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Hartford Police Decree Ended By Judge Despite Minority Concerns

A judge ended the nearly 50 years of federal oversight of police in Hartford, Ct., despite continued concerns that the department still has not hired enough minority officers to reflect the city’s large Black and Hispanic populations. U.S. District Judge Kari Dooley in Bridgeport said plaintiffs failed to prove the police department was violating any part of the original 1973 consent decree agreement or revisions made to it in 2010. Dooley approved the city’s request to dissolve the consent decree, which was to have ended four years after the 2010 revisions but was extended, the Associated Press reports. The consent decree was one of the nation's longest, resulting from a 1969 civil rights lawsuit against city police by several Hartford residents. The lawsuit accused police of inflicting numerous acts of violence, intimidation and humiliation upon Hartford citizens based on their race and ethnicity.

Sydney Schulman, a Hartford lawyer for the plaintiffs who has been involved in the case since 1969, said he was reviewing the ruling. “I was totally shocked by getting the opinion,” he said. “I’m extremely concerned. ... It’s always been the position of the ... plaintiffs that the city of Hartford should have a police force that reflects the population of the city of Hartford, which is mostly minority.” Mayor Luke Bronin said the city’s commitment to improving diversity at the police department will not end because the consent decree has been dissolved. He said that building trust and partnerships between the police department and city residents remains a priority. “It’s important to recognize that the (consent decree) wasn’t just about recruitment, it was also about promoting transparency and accountability, increasing civilian oversight, and embracing best practices in policing,” he said. “And while that work is never done, the Hartford Police Department has been a leader in those areas here in Connecticut.” Just last month, the city council passed a resolution calling for an indefinite extension of the consent decree until the police department fully complies with it. In court papers filed in October, the plaintiffs said there has been little change in the racial and ethnic makeup of the department since the late 1960s. They said only about 35% of the 400-plus member force is non-white. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 36% of city residents are Black and 46% are Hispanic or Latino.


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