The town of East Haven has been at the center of national headlines concerning race relations and law enforcement for some time now. The chief in the center of this scandal announced his resignation early this week after an insensitive statement he uttered brought even more negative attention his way. But, despite his willingness to leave the department, this won't be the last that is heard of Len Gallo.
The U.S. Department of Justice began civil rights investigation into the small town department back in 2009. In December 2011, they announced they had found a pattern of discrimination against Latinos in the town, including racial profiling, intimidation, harassment and even assault.
According to Roy L. Austin Jr., Deputy Assistant Attorney General, “We found significant deviations from standard police practices that resulted in covering up or exacerbating the police department's disparate treatment of Latino's.”
As a result of the investigation, four officers are facing criminal charges and Gallo's attorney revealed that he is one of the “unnamed coconspirators” in the criminal case.
Current Mayor Joseph Maturo reinstated Gallo last year after taking office; the previous mayor had placed him on administrative leave pending the results of the federal investigation. The Department of Justice was reportedly unhappy with Maturo's action. Maturo seems to remain loyal to Gallo, calling his decision to step down, an “unselfish act”.
Leading up to his resignation, Gallo made waves when he discussed eating tacos to ease tensions between himself and Latino residents. In response, and taking his failed humor to heart, the group Junta for Progressive Action delivered tacos to his office last week and hoped to have an open dialogue with Gallo.
Not everyone is happy about Gallo's decision to take unemployment into his own hands; the head of the local police commission said he wants to fire Gallo so he cannot collect his outstanding vacation and sick pay, a balance that could cash out to more than $100,000.
Gallo is also named in a civil lawsuit, filed by Latino Groups in the area. He could also be charged in the case involving four of his officers, though the exact charges are unclear.
When the entire police department of a town cannot be trusted, it leads to a deepening divide between the law enforcement and those they are said to serve. This rift can only increase conflict and the chances of violence between the two sides.
If you are charged with a criminal offense and don't trust the officers who arrested you to tell the truth, your position is understandable and you are not alone. Having an experienced advocate on your side can help you get a fair shake in court.
Contact me to discuss the details of your charges.