New Hartford Law Would Restrict Racial Profiling Police Chief Doesn't Like It
By Jeff Cohen
November 12, 2010
The Hartford city council is considering an ordinance that would limit police powers when it comes to enforcing federal immigration laws. The measure would also limit police surveillance and prohibit profiling. It's opposed by the city's police chief. WNPR's Jeff Cohen has more.
Councilman Luis Cotto put the legislation forward. He says he did so because of concerns about conduct in the Hartford Police Department. He says that at meetings this year, a dozen or so people came and spoke about their own experiences with racial profiling.
"Which contradicts what one might hear from the police department, which says it has only had two instances of racial profiling in the past year. When you put this forward and the first thing that you hear is we do not have a racial profiling problem in the city, then it's kind of hard to get a constructive conversation from that point on."
"I'm not sure what's driving this. There has been no legitimate complaints of profiling."
That's Hartford Police Chief Daryl Roberts. He opposes the ordinance and says the immigration provisions are an attempt to change federal law at the local level. He also says the proposal goes too far in limiting how police conduct surveillance.
"I don't need to have suspicion to do surveillance. Are you kidding me? You telling me I can look at a house without an ordinance? I need an ordinance for that? Really?"
But Cotto says one of his main goals is to establish long-term policy for the city and its police department. He's done that with the help of national and local advocacy organizations.
"Because I'm not going to be here forever, Chief Roberts is not going to be here forever, and, at some point, if some police chief wants to go this route, we in Hartford need to say no, look, we're going to take this off the shelf as an option for our police department."
And, Cotto says, policy setting is exactly what the city council should be doing.