BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — A threatening letter that disparages black police officers has been found stuffed in mailboxes at a police department.
State police are investigating the unsigned letter, which is on Bridgeport Police Department letterhead and begins and ends with the term "white power," city officials said Wednesday. Black officers said it was at least the third hate-filled message to circulate within the police department over the past year.
The letter singles out black Officer Clive Higgins, who was acquitted last month of civil rights violation charges in the beating of a Hispanic suspect in the racially diverse city. A white officer and a Hispanic officer pleaded guilty and were sentenced to three months in jail.
The note says Higgins doesn't belong at the police department and threatens him.
"You better watch your back. We know where you live," it says. "Your face was all over the newspaper. Remember you have no duty weapon to defend yourself."
The letter also says, "These Black Officers belong in the toilet," and it alleges Chief Joseph Gaudett Jr. and Assistant Chief James Nardozzi don't want "them," especially Higgins, in the department.
A minority officers' group, the Bridgeport Guardians, held a news conference Wednesday to discuss the letter. Higgins attended but declined to comment.
Members of the Guardians said they believe the letter was written by someone within the police department because copies of it were found in mailboxes in an area not open to the public.
"If it came from the outside, we'd think, 'OK, people really don't like police,'" said Detective Harold Dimbo, vice president of the Guardians. "But coming from inside, there are no words to be said."
Dimbo added, "This type of behavior affects a minority and spreads racism and hatred throughout the Bridgeport Police Department as well as the community." He said some officers were concerned about their safety.
The episode adds to a history of discrimination problems in the Bridgeport Police Department.
The Guardians sued the department for discrimination in 1978, leading to findings by a federal judge that the department was fraught with discrimination against its minority officers. The judge appointed a special master to oversee assignments and discipline of officers, an oversight that didn't end until 2010.
City spokesman Brett Broesder said that the city has zero-tolerance policies against racism and discrimination and that anyone found responsible for the letter faces swift discipline. He said Bridgeport, which has about 150,000 residents, has the most diverse police force in the state.