Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Even some of Bridgeport’s finest raised the alarm about racism in the police department before they fumbled the Lauren Smith-Fields investigation.
Buzzfeed reports the Connecticut police department that recently failed to properly or respectfully investigate the deaths of two Black women, Smith-Fields and Brenda Rawls, has a long history of excessive force and discrimination complaints. You know it’s bad when officers break the Blue Wall of Silence to call out some extremely racist bullsh*t from one of their own.
The national pressure to get justice for Smith-Fields and Rawls put a spotlight on years of unchecked corruption in Bridgeport PD. In the past five years, 14 complaints and lawsuits have been filed for excessive force or discrimination. An independent investigation started in 2021 because several Black officers, including two Black captains, filed lawsuits because a “pattern and practice of discriminatory behavior has had an adverse impact on officers’ morale, mental health, well-being, career development, and reputation.”
City Council member Maria Pereira says Bridgeport cops are so crooked that the city is always caught up in their scandals and multi-million dollar civil suits for police brutality and misconduct.
“It’s constant here: civil rights violations, shooting people in the back, kicking people in the face while they’re down, pistol-whipping young people when their backs are turned,” Pereira said. “Our police department is in shambles. At every level — manpower, morale — it’s not functioning.”
How bad are the boys in blue in one of America’s wealthiest and most segregated cities? When 20-year police veteran Capt. Mark Straubel was accused of referring to Juneteenth as a “n*gger parade,” called Black people “a cancer” while hoping for a race war, and asking Black cops if they “felt homesick” while watching Planet of the Apes, his defense was that he’s a product of his environment!
Straubel said that he was just one of the guys trying to fit in with the rest of his rancid racists with badges. He explained the disgusting comments were part of a culture condoned by the former police chief Armando Perez. Straubel also accused Perez of “regularly us[ing] racial slurs,” talking “about genocidal fantasies in reference to members of the Black race,” and working while drunk.
Perez wasn’t just an anti-Black drunk who joked about race wars with officers. He was an incompetent cheater, too. In 2020, the 35-year police veteran was sentenced to a year in prison for rigging the test that secured his position as Bridgeport’s police chief. If these Klan klowns can maintain spotless records for decades, shut the whole department down!
Bridgeport PD was so bad that even the federal government had to step in to address the rampant racism and discrimination. The department was under federal oversight from 1983 – 2010. The Bridgeport Guardians, which represents minority officers on the force, the local NAACP chapter, and Black officers are all demanding federal oversight again.
“We need court oversight,” said Davon Polite, president of the Guardians. “If we are being mistreated in this department, with our own people here, you can imagine what is going on outside.”
When they’re not blaming Black women for their own suspicious deaths and killing unarmed children like Jayson Negron, they’re pistol-whipping and using stun guns on other teens and getting away with it. Officer Gianni Capozziello, who was suspended twice in one month for the assaults on minors is still active in Bridgeport PD.
Earlier this week, Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim announced the suspension of Kevin Cronin and Angel Llanos, the two detectives who refused to investigate the Smith-Fields and Rawls deaths. Local NAACP chapter president Rev. D. Stanley Lord says the suspension is just an attempt to save face without changing the absolutely rotten Bridgeport police department.
“Our mayor now all of a sudden wants to say, ‘Oh, we’re really sorry about what happened to these individuals, but we’re doing something about it,’” Rev. Lord said. “Well, where were you several weeks ago? It’s only after a public outcry and major news that you want to do something.”