collected from New London since 2008, but the thousands of cards have not been analyzed.

While he hopes to get funding to have the data analyzed, Cassis said a more telling indication of unlawful stops would come from complaints filed by citizens, which would eventually come to his office. He said he has not seen any complaints from New London in the last year.

"It is subjective information but, theoretically, it should be pretty good information," Wilson said of the yellow cards.

s.goldstein@theday.com

Town hall meeting

What: NAACP Town hall meeting to discuss recent allegations of civil rights violations in the New London police and fire departments. Free and open to the public.
When: Tuesday 7 to 9 p.m.
Where: Second Congregational Church, 45 Broad St.

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