Cleared Of Charges, Conn. Priest Accuses Police of Racial Profiling and Harassment Against Hispanics

By Aswini Anburajan, FI2W reporter

Father James Manship, outside the New Haven courthouse - Photo: New Haven Independent.

Father James Manship, outside the New Haven courthouse. (Photo: New Haven Independent)

No sooner had prosecutors in Connecticut dropped charges of disorderly conduct and interfering with police activity against Rev. James Manship, than the Roman Catholic priest announced a campaign to have federal authorities look into charges of racial profiling and harassment of Hispanics by East Haven, Ct. police.

On the night of his arrest, Manship, of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in New Haven, had been videotaping police at a local store owned by Ecuadorean immigrants who had complained that police harassment of Hispanic customers had caused fear in their community and a sharp drop in business.

Manship videotaped police officers as they removed license plates from the walls of My Country Store. The owners claimed the plates were just there for decoration, while officers argued that the store owner had illegally bought them.

Officers told Manship to stop videotaping, and when he didn’t, they arrested him. The officers later claimed that Manship had been holding an “unknown shiny silver object,” which caused them to fear it was a gun, according to The New York Times.

However, a fifteen-second video clip released by Manship’s lawyers shows an officer asking Manship, “Is there a reason you have a camera on me?”

Manship and church leaders have organized a letter-writing campaign to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, asking them to look into harassment and racial profiling by East Haven Police officers. So far, twenty letters have been sent by Hispanic and non-Hispanic members of the community.

According to the Times,

The complaint filed with the Justice Department contends that the East Haven police have subjected Latino residents and visitors to “excessive force,” including the beating of people in custody. Police Chief Leonard Gallo did not return a call seeking comment.

Hugh Keefe, a lawyer for the East Haven Police Department, declined to comment on the complaint, saying that he wanted to see it first.

The case, however, brought unwelcome scrutiny to many members of the Hispanic community in New Haven. A white supremacist group from Massachusetts left hate flyers in front of Hispanic businesses and on the steps of St. Rose’s church.

In an interview with Feet In 2 Worlds, Manship said this week that things had calmed down. He added that the Hispanic community plans to continue to try to have a dialogue with the mayor and the chief of police in East Haven to address issues of harassment and racial profiling.