Connecticut NAACP seeks probe of racist e-mails, bias in State Police Dept
The Connecticut State NAACP is pushing for an investigation of several racist e-mails circulated within the Connecticut State Police Department.
One e-mail, titled Tragic, depicted a photograph of a Black man laying on the sidewalk surrounded by watermelon and a bucket of chicken while another e-mail showed a video of a White child spewing racial slurs to the encouragement of her off-camera parents.
Though the Connecticut State Police Department has launched it's own investigation concerning the content of the emails, the NAACP became involved when members of the police force approached them, citing civil rights violations within the agency.
All troopers who stepped forward had filed lawsuits against the state within the past five years. Since the troopers have stepped forward, the branch has written to the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division requesting a further investigation into the concerns.
"I think it needed to be brought to light," said Dawne Westbrook, the legal redress counsel of the Connecticut state NAACP. Westbrook has played an integral role in pushing for the Department of Justice investigation. "We need fair, just, and reasonable officers that are doing what they are supposed to."
Though e-mails came from a private address, the Connecticut State Police Department's investigation will not release the address' owner or the names of others under investigation. One of the components of the police investigation is to confirm whether the officers' supervisor, Lt. David Rice, was aware of the e-mails being circulated without acting on it.
Westbrook said the NAACP's involvement is due to the nature of the complaints and the volume of the incidents brought to the organization. Besides the e-mails, complaints had also been made concerning the local commissioner of the Department of Public Safety's public display of a coffee mug boasting a Confederate flag.
"I think the number of complaints we have received is indicative of a culture that allows racism to fester. We traditionally know that when it is happening in-house, that it can happen when these troopers go out on the street," Westbrook told JET.
The NAACP also requested a meeting with Connecticut's governor, M. Jodi Rell, to discuss racism in the police department and ways to eradicate it. The governor has said that any racism in the agency is intolerable.
Through a spokesperson, Rell told JET, "She has always held the overarching belief that government's institutions must stand for fairness and justice which are the very foundation of government."
By Imani Josey
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Steven G. Erickson's beef with the Connecticut State Police:
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Rell: Police Racism Intolerable
As Governor Speaks To State Troopers, Local Naacp Asks For Federal Investigation
As local NAACP officials requested a federal investigation into complaints of racial discrimination within the state police, Gov. M. Jodi Rell denounced racism at the graduation of 60 troopers Thursday, warning that ``unequal treatment, harassment of any kind will not be tolerated.''
``You are the face of the state police. You are expected to uphold the law with fairness and justice,'' Rell told the graduating class, which included only one black trooper, during the graduation ceremony at the University of Connecticut. ``Racism ... will be rooted out and eliminated.''
Her comments came hours before NAACP officials announced they had asked the U.S. Department of Justice to step in and investigate complaints of racism, including offensive e-mails circulated among troopers assigned to the state police forensic laboratory.