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New Haven officers allege racism in department

NEW HAVEN — Black New Haven police officers are alleging racism, including the use of the N-word during a radio transmission in December.

The allegations were revealed Thursday by three groups: the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, the New Haven County Silver Shields, and the New Haven Guardians.

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Police Chief Dean Esserman said the department was investigating the use of a racial epithet over the radio Dec. 30. The FBI was brought in for forensic work after the signal could not be traced to a specific radio unit, he said.

Esserman said racist behavior within the department will not be tolerated.

‘‘Issues of race and culture are struggled with in America every day,’’ Esserman said. ‘‘The New Haven Police Department will work to address these issues here at home with full openness and honesty.’’

The three groups also say someone drew a swastika on a cruiser in the police garage. Thirty officers were investigated, but the culprit was not identified.

John Williams, an attorney who presented the letter from the groups on Thursday, said there are also concerns that the police administration treats black officers as second-class citizens.

Esserman also has said there are pending charges against a sergeant who allegedly made a racially and sexually insensitive comment in front of a black female department employee.

Mayor Toni Harp said she takes the concerns of the black officers seriously.

‘‘My concern is compounded, however, to the extent any pattern of harassment or racism is identified and warrants an important conversation about cultural sensitivity and awareness,’’ she said in a statement. ‘‘That conversation is now taking place internally at the New Haven Police Department and also between the Police Department and my administration.’’

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