With three of four police officers sentenced for violating civil rights, the man who became the central figure in the East Haven police profiling saga believes there are lessons to be learned from the explosive case, but there are no, in his words, "quick fixes."
Following last week's sentencing of two former East Haven police officers for profiling Latinos, the Rev. James Manship, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Fair Haven and whose video shot while inside an East Haven general store was the biggest piece of evidence in the government's case against the officers, spoke about how good can come from the verdict.
"This isn't just a case of the police going about their jobs differently," said Manship, referring to the fact that the Police Department is operating under a Department of Justice order to not discriminate. "This is about changing the whole 'us versus them' attitude that exists."
Manship said it will take the total community of East Haven effort-from police, to town leaders, to school officials, to everyday residents-for real change to occur.
"You first have to be comfortable being uncomfortable," said Manship. "There has to be acknowledgement on all sides that it takes time to build relationships in the community. It will take gentle engagement for this real change to happen."
Mayor Joseph Maturo, Jr., declined to comment about the sentencing of former East Haven police officers Dennis Spaulding, who received a five-year sentence, and David Cari who got a 30-month prison term for profiling Latinos, or Manship's feelings about the jail terms.
Two additional officers who were arrested in 2012-Sgt. John Miller and Officer Jason Zullo-pleaded guilty. Zullo was sentenced to two years in prison in December. Miller is scheduled to be sentenced in February.
The trial of Cari and Spaulding stretched from September into October 2013, as prosecutors charged the two police officers with conspiracy to violate civil rights, making an arrest without probable cause, and filing a false arrest report. Spaulding was additionally convicted on an excessive force charge.
The charges stemmed from a multi-year investigation led by the U.S. Department of Justice into whether police engaged in a pattern of racial profiling.
Manship's February 2009 video was a key part of the trial. The video discredited the arrest report Cari filed when he slapped handcuffs on the priest for filming Cari and Spaulding in the process of ordering employees at the Latino-owned My Country Store to remove more than 70 license plates mounted on the back wall.
Manship was charged with interfering with police and disorderly conduct. Manship persuaded a superior court judge to dismiss the charges. Meanwhile, evidence introduced in court showed that Manship's arrest reported was altered.
The priest described himself "as a hopeful person" who believes there is a willingness for more civil engagement between "all residents of East Haven.
"Change is happening," said Manship, who added that part "of that change" is the percentage of Latinos continues to grow in East Haven.
"One statistic that really sticks out," said Manship, "is that while 12 percent of the population in East Haven is Latino, 20 percent of the school-age population is Latino.
"There are lots of young families moving into East Haven, proud to be owners of their first homes, and looking forward to being here, and contributing members of their community, for a long time."