Manufacturing evidence, bopping prostitutes, abusing the public, and making false arrests
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State Police Begin New Internal Probe
By TRACY GORDON FOX | Courant Staff Writer
July 18, 2007
State police have begun an internal affairs investigation into a racially offensive video and still photograph that were e-mailed several months ago among troopers assigned to the state police forensic laboratory, including to its commander.
One e-mail shows a still photograph of a black man lying on the street surrounded by watermelon rinds and chicken bones. The headline on the e-mail read "fatal overdose?" Another e-mail had a video attachment of a tow-headed white girl with a lisp, who sat at her kitchen table in a yellow shirt and spewed hateful racial slurs with the encouragement of two adults. The subject line simply says: "Little girl with a speech problem."
Public Safety Commissioner John A. Danaher III Tuesday called the e-mails "unacceptable intolerance" and ordered an internal affairs investigation into the e-mails minutes after he learned of them.
"We are going to act on it," Danaher said, adding that it makes no difference that the e-mails were sent on personal computers. "Troopers are expected to behave as troopers 24 hours a day."
The e-mails that surfaced Tuesday added fuel, his supporters say, to allegations by Sgt. Andrew Crumbie, the former Public Safety Commissioner Leonard Boyle's chief of staff, who claimed he was replaced by Lt. David Rice, who is white, to direct the lab because of racial discrimination.
The e-mails were sent to Rice, other troopers and employees of the forensic laboratory and the computer crimes unit on their personal e-mail addresses by another trooper in February, the week after Crumbie was removed from his position as the lab's director.
In June, Crumbie filed a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, saying derogatory words were used about his race by high-ranking state police officers. He also said the state police had a history of unfavorable treatment of minorities.
"The sad part is I am not surprised," Crumbie, who is currently on medical leave, said Tuesday of the e-mails. "This is essentially what my complaint says."
Gov. M. Jodi Rell's office was informed of the investigation, said Christopher Cooper, a Rell spokesman. "The governor is confident that Commissioner Danaher takes these allegations seriously and will investigate them fully and appropriately," Cooper said.
Kathleen Eldergill, an attorney who represents Crumbie, said the e-mails "are evidence that supports the allegations of racism in Andrew's complaint."
"This is just proof that the attitude he complained about exists," Eldergill said. "Either everyone who was sent the e-mail approved of it or everyone who got it [said nothing] because they were afraid of being retaliated against."
Among the four troopers who received the e-mails on Feb. 19 was Trooper Neverill Coleman, who is black and works at the lab. He decided this week to tell his supervisor, who is white, about the e-mails; it was not clear why he waited five months. Coleman's supervisor told Rice, who immediately informed top state police commanders of the complaint, Danaher said.
The video e-mail was apparently sent by Trooper Brian Beshara, who works in the division of scientific services for the state police. He could not be reached Tuesday for comment. The still picture was sent to Beshara by another person who does not work at the department, state troopers and lab employees said.
Danaher said he has no evidence that Rice ever opened the e-mails or whether he even received them. "We have no evidence that he knew what was in those e-mails," Danaher said.
The day after Crumbie was demoted in February, he found his photograph, which had hung in the lobby of the laboratory along with other members of command staff, placed on the men's bathroom wall above the urinal, according to his complaint. No one has ever been disciplined in that case; it is an open investigation, state police said.
Crumbie, however, is alleging in an internal affairs complaint filed Tuesday that Rice put the picture in the bathroom.
"I have recently come into, what I believe to be credible information, that the person responsible for perpetrating this act was Lt. David Rice," Crumbie wrote in the complaint sent to the state police. Danaher said there is no evidence that Rice put the photograph there.
Danaher said he has already taken several actions to ease fears that there is racism within the department, including meeting regularly with black trooper organizations and sending a strong message to troopers that racism will not be tolerated.
"I'm reaching out wherever I can," he said. "Intolerance or disparate treatment based on race or anything else won't be accepted."
Dawne Westbrook, an attorney for the NAACP, said she is compiling evidence at the request of the federal Department of Justice for an investigation into complaints of racism by the state police.
"This says to me that racism is alive and well at the Department of Public Safety," Westbrook said of the e-mails.
Contact Tracy Gordon Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.