North Haven P.D. accused of lacking diversity

NORTH HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — We told you in January how North Haven police came under fire for a Facebook post some called racist.  It depicted a TV character who committed murders and armed robberies and happened to be black.  The post was intended to warn neighbors to lock their doors at night.

“Once it was first reported to us that someone found it offensive, then we immediately took it off,” said First Selectman Michael Freda.

Related: North Haven police, CT NAACP, respond to controversial Facebook post

But removing it appears not enough. Critics say it never would’ve happened if the police ranks were more diverse.

Since the outcry, News 8’s Mario Boone spent weeks pouring over diversity records from North Haven P.D.  The results are stark.  Out of 50 cops, two are Hispanic, one is black and three are women.  The rest, including the entire command, staff are all white men.

“We absolutely encourage diversification,” Freda explained.  “We pride ourselves on that.”

So, how did Freda explain the numbers?  He blamed it on two things: budgetary constraints and a lack of minority applicants.

“We look at the best applicant no matter what race or creed that person may be,” Freda continued.

Civil rights lawyer William Palmieri said departments like North Haven must do better.

“It sounds like an invitation to disaster,” Palmieri opined.  “When a police force doesn’t reflect the ethnic diversity of not only its town, but surrounding areas, then they’re setting themselves up for trouble in the civil rights area.”

In the 2010 Census, North Haven logged slightly more than 24,000 total population. Of that amount, 0.09 percent are black.  Yet, the police department’s own records show in 2017 blacks made up 18 percent of all arrests in the town.

“And that is a violation of the constitution,” Palmieri said.

Still, Freda maintained a tight economy won’t allow the town to expand the force beyond 50 officers, and staff turnover is low.  “There’s not a lot of jobs available,” Freda told us.  “That’s part of the problem and I think that’s maybe what some are missing.”