Conn. cracking down on practice of racial profiling

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October 16, 2013, 10:09 pm
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(NECN: Brian Burnell, Hartford, Conn.) - East Haven, Conn. became the poster child for racial profiling after several officers were accused of targeting latinos for traffic stops, arrests and rough treatment. One alleged incident was recorded on a cell phone.

State lawmakers enacted tougher anti-profiling laws in response. They include more training for police and better access to authorities for people who want to complain. The State Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities adjudicates the cases. It held a hearing where law enforcement and the community came together to talk about the issue.

Chief Matthew Reed is with the Connecticut Police Chief's Association. He says cops profile all the time.

"If somebody gives a description, it's a green care with a white male over 30 driving, who are we going to pull over? We're going to pull over people who match that description. That's a form of profiling. It's not illegal profiling. It's not necessarily racial profiling. We just want to make sure that we do everything we can to eliminate bias-based policing or racially based policing," he says.

If you get stopped in the state of Connecticut, these days chances are you're going to be handed one of these by the officer at the end of the stop. It explains what to do, who to talk to, if you feel you've been racially profiled. The thing is this isn't all about traffic stops.

Lebert Fitzgerald Lester the third owns a business in Hartford's North End. A few years ago he had a dispute with a contractor and the police were called.

"As soon as she saw me the first thing she said, 'Get on the street. Get off his property.' And I said, get off the property? This is my property. Y'know, I said to her, I own this property. And she said, 'Oh, you're going to jail,'" he says.

It is also not only about African Americans and Latinos. Mongi Dhaouadi heads the Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He has an 18-year-old daughter who is just starting to drive.

"Hopefully she won't get into accident but I'm also worried about her being stopped just because she wears the head scarf. She's easy to identify as somebody who's a Muslim," Dhaouadi says.

The commission says its goal is fair and impartial police practices.

Tags: hartford, connecticut, East Haven, Brian Burnell, CT racial profiling
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