Prevent Another East Haven: Mike Lawlor’s Two-Faced Racial Profiling Stance

by David Samuels

This column appears in the May 26 – June 2 edition of the Hartford News….

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Policy Watch: Biased Policing in Connecticut

Following the 2012 Sandy Hook spree killings, Gov. Dan Malloy and the Connecticut General Assembly immediately drafted strict gun control legislation, which they said was meant to prevent another horrific crime like this from taking place again. Following the 2012 arrests and subsequent convictions of four East Haven police officers on federal charges related to harassment and brutality against Latinos, and a Department of Justice investigation that found a “culture of corruption” at the East Haven Police Department, the response of Malloy, Office of Policy and Management Under Secretary Mike Lawlor and legislators was totally the opposite: Lawlor spoke publicly about a “real or perceived” problem of racial profiling in Connecticut, despite the national racial profiling scandal that exploded in the town he represented as a legislator, from 1987 to 2011. Instead of taking swift action to prevent another East Haven, the mantra from Lawlor was that racial profiling remained a theory that needed to be studied. Last week WNPR reporter Jeff Cohen interviewed Lawlor for his story on a new report by the so-called Racial Profiling Prohibition Project, which found racial disparities in traffic stops throughout the state.

Cohen told me in a Twitter exchange that Lawlor spoke at length about the East Haven case, but time constraints prevented his comments from being included in the story. Cohen spent a lot of energy defending Lawlor, and attempting to minimize my points about Lawlor’s duplicity regarding racial profiling as a personal issue between Lawlor and I. Cohen bailed out of our conversation when I pointed out that Lawlor ignored an email from the Community Party sent to him during the DOJ investigation of the EHPD. Seth Freed Wessler of reported that the EHPD and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, had teamed up to target Latinos AFTER the DOJ East Haven probe started; we sent Wessler’s article to Lawlor. He never responded. You can read my exchange with Cohen here.

Wessler explained how East Haven cops manipulated the law to get Latinos deported. “According to a number of advocates and attorneys in the East Haven area, the issue was not just that the local cops wanted to deport immigrants; it’s that federal immigration authorities obliged them, even as the DOJ was investigating the East Haven police. John Lugo, an organizer with the New Haven group Unidad Latina en Accion told that several of the group’s members and many others have been deported as a result of East Haven’s racist policing. Michael Boyle, an attorney who practices immigration law in nearby North Haven, says that in the last couple of years he’s seen a number of immigrants who’ve been arrested by the East Haven police and then sent into deportation proceedings. ‘ICE says it has more of a focus on people with criminal problems,’ says Boyle, ‘but then the question is what kind of problems result in a call to ICE. In a place like East Haven, everything gets called in.’ And in a place like East Haven, virtually every Latino interviewed had been profiled or arrested.

In July 2011, almost two years after the DOJ began investigating, Boyle says a young Ecuadoran man came into his office for immigration help. He’d been pulled over by the East Haven police and arrested for driving without proper registration. ‘The police called ICE and the next morning ICE showed up and told him he’d have to appear in immigration court.’ ‘It was one of these cases where he’d been staked out by the police at an Ecuadorian bakery. He was a really nice young man with a U.S.-citizen wife and he was targeted by the police there.’ Boyle decided to send the case over to the Yale law clinic, thinking that the man had been a victim of the very practices the clinic was litigating. Ultimately, according to Boyle, the clinic succeeded in getting the man relief from deportation. ‘But,’ he said, ‘had I taken the case and done the normal stuff without the civil rights claim, he’d be back in Mexico now.’ Another local immigration attorney, Glenn Formica, said he’d had a couple of cases from East Haven that resulted in deportation. Formica argued that even when ICE did not respond to calls from the East Haven Police over people picked up for simple traffic violations, the local police know what to charge immigrants with so that ICE *will* respond. ‘Five years ago the cops in the area didn’t really think much about getting people deported,’ said Formica. But as the federal government shifted its enforcement tactics to target local jails, ‘police departments that want to get people deported can do so pretty easily.’ ‘All you have to do is charge someone with the right thing. The East Haven police learned what to charge people with to get them deported.’ ”

Lawlor’s claim to Cohen that the East Haven case was the impetus for the work of the racial profiling board has been contradicted by one of its members. In October 2013 I interviewed Redding Police Chief Douglas Fuchs. I asked Fuchs why the board had not discussed the East Haven case during any of their televised meetings. Fuchs said, “That’s not our charge. Our job isn’t to look backward. Our job is to collect traffic stop data in the best manner possible.” The duplicitous behavior of Lawlor and board members such as Fuchs is especially disturbing, considering the fact that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for President of the United States. Trump’s racist immigrant bashing is well documented, as is his rabid support of the police. A Trump Justice Department would certainly turn a blind eye and deaf ear to complaints about the type of police tactics Wessler described in his article on the EHPD and ICE. Fuchs has testified against CP’s racial profiling legislation, which includes protections against police harassment of Latinos for the purpose of deportation. My conversation with Cohen is another example of what Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman describes as the Access of Evil: reporters trading the truth, in exchange for access to people in positions of power. Lawlor has obstructed CP’s police reform work. His task as Malloy’s flunkie is to pay lip service to the racial profiling issue, while protecting the police.


How East Haven, Conn., Became Synonymous With Racial Profiling:

Trayvon Martin Act Report: Connecticut Racial Profiling Prohibition Project:

Department of Justice investigative report on the East Haven Police Department:

Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and world news headlines. Check out my Facebook page for daily news commentary. Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives and So-Metro Radio the first, third and fifth Tuesday of each month at 8:00 PM for commentary on urban issues Check out our No Sellout blog ( for the complete archive of CP columns and Northend Agent’s archive for selected columns ( Contact us at 860-206-8879 or

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