Welcome to the new normal:
* Where children of immigrants stopped at U.S. border crossings are separated from their parents, tossed into cages and then “put into foster care or whatever”, as White House Chief of Staff John Kelly put it.
* Where U.S. government officials, through willful neglect, facilitate the deaths of about 5,000 residents of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria — then try to conceal the body count — and it barely registers a blip in the national consciousness, even among so-called liberals.
* Where police officers shoot and kill unarmed African Americans for no apparent reason and — even when caught on videotape — bear no consequences.
* Where the U.S. government routinely spies and monitors private communications by American citizens without a warrant.
* Where Congress dramatically slashes taxes for the richest 1 percent of the population and shamelessly shifts the burden to the other 99 percent.
The new normal also made a superstar out of the tiny town of East Haven, whose only previous claim to fame was as Connecticut’s first blast furnace for smelting metal, when it went by the counterintuitive name of Ironworks Village.
East Haven was already on its way to becoming the Paris of new normal in 2012, when it was cited for repeatedly violating the civil rights of its Latino residents, who, at the time, made up well more than 10 percent of the town’s population.
That’s the year that the FBI arrested four East Haven police officers on a 10-count indictment charging them with launching a four-year reign of terror against Latinos by subjecting them to beatings, illegal searches, illegal arrests, and falsifying police reports. Evidence in the case also showed that the East Haven Police Department maintained and perpetuated an environment, where the reign of terror against Latinos was tolerated and encouraged.
Immediately after the arrests, East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo, when asked on camera what he was going to do to compensate the Latino community, made worldwide headlines by responding, “I might have tacos when I go home, I’m not quite sure yet.”
In January of 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Alvin W. Thompson sentenced one of those officers, Dennis Spaulding to five years in prison and one-year supervised release for his role in the terror drive, which included the false arrest of Rev. James Manship, a Catholic priest, and the filing of a falsified police report to cover up the false arrest. His partner in crime, Police Officer David Cari was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison. A third officer, Jason Zullo, copped a plea deal to one count of filing a false police report and was sent to prison for two years. A fourth officer, John Miller, pleaded guilty to one count of using unreasonable force, in that he punched a handcuffed man in the face.
The Department of Justice also found that the pattern of discriminatory policing against Latinos was so deep rooted, that the town had to enter into a five-year consent decree with the DOJ. The decree required the East Haven Police Department completely revise its policies and procedures to ensure that its police training was reliable, fair and legally defensible; promote bias free hiring and ensure that officers are held accountable for their conduct in a fair and consistent way.
Unfortunately for East Haven, all of its discrimination issues with the Department of Justice occurred before the new normal took over the White House. Had Trump been president in 2014, Spaulding, Cari, Zullo and Miller might well have been worthy of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
So, in an effort to reclaim the luster that East Haven lost when its accomplishments were so rudely interrupted by the Justice Department, 1,400 proud residents of the town have signed an online petition asking President Trump to grant their four convicted former police officers a presidential pardon.
The petitioners express no remorse for what the former officers did. Quite the contrary, they argue that the officers and the town were targeted by Connecticut politicians and activists in the Yale Law School student clinics, who gathered much of the evidence that led to the convictions. They further maintain that they “deserve” the presidential pardons for their years of dedicated service to pioneering the new normal.
In their own odd way, the petitioners are correct. Those officers didn’t do anything wrong. What they did was just East Haven being East Haven.
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