"I stand behind the police department," he said. "We have a great police department."
The U.S. Department of Justice, which has pledged to reach out to the police department to work on reforms, said last month that the department engaged in a pattern of discrimination against Latino residents. Investigators said their probe was complicated by efforts to interfere with witnesses and by police silence.
Nearly half or a third of the drivers pulled over by certain officers were Latino, and the number of Latinos pulled over by certain squads was "extraordinarily high," said Roy Austin Jr., deputy assistant attorney general for the civil rights division. Latinos who were stopped for minor violations were subjected to harsher punishments, such as arrest or vehicle towing, than were non-Latinos.
The East Haven Police Department of some 50 officers has come under scrutiny previously for civil rights issues. A federal jury ruled in 2003 that a white officer used excessive force and violated the rights of a black man he fatally shot after a chase.
Some officers involved in that case kept their jobs and were promoted, and there was no evidence that anyone received training to prevent similar confrontations in the future, Austin said.